Deanna Durbin (born Edna Mae Durbin on December 4, 1921, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to English immigrant parents) was a popular young singer and actress in Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s.
Changing her name to Deanna Durbin at the commencement of her career, Durbin signed a contract with MGM in 1935 and made her first film appearance in a short subject Every Sunday with another contractee, Judy Garland.
Durbin was released from her contract shortly thereafter as studio executive Louis B. Mayer felt he did not need two young female singers under contract. Hollywood legend has recorded that he instructed his staff to "drop the fat one" and that they had dismissed Durbin, misunderstanding that Mayer had in fact intended to terminate the contract of Garland.
Durbin was quickly signed to a contract with Universal Studios and made her first feature-length film Three Smart Girls in 1936. The huge success of her films were reported to have saved the studio from bankruptcy. In 1938 she received a special Academy Juvenile Award, along with Mickey Rooney. Such was Durbin's international fame and popularity that she was mentioned in Anne Frank's diary as a personal favorite.
She married an actor, Vaughn Paul, in 1941 and they were divorced in 1943. Her second marriage, to producer Felix Jackson in 1945, produced a daughter, Jessica Louise Jackson, and ended in divorce in 1949. She also had an affair with Joseph Cotten, sixteen years her senior, which was publicized by Hedda Hopper, whose chair an understandably peeved Cotten kicked out from underneath her just as she was about to sit down at a Hollywood affair, to the applause of spectators.
By the mid 1940s Durbin had tried to assume a more sophisticated film persona in such films as the film noir Christmas Holiday (1944) and the whodunnit Lady on a Train (1945), but the public preferred her as the sweet and wholesome adolescent she had come to represent.
She retired from public life in 1950, after her marriage to Charles David, who had directed her in Lady On A Train. The couple moved to Paris, France, with Durbin vowing that she would never return to show business, and raised Durbin's second child, Peter David. Since then she has resisted all offers to perform and has refused to be interviewed, steadfastly asserting her right to privacy.
Her husband, Charles David, died in Paris on March 1, 1999.
Deanna Durbin has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1722 Vine Street.