Did you know that Winnipeg was the birthplace of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars ever, with one of the most beautiful voices ever heard on a movie soundtrack ?
Edna May Durbin was born in Winnipeg in 1921, and she moved with her family to California when she was only two. Given what we have endured in recent months, you might say that even at that early age, she made some pretty smart decisions.
Edna May became Deanna Durbin, and in 1936 she starred in a movie called, appropriately, Three Smart Girls. Legend has it that she almost single-handedly saved Universal from bankruptcy. Deanna starred in 21 movies, most of them fairly forgettable, but she was hugely popular. In 1947, the year I was born, she was the highest paid star in the business, at more than $300,000.
Perhaps it was her Canadian prairies roots, but she was never very comfortable in tinseltown. In 1949, after two failed marriages, Deanna tied the knot with Charles David, a French director and they moved to a small village in France.
Charles died in 1999, and Deanna Durbin died a few days ago at the age of 91. Right till the end, she had fan clubs, and it was on one of their websites that I got an address to write to her about 20 years ago. I asked for an interview, knowing full well that the answer would be No.
It was probably the nicest No I ever received. She sent me a beautiful handwritten letter, thanking me and Winnipeg for remembering her.
I think it’s time to put that in a frame.
I’m Roger Currie