Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy birthday, Deanna Durbin!

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear would like to give a huge birthday shout-out to Edna Mae Durbin—better known to legions of classic film fans and music lovers as Deanna Durbin, the Universal Studios ingénue whose box-office smashes like Three Smart Girls and 100 Men and a Girl pulled the studio away from the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1930s.  The winner of a juvenile Academy Award in 1938, Durbin would go on to star in nineteen additional feature films before retiring from the silver screen in 1949, marrying film producer-director Charles Henri David a year later and retreating to privacy in her public life thereafter.

If you’re expecting a lengthy essay on Ms. Durbin in this post I should probably inform you from the get-go—Deanna isn’t particularly my cup of Earl Grey.  I’ve seen her in Christmas Holiday (1944), a movie I watched only because of my enthusiasm for director Robert Siodmak’s films, and Lady on a Train (1945), another entertaining noir—but other than 1941’s It Started with Eve (a film that’s a big favorite of my blogging colleague John DiLeo) that’s pretty much the extent of my Durbin film education.  Holiday and Train I enjoyed very much; Eve, considered by more than a few fans to be her best, has a funny performance from TDOY fave Charles Laughton but also features Robert Cummings, an actor who’s the cinematic equivalent of a splinter in my finger.

But it’s not about Cummings—it’s Deanna’s eighty-ninth natal anniversary today, and we wish her the very best.  And we haven’t forgotten these celebrants, either!

Crazy Horse (1840-1877) – Native American leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe

Lillian Russell (1861-1922) – Singer-actress and close personal friend of rich guy Diamond Jim Brady

Isabel Randolph (1889-1973) – Stage, screen, radio and television actress best known as the haughty Abigail Uppington on radio’s Fibber McGee & Molly; also had recurring roles on such TV series as Meet Millie, Our Miss Brooks, December Bride and The Dick Van Dyke Show

Lloyd Bacon (1889-1955) – Motion picture actor-turned-director whose oeuvre includes 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Marked Woman, A Slight Case of Murder, Knute Rockne All American and It Happens Every Spring

Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) – Crime novelist and short story author whose works were adapted for many film noir films including Phantom Lady, Fear in the Night, The Window, No Man of Her Own, Rear Window and The Bride Wore Black

Jimmy Jewel (1909-1995) – English stage, screen and television actor best known for his roles in such Britcoms as Nearest and Dearest and Spring and Autumn; also worked in a double act with first cousin Ben Warriss—they appeared in a popular radio comedy series Up the Pole

Alex North (1910-1991) – Composer whose motion picture scores include A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Spartacus, The Misfits and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Mark Robson (1913-1978) – Motion picture director-producer and film editor whose oeuvre includes The Seventh Victim, Isle of the Dead, Bedlam, Champion, Home of the Brave and The Harder They Fall

Michael Bates (1920-1978) – English stage, screen and television actor best known here at TDOY for his roles on the Britcoms Last of the Summer Wine and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

Dena Dietrich (1928-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress who had regular roles on such series as Adam’s Rib, Karen, The Practice, The Ropers and Philly—but whose true TV legacy are those Chiffon margarine commercials that featured her as “Mother Nature”

Marianne Edwards (1930-     ) – Little Rascal

Ronnie Corbett (1930-     ) – English comic actor best known for his long-running association with Ronnie Barker as TV’s The Two Ronnies; also starred in such Britcoms as No, That’s Me Over Here!, Don’t Look Now, The Prince of Denmark and Sorry!

