Deanna Durbin has died at the age of 91. She was a huge star in the 1930s and 40s. How huge? Well, it's pretty clear that if it weren't for her, Universal Studios would not exist today.
It's a well-known story, but I'll tell it anyway. In 1936 MGM signed two 14-year-old girl singers, Miss Durbin and Judy Garland, and paired them in a short subject called Every Sunday. Deanna sang "opera" and Judy sang "swing.' According to one version of events, Louis B. Mayer told his minions to fire "the fat one," and Durbin was mistakenly let go. I don't really believe the story. It's abundantly clear from watching Every Sunday that neither of those girls could be considered fat, even by Hollywood standards. Nevertheless, MGM dropped Durbin's option and Universal signed her, put her in a movie called Three Smart Girls, and a star was born. Meanwhile, MGM didn't know what to do with Garland and her career took several years to get up to speed. Durbin remained Universal's top draw until her retirement in 1948. When she retired she really retired, no concerts, no comebacks, no retrospectives. .