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Image: Deanna Durban Dies: Depression-Era Hollywood Star Was 91

Deanna Durban Dies: Depression-Era Hollywood Star Was 91

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 09:41 AM

By Michael Mullins

Deanna Durbin, a child movie star from the Depression era whose plucky persona and soprano voice on the big screen helped struggling Americans escape from their daily struggles, died earlier this week. She was 91.

Durbin's death was announced via a Deanna Durbin Society newsletter, in which her son, Peter David, thanked fans for respecting her privacy. David said his mother died "a few days ago" and not much else, the New York Times reported.

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In addition to charming audiences, Durbin's first movie, "Three Smart Girls," was box-office gold. Durbin single-handedly fixed Universal Pictures' revenue problems, saving the motion picture studio from bankruptcy with her hits.

Durbin left the lime light in 1949, retiring at the age of 28 after starring in 21 feature films.

The Canadian-born actress relocated to a village in France where she raised two children with her third husband, French director Charles David.

In 1958, Durbin, who gave no interviews after leaving Hollywood, sent a letter to reporters about her life in France.

"I was never happy making pictures. I’ve gained weight. I do my own shopping, bring up my two children and sing an hour every day," she wrote.

Durbin, like several other high-profile child stars in 1940s Hollywood, was critical of the way children were portrayed on the big screen.

"I was a typical 13-year-old American girl," wrote Durbin. "The character I was forced into had little or nothing in common with myself — or with other youth of my generation, for that matter."

Durbin couldn't understand why her character appealed to so many of her contemporaries.

"I could never believe that my contemporaries were my fans," Durbin added. "They may have been impressed with my 'success.' but my fans were the parents, many of whom could not cope with their own youngsters. They sort of adopted me as their ‘perfect’ daughter."

In 1946, Durbin earned a salary of $323,477 from Universal Pictures. She was the second-highest-paid woman in America, just $5,000 shy of actress Bette Davis, the Times reported.

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