Now that the anniversary is over and the blackout is lifted, my punishment must continue. The next film I have chronologically is First Love (1939). That means it is time for Deannarella. That’s right, it’s Deanna Durbin in a Cinderella tale. The plot is that simple.
It begins with Deanna graduating from a boarding school to go live with her family that includes her stuck-up cousin Barbara (Helen Parrish). And by stuck-up, I mean that she is who N.W.A. is singing about in their song A Bitch Is A Bitch.
In the boarding school she was accepted and appreciated for her singing talents but upon arrival at her new home, she is greeted by a butler who looks down on her. He assumes she is one of those no good singers, rather than a noble opera singer. This is where the film shines. In Three Smart Girls Deanna was funny and perky, but her singing seemed grafted onto what was an otherwise enjoyable family comedy. Here the singing is integrated into the story. When she meets this butler and realizes what kind of singing he values, she bursts into opera. She shows him a thing or two and wins an ally in an otherwise hostile household. A household where even Deanna is her own worst enemy.
From here we go through a few scenes to drive home the decadence of the family and just how evil Barbara is to Deanna and everyone else. It’s all to get the pieces in place for the Cinderella ball plot. By that point, Deanna has not only become the darling of the butler, but is beloved by the entire household staff. When Deanna gets invited by chance to the ball and thinks modifying her graduation gown will suffice, the staff comes to her rescue with a proper dress. They come to the rescue again, when at the last minute, the family tells her she needs to stay home. And by the last minute, I mean they are walking out the door, realize something, and suddenly tell her she has to stay. The staff helps to ensure she will go to the ball!
The rest is Cinderella. Deanna goes to the ball, leaves a slipper, and winds up with prince charming. Anymore details and you would have the entire film. It’s really that simple.
I am hoping that the next Deanna Durbin film combines the writing of Three Smart Girls (1936) with the singing of this film. If they pull that off, then they will have something that is more than just worth a look.