High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Once I Heard An Angel Sing.....

As we bid farewell to 2013

I'd like to pay tribute

to a lady I adored...

Canadian born legend

of screen and song

Deanna Durbin

One Smart Girl

who touched millions

with her divine voice.

We lost Deanna Durbin in April but
she is immortalized with a rich
legacy of recordings and films.

Deanna Durbin (left) with Judy Garland during the 
 making of the 1936 short musical film Every Sunday.

Deanna Durbin, the singer and actress,
never grew old. She retired from show
business in the late 1940s at the height
of her popularity and fame and
while still in her 20s.

Today's movie audiences expect HD
video and surround sound, but those
who are willing to escape to the past
and experience Deanna's black and
white movies from the mid 1930s
through early 40s are in for a treat.

In the following scene from the 1939
movie Three Smart Girls Grow Up
Deanna mesmerizes as she sings 
The Last Rose of Summer, a poem 
by Irish poet Thomas Moore given
melody by Sir John Stevenson.

"The Last Rose of Summer" - Deanna Durbin 
(song recorded in late 1938 just before
Deanna's 17th birthday/scene from 
1939 movie Three Smart Girls Grow Up)

By the age of 21, Deanna Durbin was the
highest paid woman in America and the
highest paid female motion picture star in
the world - the #1 female box office star
in Great Britain from 1939 through 1942.

Deanna embodied the qualities and values
of the Greatest Generation - strength,
honor, sacrifice, virtue, love of God and
country and love of parents and family.
Deanna proved that square could be cool,
that a girl could shatter glass singing
opera and still be as hip as they come.

In this scene from my favorite Deanna Durbin 
movie, It's a Date, thoroughly modern Deanna
shifts gears and holds the audience spellbound
as she performs the traditional Scottish song
"The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond."

"Loch Lomond" - Deanna Durbin 
(from 1940 movie It's a Date)

Deanna Durbin's singing was the highlight
of all her movies. Hers was a voice so pure,
so glorious and evocative, it implied a
celestial origin and seemed to channel
the saints. I want you to witness in its
its entirety the gripping final scene
and song from It's a Date.

Behold one of the most powerful vocal
performances ever captured on film,
Deanna Durbin's towering rendition of
Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria." Whenever
I watch this scene a spell comes over me,
a reverent silence, a solemn stillness.
My attention is riveted and tears fill
my eyes... to hear an angel sing.

"Ave Maria" - Deanna Durbin 
(from 1940 movie It's a Date)

'Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered,
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?
- Thomas Moore

Good night and goodbye, dear Deanna.
Although you are gone your memory
lives on in sound and in pictures.

You are frozen in time, 
forever young, like the 
first flower of spring 
bursting forth from
powdered snow. 
Rest in peace.

Thank you very much, dear reader,
for your friendship and support 
this past year. Here's wishing 
you a safe New Year's Eve
celebration and a happy  
and prosperous 2014!



  1. Gosh Shady, this is beautiful! I have seen this lady in a few films, and remember her voice. But, never knew her name. These photos of her are really spectacular, of beauty, and, of happiness!

    Wonder why she left the business so early? Perhaps her life was more fulfilled because of it.

    Having always loved 'Ave Maria', she did a wonderful job of singing the song...what a voice!

    Thank you so much for this lovely post! I hope your Christmas was great...we are a bit tired, and expecting our little Scootie for the weekend-soooo, now's a good time to rest! Have a wonderful weekend, and, Happy New Year to you Shady! Whoa!!! 2014 coming through! lol!

    Signing off for now, SDS! ♫

    1. Hi, Suzanne! I'm happy to know you found value in my tribute to Deanna Durbin. In 2007, I suddenly got the urge to fill in the gaps of my knowledge and watch as many old movies as possible. That year I watched hundreds of classic movies from the 30s and 40s, most of them in black and white, including many in the film noir genre. I became a huge fan of Deanna Durbin that year and saw most of her pictures. It's a Date remains my favorite because of her brilliant acting and the powerful performances included here.

      It remains a mystery what drove Deanna to retire in her 20s and move to the outskirts of Paris. A few things are known about her. She continued to assert her right to privacy the rest of her life and resisted numerous requests to come out of retirement or make public appearances. She denounced the Hollywood studio star system and viewed "Deanna Durbin" as a character created for her.

      I had a great Christmas, thank you, and like you I'm pooped, but it's a good kind of tired. I hope you and Karo had a wonderful celebration and will keep the festivities going this weekend with Scootie. Hey, you guys should start your own series of books and movies revolving around your grandson.

