May 1, 2013 / 12:17 PM / 6 years ago

Reclusive Hollywood actress Deanna Durbin dies at 91

(Reuters) - Deanna Durbin, a singing child movie star of the 1930s who became one of the world’s highest paid actresses before turning her back on stardom, has died at the age of 91.

Her son Peter H. David was quoted as telling The Deanna Durbin Society newsletter that the actress died “a few days ago”, thanking her admirers for respecting her privacy. No other details were given.

The actress was born Edna Mae Durbin in Winnipeg, Canada, but moved to California with her British-born parents when she was young. She broke into the movies in 1936, aged 14, when she appeared in “Every Sunday” with Judy Garland, according to her biography on the IMDb film website.

She made her name playing the ideal teenage daughter in “Three Smart Girls” in 1936 and in its profitable follow-up the next year, “One Hundred Men and a Girl”, which was credited with saving Universal studios from bankruptcy.

Capitalizing on her fame, Universal cast Durbin in a series of musical movies including “That Certain Age” and “Mad About Music” which made the actress with the sweet soprano voice into one of Hollywood’s most popular stars.

Durbin shared a special Juvenile Award with Mickey Rooney at the 1938 Oscars for their “significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth”.

At 25, Durbin was the second highest-paid woman in America behind her fellow actress Bette Davis, according to the New York Times, and her fan club ranked as the world’s largest during her active years.

But Durbin found fame hard to handle and, despite trying to move on from her image as the perfect daughter with films such as “Christmas Holiday” (1944) and “Lady on a Train” (1945), she walked away from stardom aged about 28.

“I couldn’t go on forever being Little Miss Fixit who burst into song,” she once said.

From 1949 she stayed out of the limelight, moving to France with her third husband, the French director Charles David. She gave only one interview in the following decades and rejected all offers of a comeback. Her husband died in 1999.

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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