4 September 2006 | theowinthrop
What did she think she really saw?
Deanna Durbin had one of the best singing voices in movies in the 1940s, and a pleasing personality. She did make some good films like "It Started With Eve" and "Can't Help Singing", but most of her films have gone into a kind of eclipse which is hard to understand. Her one time film partner Judy Garland (in the short "Every Sunday") is recalled by her myriads of fans to this day for her records, her concerts, and her films. So is Mario Lanza, and he made far less movies than Durbin. But she got married, retired from movies as a regular profession (occasionally doing a voice over or a song), and became very contented. A far better fate, perhaps, than Garland's or Lanza's.
The problem was the choice of vehicles for her. She did luck out on a few films, but most did not have the care that Garland's best work at MGM had.
This 1945 film was really unique, as it was a murder mystery that tried to keep you guessing until the end who was the murderer. Dearbin is returning by train to Grand Central Station, and while passing through the lofts of the upper East West Side of the Manhattan of the middle 1940s she sees the apparent murder of an elderly gentleman by a person whose back is towards her. She tries to get the train to stop so others can see what she saw, but the people who come in don't see a life and death struggle going on.
Yet two days later Durbin is reading the newspaper and sees an item about the death of a major businessman (Thurston Hall). She starts investigating this death, and finds that his two nephews are his heirs. The nephews (Dan Duryea and Ralph Bellamy) start being questioned by Durbin, but she is not sure which of them (if either) is the guilty party. Duryea acts like his typical untrustworthy hedonist, and Bellamy acts like someone who would just like to be of assistance.
There are some moments for singing, of course. One funny one is when Durbin is alone in her apartment except for Allan Jenkins, one of the villain's henchmen. Jenkins just has to pick up some piece of evidence in Durbin's bedroom, to get rid of it. He has managed to get inside, but she is on the telephone. He starts thinking seriously of killing her, but hears her singing a very sentimental ballad over the telephone. From time to time we see it does affect him as he listens carefully. Finally Durbin hangs up, and leaves the room (so that Jenkins can leave the house unobserved). He does, but not before blowing nose quite hard. It's rare to see Jenkins so moved.
It is a cute little thriller - comedy. Nothing spectacular, but it was a change of pace for Durbin, trying to be Nora Charles.