The actress Deanna Durban, who starred in films like the Three Smart Girls series and sang a number of popular songs, passed away at age 91. A star in her day, she found a broad audience before retiring from acting at an early age and avoided the public eye.
The success of her films, which reportedly saved Universal from bankruptcy in the late 1930s, was estimated to account for 17% of the studio’s revenue during the decade.
In 1946 Durbin’s salary of $323,477 made her the second highest-paid woman in America, just behind Bette Davis.
Winston Churchill watched her films before they were released to the general public in the UK, while Anne Frank hung a picture of Durbin on the wall of the attic in which she and her family hid from the Nazis.
Of course, it’s this last detail between Churchill and Frank that makes this story so compelling. Rounding out the group, when Durban was 15, she was once considered a popular choice for Snow White, but Walt Disney thought Durbin’s voice was too mature.