Edna Mae Durbin (December 4, 1921 – c. April 20, 2013), known professionally as Deanna Durbin, was a Canadian actress and singer, who appeared in musical films in the 1930s and 1940s. With the technical skill and vocal range of a legitimate lyric soprano, she performed many styles from popular standards to operatic arias.
She signed a contract with MGM in 1936, at the age of 14, which resulted in her appearance in Every Sunday (1936), a short that also starred Judy Garland. Deanna was dropped by MGM but was immediately picked up by Universal Pictures, which cast her in the role of Penny Craig in Three Smart Girls (1936). While preparing for the role she was coached intensely by director Henry Koster; it's doubtful she would have been the star she was had it not been for Koster. The profits from this film and its follow-up, One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), rescued Universal from bankruptcy. The studio quickly capitalized on these hits, casting Deanna in two successive and highly acclaimed films, That Certain Age (1938) and Mad About Music (1938). With these films Deanna became Hollywood's darling. She reprised her role of Penny Craig in Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939).
Deanna was such a hit that she shared the Academy Award's 1939 Juvenile Award with Mickey Rooney "for their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players, setting high standards of ability and achievement". Deanna's singing and acting ability had the world talking. There was no doubt she was the most popular performer of her day. She was, however, by nature a very private individual, never comfortable with the glitz, glamour and publicity that came with stardom. Despite her uneasiness, she continued to churn out hits and kept the public enthralled. In 1943 she played Penny Craig again, for the third time, in Hers to Hold (1943).
She was the number one female box office star in Britain for the years 1939- 1942 inclusive. She was so popular that in 1942 a seven day "Deanna Durbin Festival" was held during which her films were screened exclusively on the Odeon Theatre Circuit throughout Britain, a feat that has never been duplicated for any
other star. According to reports from the BBC over the past three decades, it receives more requests from the public for Durbin's films and recordings, than for those of any other star of Hollywood's Golden Age.
In 1946, Durbin was the second-highest paid woman in the United States, just behind Bette Davis, and in 1947, she was the top-salaried woman in the United States. Her fan club ranked as the world’s largest during her active years.
By 1948, however, her box-office clout began to diminish. In private life, Durbin continued to use her given name, Edna; salary figures printed annually by the Hollywood trade publications listed the actress as "Edna Mae Durbin, player". On August 22, 1948, two months after completing her final film, Universal-International announced a lawsuit which sought to collect from Durbin $87,083 in wages the studio had paid her in advance. Durbin settled the complaint by agreeing to star in three more pictures, including one in Paris. The studio allowed Deanna's contract to expire on August 31, 1949, so the three films were never made.
Durbin, who obtained a $200,000 ($1,992,448 in 2015), severance payment, chose to retire from movies. Her former producer Joe Pasternak tried to dissuade her, but she told him: "I can't run around being a Little Miss Fix-It who bursts into song—the highest-paid star with the poorest material."
She retired from public life in 1950, after her marriage to Charles David, who had directed her in Lady On A Train. The couple moved to Paris, France, with Durbin vowing that she would never return to show business, and raised Durbin's second child, Peter David. Since then she has resisted numerous offers to perform, including several by Mario Lanza, and has granted only one brief interview in 1983, to film historian David Shipman, steadfastly asserting her right to privacy.
Durbin's husband of more than 48 years, Charles David, died in Paris on March 1, 1999. On April 30, 2013, a newsletter published by the Deanna Durbin Society reported that Durbin had died "in the past few days", quoting her son, Peter H. David, who thanked her admirers for respecting her privacy. No other details were given. According to a family friend, Durbin died on or about April 20 in Neauphle-le-Château, France. (Info edited from IMDB bio by Denny Jackson & Wikipedia)