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Deanna Durbin Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 30th, 2013
2013
Apr 30

OBITUARY

Singer-Actress Deanna Durbin Dead at 91

 

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April 30, 2013 |
Variety
by Carmel Dagan

 

Singer-actress Deanna Durbin, who was the highest-paid female star in Hollywood in 1947 but permanently exited the movie biz the next year at the age of 26, has died, her fan club announced Tuesday. The announcement did not give a date or cause of death. She was 91.

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Durbin initially landed at MGM after a successful audition for a part in a planned biopic of opera singer Ernestine Schumann-Heink. She actually made her film debut in the 1936 MGM short “Every Sunday,” with Judy Garland (the two were only six months apart in age), and the opera film was never made. Soon thereafter Universal signed Durbin to a contract.

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Her first film at U was “Three Smart Girls” (remade decades later as “The Parent Trap”). That big box office hit, in which she played the perfect teenage daughter, paved the way for many more of the same, and Durbin was credited with saving the studio from bankruptcy. The film was also Oscar nominated for best picture.

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During the production of “Three Smart Girls,” Durbin began a regular gig on Eddie Cantor’s radio show that would last for two years, until she became so busy at Universal that she was unable to continue on the radio; just before “Three Smart Girls” was released, the actress, just turning 15, began recording for Decca Records.

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Also in 1936, the very-busy Durbin was offered an audition with New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which she turned down because she felt she needed more training.

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Durbin’s next three films were all stunning successes: “One Hundred Men and a Girl,” “That Certain Age” and “Mad About Music.” In these first, highly profitable films, Durbin worked with director Henry Koster and producer Joe Pasternak.

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In a fashion that would seem all too familiar today, Durbin soon became a highly profitable property generating multiple revenue streams: There were Deanna Durbin dolls, Deanna Durbin dresses and Deanna Durbin novels in which a fictional Deanna solved mysteries in the manner of Nancy Drew.

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In the 21 films she made for Universal (including two sequels to “Three Smart Girls”), she would usually sing a few songs ­ some new material plus some arias from operas. The era of the original soundtrack album had not quite arrived, so she would record the same material in the studio for Decca. (Interestingly, only one of her songs made the charts.)

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Durbin’s lyric soprano was said to be light, sweet and unaffected.

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In addition to Durbin’s talent, the key to maintaining this success was mountains of publicity, which the studio and the press happily provided, as when the latter fawned over Durbin’s first screen kiss in 1937’s “First Love.”

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In a reflection of her huge success and impact on showbiz, Durbin, along with Mickey Rooney, was presented with a special Academy Juvenile Award in 1938.

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Indeed, she was a success overseas as well as domestically. Anne Frank famously hung a picture of Durbin on the wall of the attic in which she and her family were hiding from the Nazis. She was also a favorite of both Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini.

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A blogger on the Amazingdeanna site describes Durbin’s film career has dividable into three overlapping eras: “the adolescent years, from which comes the perky (and profitable) Durbin formula of youthful tenacity and pluck; the post-adolescence/struggle era, where the now-grownup star fights for mature material and sometimes wins; and the resignation years, when Universal’s movie veteran ­ weary over the struggle for challenging scripts ­ essentially gives in to whatever work is offered.”

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Her partnership with director Koster and producer Pasternak ended with 1941’s “It Started With Eve.” Pasternak left Universal for MGM, and U suspended Durbin for several months for refusing to appear in “The Lived Alone,” which Koster was to direct. Durbin ultimately won from Universal the right to approve her directors, stories and songs.

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In addition to her increasing dissatisfaction over her films, Durbin was essentially a private person never comfortable with her ultra-public role as a movie star.

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Durbin became disillusioned with Hollywood by the mid-’40s, particularly after the release of 1944 film noir “Christmas Holiday,” which disappointed at the box office. This adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham novel was her attempt to become a serious actress. Another disappointment was the 1945 whodunit “Lady on a Train,” which did not draw the kind of reception her earlier musical comedies had generated.

