Though her name was little-remembered by anyone under the age of 50, Deanna Durbin once saved a major Hollywood studio from bankruptcy with a winning smile, an operatic singing voice and a can-do atti...
The tragic passing of Chris Kelly, one half of the '90s hip-hop duo Kris Kross, is bound to weigh on the hearts of his fans. Just a glance at the statement released by Kelly's performing partner and friend Chris Smith, via E!, is enough to conjure up a steady flow of tears:
"Chris Kelly was my Best Friend. He was like a brother. I love him and will miss him dearly. Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection."
But what's just as important as our sensitivity to the death of a beloved artist is our celebration of his life and work. The 1990s had legions of fans entertained by Kris Kross' upbeat, wholesome, good-natured songs — cheerful hits about bus rides to school and heavier numbers about the dangers of crime and violence. The young duo's career gave us a handful of memorable entries, and we've rounded up some of our favorites in honor of "Mac Daddy" Kelly and his work with friend and fellow artist, "Daddy Mac" Smith:
"I Missed the Bus"
"Warm It Up"
"Live and Die for Hip Hop"
"It's a Shame"
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In today's film industry, the phrase "child star" is a term associated with downward spirals and dead-end careers. But memories of Hollywood's golden 1930s are paved with sprightly, beloved young faces: our Shirley Temples, our Mickey Rooneys, and of course one young lady whose movie career granted her designation as the world's richest woman and Winston Churchill's favorite performer: Deanna Durbin.
The Depression's teen star, an actress and singer alike, who headlined films like One Hundred Men and a Girl and First Love, has died at age 91, as reported by her son Peter H. David in the Deanna Durbin Newsletter (via The New York Times). David confirmed that Durbin "died a few days ago," choosing not to elaborate further.
Canada-born Durbin's big screen career began when she was 15, with the 1935 feature Three Smart Girls, a musical comedy about three sisters who quest from Switzerland to New York City to stop their divorced father from marrying a nefarious socialite. Stories with this plucky, innocent charm carried through Durbin's career via films from Mad About Music to For the Love of Mary (her final film, in 1948, in which she starred at age 26).
Following this White House-set comedy, Durbin quit acting and moved to France with her third husband, filmmaker Charles David (who, incidentally, directed Durbin's film Lady on a Train). Prior to David, Durbin was married to assistant director Vaughn Paul, and then screenwriter Felix Jackson.
Durbin's career earned her the honors of an Oscar nomination for her second movie, One Hundred Men and a Girl, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's favor (he allegedly screened aforementioned film following military victories), and stature as the richest woman in the world at the time of her official retirement at age 29.
The actress, who also lent her vocal abilities to a number of films, avoided the public eye during the remainder of her life. She is survived by son Peter and daughter Jessica Louise Jackson.
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Veteran Canadian actress/singer Deanna Durbin has died at the age of 91. The star's son, Peter H. David, confirmed to the Deanna Durbin Society she passed away "a few days ago", the fan club announced on Tuesday (30Apr13). No further details were given.
The actress, born Edna Mae Durbin, studied music as a child, but was signed to Hollywood studio MGM after a casting agent discovered her, and she later moved on to Universal.
She made her debut in a short entitled Every Sunday with a teenage Judy Garland, and went on to appear in movies such as Three Smart Girls in 1936, 1944's Christmas Holiday and Lady on a Train the following year (45).
Durbin decided to step out of the public eye after 1948's For the Love of Mary and she retired to the French countryside with her third husband, director Charles David, who passed away in 1999. As well as her son Peter, the star had a daughter named Jessica from her second marriage to Felix Jackson.
The actress and Hollywood costume supervisor, nicknamed Baby Marie Osborne, became the youngest leading lady in Tinseltown when she starred in films like Little Mary Sunshine.
Yeats died at her home in San Clemente, California on 11 November (10).
She played a boy in her first film when director Henry King needed a kid for his 1915 movie The Maid of The Wind. He discovered her at the age of three.
Impressed with his find, King went on to shape her career, writing Little Mary Sunshine just for her.
Her success launched a range of Baby Marie dolls, but her career was short-lived - her final starring role came in 1919 in the comedy Miss Gingersnap.
She returned to Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s and occasionally worked as a stand-in actress for Ginger Rogers, Deanna Durbin and Betty Hutton.
But she found her true calling in the 1950s when she took a job as a costumer and worked on films like Spartacus, The Way We Were and Mame.