      Suggested titles:

      Scootie Potter and the Opening of the Presents
      Scootie Potter and Too Much Pumpkin Pie
      Scootie Potter and the Kard Korner Krib
      Scootie Potter and Water My Texas Garden

      etc. etc. etc. You and Karo will get rich!!! :)

      Thank you very much for your comment, dear friend Suzanne, and happy new year to you!

  2. P.S. The last photo you posted of Deanna is the best. I remember those sweaters with Christmas trees and reindeer designs, would love to have one again! I would really wear it! See you soon!

    1. That last picture is really something, isn't it? I'm just a sentimental fool and I make myself cry a lot. Deanna Durbin's singing makes me cry. All the good things she symbolized remind me of how much we've lost in the decades since she made those recordings and movies and posed for those portraits. One by one we are losing all the great ones and that too makes me cry.

      God bless!

  3. What a voice! I don't have many memories of her. I suppose it's because she retired when she was so young. I'll be Googling Deanna.

    Janie, who thanks you for the reminder about Deanna

    1. Hi again, Janie Junebug! How's my newest friend and fellow Floridian today?

      I'm glad I turned you on to Deanna Durbin, the singer, the actress and the positive role model for millions of women around the world. I'm sure your Googling will enable you to learn a great deal about her. YouTube is an excellent source where you can sample many of Deanna's fine songs and movie performances.

      I'm delighted to see you, dear Janie, and I look forward to building a genuine friendship with you in 2014.

      Happy New Year!

    2. You are such a sweetheart. I Googled Deanna and learned a great deal about her, including that she never stopped using her real name–Edna. I think it's interesting that she retired so young, took her severance pay from the studio, got married, moved to Paris, and seems to have had a nice life.

    3. You know, Janie, it's exciting to me when followers are inspired by my posts to do some research of their own and then report back here with their findings. It's the mark of a genuine friend and I thank you!

      When I look at that picture of Edna with Judy Garland in the mid 30s when both girls were starting their film careers, I can't help thinking about the trajectory of Judy's life and how she died at the end of the Sixties, decades before Edna. In that short film Every Sunday, the girls take turns singing on a bandstand in the park. Judy turned on the showmanship and pizzazz while Edna's style was completely different, restrained and refined. I enjoy both styles but it is Edna's voice (Deanna's) that moves me to tears. Can you imagine her in the role of Dorothy Gale?

      Thank you again for being special, Janie Junebug. I am very much appreciating your visits!

    4. Every Sunday is the short film from which I remember her. It's such a shame that Judy didn't follow Edna's example, but we're all different.

    5. Hello again, kiddo! How are you today? I'm so glad you are familiar with Every Sunday because it's not a title that readily comes to mind when people discuss Deanna Durbin or Judy Garland. I found Every Sunday as a special feature on the DVD containing the Busby Berkeley musical For Me and My Gal starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.

      In a way Edna and Judy remind me of the tortoise and the hare. Just saying...

      Thank you for your follow-up visits, dear friend Janie. I'm open 24-7-365 so drop by any time, even if it's just to say howdy. Okay? Have a safe and happy weekend!

  4. A lovely tribute. Happy new year wishes!

    1. Thank you very much for coming over for a look at my year ender, dear Katie. I wish you and your pooch Izzy a safe and happy new year!

  5. Deanna Durban was one of my favorites!

    1. Hi, Linda, and welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories! I'm happy to know you share my love of this great lady of song and screen, Miss Deanna Durbin.

      Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear Linda. I hope to see you back here again. Please know that you are always welcome. Happy new year to you!

  6. What a beauty..what talent! I love old movies, but have never seen hers...yet! I can't wait to find them and watch. The so called talent of today could really learn from her. She obviously didn't want the hype and plastic that's Hollywood..even back then. I loved the clips and thank you for keeping her memory alive and introducing us to Deanna. I also want to thank you for all your nice comments on my blog. I've enjoyed being a follower here and learning so much about music and different artists. I hope your New Year is filled with good songs, friends, and many new blog buddies! Your Christmas sounds like it was really fun. I'm sorry you're missing your dog this year...I can't imagine how hard it must be. Take care and stay healthy! Happy New Year to you and Mrs. Shady!

    1. You're tops, dear YaYa, and I thank you for coming here tonight and expressing all this. I deeply appreciate it. I can't tell you how excited I was the day you showed up on the Shady Dell doorstep and asked if you could join the fun. You turned out to be one of the greatest friends imaginable!

      I urge you to give Deanna Durbin's movies a try. There are many clips on YouTube and perhaps even some full length films. I like her earlier pictures because she was precocious and stunned the grown-ups with her singing. The 1940 movie It's a Date is the one I recommend most highly because Deanna shifts gears from a flighty, love-struck teenager to a serious operatic singer who brings the house down with her stirring performances. What a contrast!

