Four of Deanna Durbin's early films - unfortunately, there are no late ones - have been released in MCA/Universal Home Video's "The Deanna Durbin Collection." It is the first time any of Durbin's films have been made available for general purchase.
One of the four videos, "Three Smart Girls," was Durbin's film debut in 1936. The ebullient Canadian teenager won the hearts of film fans worldwide.Two years later, in 1938, Durbin was presented a Special Academy Award inscribed: "For bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth." Judy Garland won the award the next year. Shirley Temple got the first one in 1934.
The other three films in this release are "100 Men and a Girl," "Three Smart Girls Grow Up" and "It Started With Eve." All are black-and-white films and are listed at $19.98.
Durbin retired early from her career to marry and now makes her home in the south of France. In 1959, in one of her rare interviews, she said of her film career, "Just as a Hollywood pin-up represents sex to a dissatisfied erotic, so I represented the ideal daughter millions of fathers and mothers wished they had."
Durbin's other popular films include "Mad About Music, "Spring Parade," "That Certain Age," "The Amazing Mrs. Holliday," "Can't Help Singing," "Lady on a Train" and "Because of Him." None are available on video, however.
About the four films in this collection:
- "Three Smart Girls" (1936, 84 mins.) Nan Grey and Barbara Read co-star as Durbin sings "My Heart Is Singing" and "Someone to Care for Me." Charles Winninger plays the millionaire father whom the girls try to reunite with their mother, divorced a decade earlier.
- "100 Men and a Girl" (1937, 84 mins.) Deanna Durbin sings and famed conductor Leopold Stokowski conducts her through such operatic arias as Verdi's "Sempre Libre." Charles Previn wrote the Oscar-winning score, which features the lyrical purity of Durbin's fresh young voice. Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer and Billy Gilbert co-star. Durbin also conducts Franz Liszt's "Second Hungarian Rhapsody."
- "Three Smart Girls Grow Up" (1939, 86 mins.) This time Durbin, the youngest of the three sisters, is determined to marry off her two older siblings. Robert Cummings and William Lundigan co-star.
- "It Started With Eve" (1941, 92 mins.) Durbin is a little older and growing into a sophisticated young woman in this comedy with Charles Laughton as a gravely ill millionaire and Robert Cummings as his son. In a mixup, Durbin so charms the old man while posing as his son's fiancee that he recovers his health, and bedlam ensues.
Question: Can't video tape have two separate soundtracks, the same way video discs do? I think having interviews with directors running with the movie is a great idea and shouldn't be limited to video discs.
Answer: Yes, the idea of an "alternate" track is possible for tape, because there are two places to put the audio: in the hi-fi tracks or in the linear tracks. Hi-fi VCRs have a switch that lets you choose which to listen to. But there's a hitch - most VCRs in homes today are not hi-fi models, so there's no access to the extra hi-fi track.
- Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send your queries to Andy Wickstrom, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
DR. PETIOT - This dark drama is based on the true exploits of a French physician who conducted a private Holocaust during the World War II era, murdering Jews after enticing them with promises of escape from Nazi terror. Vigorously directed by Christian de Chalonge, and featuring an astonishing performance by Michel Serrault as the evil doctor. World Artists Home Video.
- David Sterritt
(Christian Science Monitor)
HARD LABOUR - With recent films like "Naked" and "High Hopes," director Mike Leigh has earned recognition as an acute and witty observer of contemporary life. The title of this early work, made for British television in 1973, refers to the dehumanizing jobs of its working-class characters; more broadly, it also points to the harsh realities that plague their private lives, bred and encouraged by social inequities. Sad, scathing and sometimes remarkably funny. Water Bearer Films.
- David Sterritt
(Christian Science Monitor)
SILK AND SABOTAGE - If you're a computer type, you may find it hard to resist a film that bills itself as being about "sex drives, hard drives and other interoffice activities" but try. This one-gag film revolves around a trio of very different roommates - one of whom designs computer games. After her program is stolen, the three - aided by their boyfriends - set out to recover the game by conning the conman. Dreadful acting. Academy Entertainment, 70 minutes, rated R.
- Richard T. Ryan
(Newhouse News Service)
TWO SMALL BODIES - Airless adaptation of a two-person play, starring Suzy Amis as a woman whose two children are missing, and Fred Ward as the investigator who crosses professional lines to find the truth. A mix of Harold Pinter-style menace and peep show, it sends both actors parading around in their underwear. Ward and Amis work hard, but there's no getting around a sense of pointlessness. Rated R.
- Steve Murray
(Cox News Service)