Deanna Durbin

Veteran Canadian actress/singer Deanna Durbin died last week at the age of 91. By age 21 she was the most highly paid female star in the world. She was a few years older than my mother.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 10.41.57 AM

Why is this important to me, you ask?

She was born in Winnipeg which means we had a few things in common. We were both born in the same hospital, the Grace.  She was reportedly Alan Jay Lerner’s first choice to portray Eliza Doolittle in the 1956 Broadway cast of My Fair Lady. Ha. I’m a singer too and I’ve actually played that role.

But the real tie is because on the same street I grew up on in a Winnipeg suburb some developer built the Deanna Durbin Dream Home in the late 1940s. Yes, River Oaks Drive in St. James. The first house on the left. My mother called it the Deanna Durbin Dream Home. She said that it was marketed that way when they bought their brand new house just about 10 doors down from it right after their wedding in June 1948.

Now there were other houses in Winnipeg that were attached to Durbin. Like the one built in St Vital that was raffled off for charity. And the house she actually lived in on Gallagher Avenue.

But this little bungalow at the end of my childhood street is stuck in my brain as THE dream home. It was so much more avant garde then the house I lived in. I never knew the people who lived there (you know how small your circle is when you’re a kid, only about 5 houses square). Except for when I went door to door selling Girl Guide Cookies. That’s as close as I got to seeing inside.

River Oaks Drive
River Oaks Drive

I have no way of verifying this story, to know whether or not it was really true. But that’s what my mother told me and I’m sticking with it.Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 10.40.25 AM

The media called Durbin “Winnipeg’s Sweetheart”. I’ve never actually seen a Deanna Durbin film. I must get around to that!


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