      You are right. Deanna Durbin didn't have to resort to twerking, swinging on a wrecking ball and other kinds of publicity stunts to maintain her popularity. She was the real deal, a genuine star. We are losing them one by one and they are not being replaced.

      Bless your heart, dear YaYa. Bless Eddy's heart. Again I thank you for being a top notch friend to me. Happy new year and all the best to you and yours in 2014!

  7. As a child, I loved Deanna Durbin. When I was young most of the movies on TV were from the forties and I'm sure I saw all of hers. Whenever I hear her name I remember her singing, 'Night and Day' in a black dress. I looked it up and it was from the movie 'Lady on A Train.' I remember it being a great mystery story. Its funny, but I was in love with the dress she wore while singing that song. It was so elegant yet had those slits on the side.

    I'm sure her life was happier living in France and having a family. The Hollywood life can be a shallow one. I'm glad you had a good Christmas. Ours was lovely.

    1. Hi, dear Belle! Thank you very much for coming, my special friend.

      When I was little I watched many old movies on television, mainly the Universal horror classics, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, westerns, Our Gang comedies, etc. Somehow I missed the Deanna Durbin series back then. FF to 2007 when I unexpectedly got interested in films of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. I put current network shows on the back burner that year and spent much of my time catching up on all I had missed including Deanna's movies, Loretta Young's, Leila Hyams', Lana Turner's, the Andy Hardy series and many more. I got a real education.

      I think many of Deanna's fans were shocked to see her in the 1945 whodunit murder mystery Lady on a Train. I agree with you that Deanna obviously was happier living a reclusive life in France far from the pretentious trappings of Tinseltown. Selfish fans, the kind that give the word "fan" (as in fanatic) a bad name, thought Deanna owed them more records, more movies, more personal appearances. She owed them nothing. It was her life and she lived it as she saw fit. Each of us is entitled to do that.

      God bless you, dear Belle. I am so happy you're sticking with SDM&M and that we both continue to reap the benefits of our wonderful friendship. I am very happy to know you had a good Christmas and I pray that 2014 will be kind to you and all your loved ones.

      Happy new year!

  8. Well, well, well…I too am a Deanna Durbin fan. I comb over the movies on TMC for when she will appear. Thanks for some great memories, as always, and lovely listening, as always! Happy New Year, Tom may you and yours have a blessed and joyous 2014! Hugs!

    1. Hi, Sush! Thank you very much for being here for my end of the year post.

      I'm excited to learn you are a Deanna Durbin fan. Throughout the year 2007, I was glued to Turner Classics watching hundreds of silent films along with sound pictures released from the 30s thru the 50s. My goal was to educate myself because I knew there were hundreds of important features and shorts I had missed or deliberately skipped. That year I came to know and love great actresses like Teresa Wright and Cathy O'Donnell and the extraordinarily gifted singer and actress Deanna Durbin. It makes me sad to know that Deanna's angelic voice has been silenced, but she will live on through her movies and extensive catalog of recorded works.

      Thank you again for showing your support, dear friend Sush. I wish you and your lovely family all the best in the coming year!

  9. Hello Shady!!! I am familiar with Deanna as an actress but I didn't know the extent of her singing talent. Amazing voice. And retiring in her 20's?? Wow. Perhaps she didn't want to give in to the dark side of Hollywood.

    A very Happy New Year to you as well. Let's hope 2014 is great!

    1. Hello hello hello, Bouncin' Barb! When I listen to Deanna's singing and watch her performing in movie scenes like the ones presented here, I get goose bumps and fall into a trance. She was a rare talent. Many fans felt robbed at the end of the 1940s when she retired and moved to the Parisian countryside to spend the rest of her life in seclusion. I don't blame her one bit for wanting to escape the rat race and the phony, cutthroat world of show business in studio controlled Hollywood. Had Deanna not retired when she did she might have suffered a fate similar to Judy Garland's.

      Thank you so much for joining my year end celebration, dear friend Barb. Have a great weekend and a happy and healthy new year!

  10. Hi dear Tom. Deanna Durbin was a real one off, with such a pure voice. Her version of Ave Maria is spellbinding and really takes you to a very special place. Incredible that she decided to retire in her 20's. I
    Hope that she had a very happy life. She was beautiful, as so many of those vintage stars were. That was a lovely tribute to her today. I always think that the time between Christmas and New Year is a rather strange time. I love the build up to Christmas, but now I really want to just get back to normal , if that makes any sense. New Years Eve has never really meant much to me. I hope that all is well with you dear Shadikins.

