While much has been written about the great Judy Garland, little has been explored in relation to the life of another popular singer and actress: Deanna Durbin. Shining during the golden years of the movie musical, both Garland and Durbin flourished as musical talents. Unlike Garland’s popular vocal style, Durbin was in control of a more operatic voice. While Garland worked hard at MGM, Durbin saved Universal Studios from ruin and became the highest-paid woman in America.
In Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, and the Golden Age of Hollywood, author Melanie Gall examines the life and career of Durbin, interspersing the narrative with connections to Garland’s career. Though this book is marketed as a biography of Durbin, it frequently juxtaposes Durbin’s life and journey to stardom against Garland’s. Though Garland entertained until her tragic end, Durbin left Hollywood by age twenty-eight and has been largely forgotten in comparison.
Gall’s book is the first biography of Durbin and is particularly unique in taking this approach. Because the focus is on Durbin, it seems out of place to list Garland on the cover as she is secondary to the narrative. Nonetheless, the book offers an interesting look at Durbin’s life–a life Durbin aimed to keep quite private–and offers as public of a glimpse into Durbin’s later years as Durbin would have allowed. Due to the fact that Durbin was so private, some aspects of her later years will stay quite vague as a result. Nonetheless, the inclusion of anecdotes and quotes from Durbin herself helps the reader to gain a stronger sense of understanding relating to Durbin.
Fans of Durbin will no doubt be interested in reading this book and appreciated the supplementary photos.