Mad About Music (1938)
Director: Norman Taurog
Cast: Deanna Durbin, Herbert Marshall, Gail Patrick
Synopsis: Gloria Harkinson, the daughter of a widowed film star, is a boarding school girl with a big imagination. She spins daring adventures about her father, claiming he’s not only alive but well worth the other girls’ jealousy.
Hidden away in a school for girls in Switzerland, Gloria Harkinson (Deanna Durbin), the daughter of a movie-star mother (Gail Patrick) passes off letters written by her as those of her imaginary father, a big-game hunter in Africa. When one of her fellow pupils (Durbin’s regular movie-nemesis, Helen Parrish) grows suspicious about these letters, Gloria is forced to enlist the aid of visiting composer Richard Todd (Herbert Marshall) to divert suspicion by posing as her father.
Things didn’t look too promising after the first few minutes of this film. Teenage girls riding their bikes through a fairy-tale Swiss village while singing a song about whistling don’t exactly float my boat, but there is something undeniably appealing about Durbin that kept me watching for the duration. While she lacks the supermodel looks of a movie star, her winning personality, effortlessly captured by director Norman Taurog, overcomes any aesthetic shortcomings, and she comes across in a way that most actresses rarely do. Even in a lightweight comedy such as this, anchored firmly in a make-believe world that bears only a passing resemblance to ours, there is something oddly down-to-earth and believable about her.
Of course, an engaging personality isn’t enough to carry a film, but Durbin is favoured with a witty script from German scriptwriter Felix Jackson and able support from the likes of Herbert Marshall, Gail Patrick and William Frawley.
Catch this one if you can.
(Reviewed 23rd June 2005)