Deanna Durbin, the Winnipeg-born movie star who was once one of the best-paid actresses in Hollywood, has died at the age of 91, according to her fan club newsletter.
Born Edna Mae Durbin in 1921 at the former Grace Hospital on Preston Avenue, Durbin was credited while still a teenager with saving Universal Pictures from bankruptcy in the late '30s and early '40s with a string of hit movies including Three Smart Girls (1936), Mad About the Music (1938), That Certain Age (1938) and Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939).
Durbin only lived in Winnipeg for a year before her parents moved to California. Her very first screen appearance was in a 1936 MGM short film titled Every Sunday opposite Judy Garland. Garland got a contract with MGM, and Durbin got one with Universal, a move that ended up saving the troubled studio from financial ruin.
By 1946, Durbin's salary of $323,477 made her the second-highest-paid woman in America. (She was bested by Bette Davis by $5,000.)
But Durbin's star faded into adulthood and the actress took the pre-emptive move of walking away from her career, quitting the business at the age of 27 to move to a village in France where she lived happily with her third husband, director Charles David.
"I was never happy making pictures," she wrote in a letter to reporters in 1958, in which she also demonstrated she had no illusions about her contributions to film history.
"The character I was forced into had little or nothing in common with myself -- or with other youth of my generation, for that matter," she wrote.
"I could never believe that my contemporaries were my fans. They may have been impressed with my 'success,' but my fans were the parents, many of whom could not cope with their own youngsters. They sort of adopted me as their 'perfect' daughter."
The news of Durbin's death was revealed in a newsletter of the Deanna Durbin Society, reporting that she had died "a few days ago" with a quote from her son Peter H. David thanking her admirers for respecting her privacy.