A week ago I made the mistake of admitting on Distant Voices and Flickering Shadows that I didn’t know about Deanna Durbin. In no time, Page of My Love Of Old Hollywood and Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood were coming down on me via Twitter. While Page was uncharacteristically merciful, Jessica demanded blood. My punishment is to watch six Deanna Durbin films. This is the first.
The film finds Deanna Durbin taking on the role of Penny. The youngest of three daughters living in Switzerland. Their parents are separated, but it still comes as a shock to the three when a newspaper arrives announcing their father might be engaged. Like Hayley Mills 25 years later, the three sisters take it upon themselves to remedy the situation.
They go on a boat to New York to be “shock troops” against the “enemy”, according to Penny. The enemy being their father’s fiancee Donna Lyons (Binnie Barnes) A.K.A The Witch. The sisters hire someone to lure away the witch from their father. They think they are getting a drunk count and end up with Lord Michael Stuart (Ray Milland) instead. What follows is comedy, romance, and more comedy. I love it when the Witch’s mother concludes that owning half of Australia isn’t that impressive since it’s mostly bush.
When I was given this punishment I started by listening to Deanna Durbin’s music. She has a wonderful voice. What she is saying makes no difference whatsoever. It is the sound that is important. They don’t have her sing all that often in the film and when they do it really doesn’t add anything. Her performance is full of humor and energy. Between Durbin, Milland, and the drunk count, I had a good time. The movie is like The Parent Trap (1961) in beta. Like the great majority of films of the 1930s it goes down smooth and then you forget about it. It just falls short of recommended. That makes it worth a look.