Wally George (1931-2003) – Combative right-wing radio and television talk show host whose “left-wing lunatic” guests often turned out to be paid professional actors; still, he did bring luscious Rebecca De Mornay into the world, so he gets points for that

Horst Buchholz (1933-2003) – German stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Tiger Bay, The Magnificent Seven, Fanny, One, Two, Three and Raid on Entebbe

Wink Martindale (1934-     ) – DJ and television game show host whose shows include Gambit, High Rollers, Debt and Tic-Tac-Dough; also scored a Top Ten pop hit in 1959 with Deck of Cards

Victor French (1934-1989) – TDOY character fave who appeared in two of Michael Landon’s TV series, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven; he also starred on the 1977-79 sitcom Carter Country

Donnelly Rhodes (1937-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose TV resume includes such series as Soap, Report to Murphy, Double Trouble, Danger Bay, Street Legal, The Heights, Da Vinci’s Inquest and Battlestar Galactica

Max Baer, Jr. (1937-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor-writer-director who achieved boob tube immortality as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies; his cinematic oeuvre includes Macon County Line, The Wild McCulloughs and Ode to Billy Joe

Jimmy Hunt (1939-     ) – Moppet actor best known as the scared sh*tless kid in 1953’s Invaders from Mars but he’s also in such films as Pitfall, Sorry, Wrong Number, Cheaper by the Dozen and Bells on Their Toes

Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon (1939-     ) – Rock ‘n’ roll/pop music vocalist

Gemma Jones (1942-     ) – English stage, screen and television actress best known for her starring role on TV’s The Duchess of Duke Street; her other TV gigs include Devices and Desires, All About George, Trial & Retribution and MI-5

Chris Hillman (1944-     ) – Original member of the folk rock group The Byrds who later fronted the country music group The Desert Rose Band

Dennis Wilson (1944-1983) – Beach Boy

Sherry Alberoni (1946-     ) – Mousketeer who later had regular roles on TV’s The Tom Ewell Show and Family Affair; also did voice work for such animated series as Josie and the Pussycats and Super Friends

(Southside) Johnny Lyon (1948-     ) – Front man for the Asbury Jukes

Pamela Stephenson (1949-     ) – New Zealand-born actress-comedienne known for her appearances on Not the Nine O’Clock News and Saturday Night Live

Jeff Bridges (1949-     ) – Academy Award-winning stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include The Last Picture Show, Fat City, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, The Big Lebowski, The Contender and Crazy Heart; son of Lloyd and brother of Beau

Patricia Wettig (1951-     ) – Emmy Award-winning stage, screen and television actress best known for her roles on the TV series yuppiesomething thirtysomething and Brothers and Sisters; also had regular roles on Courthouse, L.A. Doctors, Alias and Prison Break

Gary Rossington (1951-     ) – Founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd who regrouped to form the Rossington-Collins Band in 1979

Tony Todd (1954-     ) – Candyman…Candyman…Candyman…Candyman…Can…

Marisa Tomei (1964-     ) – Academy Award-winning stage, screen and television actress whose early TV roles on As the World Turns and A Different World paved the way for films like My Cousin Vinny, Only You, The Perez Family and The Wrestler

Suzanne Malveaux (1966-     ) – CNN news reporter/White House correspondent

Fred Armisen (1966-     ) – Actor-comedian-musician and Saturday Night Live regular

Tyra Banks (1973-     ) – Actress-model/talk-show host and host of America’s Top Model

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Java Bean Rush said...


After my research on Deanna Durbin this year, I have finally seen all 21 of her films. Count me in with those fans who consider IT STARTED WITH EVE Ms. Durbin's best film [although, the star herself has been known to cite CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY as her personal favorite].

I've just looked through your blog to find your explanation for disliking Robert Cummings, but couldn't find anything.

Your description of him is funny, but why is he a splinter in your finger? The shouting? The aggressive behavior? The cottonmouth voice?

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Your description of him is funny, but why is he a splinter in your finger? The shouting? The aggressive behavior? The cottonmouth voice?

LOL...Java, I'd be hard-pressed to pin down why I dislike Bob Cummings so but someone once speculated that it was because of his TV series (Love That Bob) and the fact that his character was a bit of a lech. I suppose that's as good a reason as any. Oddly enough, I like Cummings in Saboteur--a film others say is weakened by his presence--because I think his sort of bland-leading man persona is exactly what the character of Barry Kane needs.