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In 1950, she married her third husband, Charles David (who had directed “Lady on a Train”) and moved to Normandy, France, and thereafter remained out of the limelight.

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She was tempted to return just once, for “My Fair Lady” on Broadway in 1956, but she resisted in the end.

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Born in Winnipeg, Edna Mae Durbin moved with her British-born parents to Hollywood when she was just a year old. She began work with a singing teacher at age 10.

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After decades of refusing to speak to the press, Durbin granted an interview to David Shipman in 1983.

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“I did not hate show business,” she told him. Speaking in particular of her last four films, she added, “I was the highest-paid star with the poorest material ­today I consider my salary as damages for having to cope with such complete lack of quality.”

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She is survived by two children: Jessica (from her second marriage to Jackson) and Peter (from her union with David).

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Frank Bank Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 16th, 2013
2013
Apr 16

OBITUARY

Frank Bank dies at 71; played ‘Lumpy’ on ‘Leave It to Beaver’

 

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After playing Wally’s dim-witted sidekick on the popular TV show in the 1950s and 1960s, Bank found himself typecast, so he quit acting and became a successful financial broker, with ‘Beaver’ co-stars Jerry Mathers and Barbara Billingsley among his clients.

 

By Elaine Woo
Los Angeles Times
April 15, 2013

 

Frank Bank, who as Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford served as the dim-witted foil to “Beaver” Cleaver and brother Wally on the classic TV comedy “Leave It to Beaver,” died Saturday. He was 71.

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Click here to read the Los Angeles Times obituary for Frank Bank

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Jonathan Winters Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 12th, 2013
2013
Apr 12

OBITUARY

Jonathan Winters dies at 87; comic genius of improvisation

 

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Jonathan Winters was admired by a generation of comedians for his brilliant wit, gift of mimicry and a boundless imagination. ‘The characters are my jokes,’ he explained.

 

By Dennis McLellan
Special to the Los Angeles Times
April 13, 2013

 

Jonathan Winters, whose talent for mimicry, sound effects and improvisation made him a comic original and creative godfather to later generations of comedians like Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams, died Thursday at his longtime home in Montecito. He was 87.

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Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Jonathan Winters

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Annette Funicello Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 8th, 2013
2013
Apr 8

OBITUARY

Annette Funicello, Mouseketeer and ‘beach’ movie star, dies at 70

 

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Adored on ‘The Mickey Mouse Club,’ Annette Funicello later starred in a series of ’60s beach movies and was a spokeswoman for treatment of multiple sclerosis.

 

By Dennis McLellan and Elaine Woo
Los Angeles Times
April 9, 2013

 

If you were a girl in the 1950s, Annette Funicello was the ideal of feminine goodness, your fantasy best friend forever. If you were a boy, she was your dream date, demure, doe-eyed and just different enough to set hearts pounding.

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The most adored of Walt Disney’s original 24 Mouseketeers, Funicello later exchanged her mouse ears for a swim suit in a series of 1960s beach movies, but she remained a reassuring figure, fun-loving yet chaste in an era of rapidly shifting social values.

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“She had a heart and a soul and a feeling about her that everybody just connected to — male or female — without being pretentious in any way,” Frankie Avalon, her co-star in movies such as “Beach Party” and “Beach Blanket Bingo,” said Monday. “She was just a nice, nice girl next door … America’s sweetheart.”

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Funicello, the dark-haired darling of “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s, died Monday from complications of multiple sclerosis at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield. She was 70.

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Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Annette Funicello

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Roger Ebert Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Apr 4th, 2013
2013
Apr 4

OBITUARY

Roger Ebert dies at 70; Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic

 

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Roger Ebert gave independent films popular appeal, and his ‘thumbs-up, thumbs-down’ ratings on TV were both coveted and scorned. The prolific critic continued to write reviews while battling cancer in recent years.

 

By John Horn and Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times
April 4, 2013

 

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic whose gladiatorial “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” assessments turned film reviewing into a television sport and whose passion for independent film helped introduce a new generation of filmmakers to moviegoers, has died. He was 70.

 

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Roger Ebert

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