She also supervised Elizabeth Taylor's wardrobe in Cleopatra.
Screen image began to adjust to more adult roles in "The Amazing Mrs. Holliday" (1942) and the rather more successful film noir, "Christmas Holiday" (1944)
Last film, "Up in Central Park"
Feature film debut in "Three Smart Girls"
Short film acting debut in "Every Sunday"
Considerable publicity attended the release of "First Love", in which the young Robert Stack gave the 18-year-old Durbin her first screen kiss
Though her name was little-remembered by anyone under the age of 50, Deanna Durbin once saved a major Hollywood studio from bankruptcy with a winning smile, an operatic singing voice and a can-do attitude. A MGM discovery, the 13 year-old Canadian émigré was dumped by the studio in favor of a young Judy Garland in one of Tinseltown's most notorious intra-office screw-ups. Taken in at Universal, Durbin was groomed as a rival to Fox's pint-sized headliner Shirley Temple. Her first picture, "Three Smart Girls" (1936), was an unexpected box office smash and a string of subsequent hits made Durbin Hollywood's highest paid female star and an honorary Academy Award winner. As her international fame grew, Durbin's fans came to include British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Holocaust diarist Anne Frank. Shrewd investments and a share in a line of trademarked merchandise made the actress independently wealthy by the time she was 18 years old. With the end of the Great Depression and America's entry into World War II, Durbin's trademark sparkle faded somewhat, eclipsed by the rising stock of Judy Garland at MGM. Unhappy in her final roles for Universal, Durbin walked out of the limelight in 1949, never to return to films despite lucrative offers from Hollywood and Broadway. Raising a family in France with her third husband, Durbin refused all but one interview over the subsequent decades, preferring peace and privacy to her lasting fame as Hollywood's "Little Miss Fix-It."<p>Deanna Durbin was born Edna Mae Durbin on Dec. 12, 1921, at Grace Hospital, a Christian community medical center in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her parents, James and Ada Durbin (nee Reed), were British immigrants who had landed in Canada with their daughter Edith from Lancashire in the United Kingdom. James Durbin worked as a machinist with the Canadian Pacific Railroad until ill health prompted him to move his family to the more forgiving climate of Southern California, where he supported his wife and two daughters through the first hard years of the Great Depression via a string of menial jobs. Enrolled at Bret Harte Junior High School in Burbank, Edna Mae enjoyed swimming, roller-skating, school dramatics and singing at church functions; it was her sister, Edith, who thought she possessed a singing voice worthy of cultivation and gambled her weekly salary as a school teacher on voice lessons. While a student at the Ralph Thomas Academy, Edna Mae received attention from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, on the hunt for a teen singer with an operatic voice to play the younger Ernestine Schumann-Heink in a proposed biography of the famed Austrian contralto.<p>Brought into Metro, Edna Mae sang an aria from Luigi Arditi's "Il Bacio" for a number of studio executives and later MGM head Louis B. Mayer, for whom she auditioned via telephone. With her voice at age 13 already as refined as that of a mature soprano, Durbin won the role but the diagnosis of leukemia and subsequent death of Mrs. Schumann-Heink in 1936 finished MGM's plan for a movie biopic. Edna Mae had been given a provisional six-month studio contract and was renamed Deanna Durbin, a stage name inspired in part by her family nickname of Deedee. MGM promoted their new acquisition in the trade papers and loaned her out for singing engagements on the radio. Just before the step contract was to expire, Mayer ordered a screen test of Durbin and another young hopeful named Judy Garland to determine which of the gifted singers might be retained as MGM's answer to Shirley Temple. Produced as a short film, "Every Sunday" (1936) prompted Mayer to bark to a subordinate "Drop the fat one." He had meant Garland, but it was Durbin's contract which was allowed to expire, leaving the now 14-year-old hopeful a free agent.<p>When MGM casting director Rufus LeMaire, who had played a part in Durbin's discovery at the studio, shifted his allegiance to Universal, he brought Durbin along with him. Put on a $300 weekly salary, Durbin was plugged into the ailing studio's "Three Smart Girls" (1936), as the youngest of a trio of sisters who contrive comedically to reconcile their estranged parents. While the film was in production and Universal was busy trumpeting their new star, Durbin was invited to perform on the weekly radio program of singer Eddie Cantor; after her first on-air appearance, Durbin received 4,000 fan letters. During production of the film, the Hays Office gave the script its stamp of approval, which encouraged Universal's new studio head, Charles Rogers, to upgrade the miserly $100,000 budget to nearly four times that. Produced by Joe Pasternak and directed by Henry Koster (who coached Durbin extensively through shooting), "Three Smart Girls" was a hit, earning close to $2 million at the box office and pulling Universal back from the brink of insolvency.