2 comments on “Three Smart Girls

  1. I don’t think that’s true at all about Durbin’s singing in the picture. While the songs undoubtedly were included to provide Durbin a showcase for her remarkable soprano (with her spectacular debut and subsequent success on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in September ’36, TSGs had a ready made audience eager to see if Durbin looked as good as she sounded), there are only three songs in THREE SMART GIRLS and each one serves as more than a showcase for Durbin’s vocal talent. The first “My Heart Is Singing,” is not dissimilar to the staging of the title song in “The Sound of Music” with Durbin expressing in song the delight she and her sisters are sharing sailing on a Swiss lake. The second, “Someone To Care For Me,” serves to increase the growing attachment between Durbin’s youngest daughter and the father she can barely remember, and is very well staged in the middle of a scene in which the two older girls have reminded Dad Winninger of the “good times” he had with his kids. Even though the final song, “Il Bacio,” was not written for the film, it sets up an important element of Durbin’s image and later films: how her “Little Miss Fixit” character uses music and her singing to win sceptics and strangers over to her cause. This was all but unique in musical films of the period in which, for the most part, had “show biz” themes and put the star vocalist front and center to sing a song as an “audition” for a show or a tryout for a new lyric, etc. From TSGs on, Durbin’s films would use music as a means of defining the characters in her films: those who appreciated Durbin’s singing helped her to achieve her laudable goals, those who didn’t (and to Universal’s credit, it included characters who didn’t) were obstacles who were meant to be overcome. The success of TSGs provided the blueprint for this formula: a big part of Durbin’s subsequent success.

  2. Wow, this comment is much appreciated, very informative. Obviously I’m not an expert on ’30’s musicals, just an average Joe film nut trying to review some classics for a 21st century audience. When Durbin took over 15 minutes in a 84 minute film to sing, the modernist in me realized that for most people it would be too much and cue to pop some corn. I’m honestly excited to see you’re so passionate about this film and Durbin. Thank you!

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