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! Thank you very much for breaking away from your full house to spend some time in the Shady. It's good to know you share my high regard for Deanna Durbin and that you reacted the same way to her powerful rendition of "Ave Maria." It's odd, but I can't find much of anything on the internet to confirm or deny that Deanna had a happy life in retirement, so little is known about her. One thing seems likely. She would not have been happy returning to show business because that's what caused her to drop out of sight in the first place.

      I feel the same way now that Christmas is over. I want to get the decorations put away and get back to normal. After all, the buildup toward Christmas begins earlier every year, reaching all the way back to summertime! It's soon time for Valentine's Day madness to begin! (LOL)

      Thank you again, dear friend Thisisme, for joining me for my Deanna Durbin tribute and my last post of the year. Please give Alfred a pat and a hug for me.

      and Happy New Year!

  11. She certainly was a true beauty. You paid a wonderful tribute with your post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello, Rachel, and welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories! I am delighted to have you as a new follower. I was already familiar with you and have admired your devotion to all things retro for quite some time. I am now following your fine blog. I believe you are indeed an old soul and in my experience that is a very good thing. I'm glad you appreciated my tribute to this ageless, timeless icon of beauty, grace and goodness, Deanna Durbin.

      Thank you very much for choosing to join the club, dear Rachel. You are always welcome here and I hope to see you again soon.

      Happy new year, Rachel!

  12. Kathleen Mae SchneiderDecember 29, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    Bob and I enjoyed reading about Deanna Durbin and listening to her amazingly beautiful voice on this post. We didn't remember anything more than her name from our own early years, so we learned more via the internet.

    Apparently you had company in designating her an angel. We came across the following: During World War II, hundreds of servicemen claimed she was their favorite star. We thought it was also interesting that two other famous people were inspired by her brief time in the limelight.

    Winston Churchill watched One Hundred Men and a Girl (along with brandy and a cigar!) to celebrate important military victories. Her picture was also hung on the wall of Anne Frank's room in the secret apartment where she and her family hid.

    Deanna Durbin holds a special place in history because for 25 cents, people could escape the horror of war and the Great Depression by watching her films and witnessing her beauty and talent.

    She is to be admired for thinking for herself and refusing to sell her soul to Hollywood. So many in the entertainment industry fall victim to having their lives manipulated and personalities altered by the big studios. She must have been not only a beautiful and talented woman, but a strong one as well. Your tribute to her was well-done. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Kathleen! I want to thank you and Bob for looking in on this yearender and for doing some additional research on my subject, Winnipeg's Sweetheart, Deanna Durbin. She was indeed one smart girl who touched millions of hearts with her gifts. Deanna was charming, poised, confident and precocious and possessed an otherworldly voice. She auditioned to be the voice of Snow White in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but Walt turned her down, declaring that she sounded "too mature." Edna Mae Durbin was only 14 at the time.

      Before I forget, I wanted to emphasize that Deanna was also an intelligent actress with great comedic timing. She was the top star at Universal in the 40s and by age 21 was the highest paid female film star in the world.

      I agree that Deanna was a strong and independent young woman. She should be admired for having the courage to abruptly retire in her 20s, go into self-imposed exile in France and meticulously avoid press and paparazzi for the rest of her life. Think of all the child stars who got screwed over and messed up by Hollywood and died young because they couldn't handle the transition to adulthood after gaining celebrity as kids.

      Deanna Durbin was one of Hollywood's foremost Goodwill Ambassadors during the Great Depression and WWII. She epitomized the values and ideals of a generation that can never be forgotten and will never be forgotten. In her own words Deanna "represented the ideal daughter millions of fathers and mothers wished they had." Deanna Durbin is gone but will always be fondly remembered.

      Thank you very much, dear Kathleen, for joining me as I tie the bow on another year of blogging. I wish you and Bob and Mother Margaret and Lis and your entire family coast to coast a safe, happy and healthy new year!

      God bless!

  13. Another great post Shady, this proves what you have always said. That great music does not belong to one generation. Good music knows no one generation it was here long before us and will continue long after we are gone. your friend and A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Hey, Greg! Thank you very much for checking in and checking out my last post of the year, a tribute to the late great Deanna Durbin. Imagine, Greg. Deanna retired around the time you and I were born; yet here we are decades later tuned into her, discovering what she was all about and appreciating her incredible vocal virtuosity. If you had asked me 50 years ago if I like Deanna Durbin, I would have first said "Who?" and then "No!" In recent years, however, I stopped telling myself I don't like this or that person or this or that type of music. I took a lesson from the Five Keys who urged us to "Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Open your heart." Having followed their sage advice, I now find so much more in life to appreciate. It's liberating.

      Thank you very much for spending another year following SDM&M, Greg. I hope you'll drop in frequently in 2014 because I need your support and appreciate it very much. Here's wishing you and your entire family a safe and happy new year, good buddy!


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