<p>As instant a movie star as Hollywood ever minted, Deanna Durbin's weekly salary was increased to $3,000 per week to suit her celebrity standing. As her public stock rose, so did her asking price and the size of her perquisites, which included a $10,000 per-picture bonus. "Three Smart Girls" would spawn two sequels: "Three Smart Girls Grow Up" (1939) and "Hers to Hold" (1943). Durbin's name was placed above the title in the credits for her second film, "One Hundred Men and a Girl" (1937), which put her on the screen with legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski, appearing as himself. Another popular hit, the film stamped the Deanna Durbin template; part Andy Hardy, part Nancy Drew and somewhere between Shirley Temple and Jeannette McDonald, Durbin was an archetypal virginal schemer whose plans to help others - usually one or both parents - seem doomed to failure until the climactic deus ex machina brings tears of happiness and songs of joy. "Mad About Music" (1938) and the Oscar-nominated "That Certain Age" (1938) both returned significant box office receipts and solidified Durbin's standing as a top box office draw.<p>In 1939, Durbin and her old MGM stable mate Mickey Rooney received Juvenile Academy Awards "for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth." Later that same year, Durbin was given her first highly-publicized onscreen kiss later in "First Love" (1939), courtesy of a 20-year-old Robert Stack, making his film debut. During this period, Durbin attained the age of consent and weathered two short-lived marriages; the first to assistant director Vaughn Paul and the second to producer Felix Jackson. By 1940, she had seven box office hits to her credit, but Durbin was growing frustrated by Universal's refusal to allow her to graduate to mature roles. In 1941, she was put on suspension for refusing a project and 1942 came and went with no new films starring Deanna Durbin. When Universal and Durbin came to terms at last, the actress had won the power of script approval. Her first film under this new agreement, "The Amazing Mrs. Holliday" (1943), had a tortured journey to the screen, with original director Jean Renoir replaced after 49 days by producer Bruce Manning. <i>The New York Times</i> singled out Durbin for scorn for choosing as her adult debut a project so "slapdash contrived and crude."<p>Stranger still for her fans was Durbin's appearance in "Christmas Holiday" (1943). Despite its title and the pairing of Durbin with Broadway hoofer Gene Kelly, the Robert Siodmak film was not a Yuletide-themed musical but a noir-inflected adaptation of the Somerset Maugham tale of a good woman brought down by a smooth-talking wastrel. Intimations of incest between Kelly's natty wastrel and onscreen mother Gale Sondergaard and the suggestion that Durbin's character has turned to prostitution to support herself were a bitter pill for audiences who watched "Little Miss Fix-It" grow up at the movies. "Can't Help Singing" (1944) marked Durbin's only film shot in Technicolor and remained illustrative of how her home studio was impeding her career. At MGM, Judy Garland had made the Technicolor musical "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) and was moving on to other A-list star vehicles while Durbin remained stalled in mostly juvenile roles. In 1943, Universal refused to loan Durbin to star in "Oklahoma!" on Broadway, setting the inevitable outcome in motion.<p>Durbin's final films for Universal were a mixed bag for audiences and critics alike, but the comic mystery "Lady on a Train" (1945) introduced her to the man who would become her third husband, French director Charles David. Unhappy in her work, Durbin was conversely the highest paid female star in Hollywood during this period, her home a sprawling 1.5 acre estate in the Pacific Palisades. Separated from her second husband and raising their daughter alone, Durbin found herself at constant loggerheads with Universal, which kept her on salary even as they shelved or recut her films, keeping "For the Love of Mary" (1948) off the screen for a year and slashing songs from the film adaptation of the Broadway musical "Up in Central Park" (1948). In 1949, Durbin was released from her studio contract. Decamping to France, she married Charles David in 1950 and bore him a son the following year. Having severed her ties with Hollywood, Durbin spent the rest of her long life in the company of family and close friends, fending off increasingly lucrative offers to make her comeback.<p><i>By Richard Harland Smith</i>