February 21, 2011

For the Love of Mary (1948)

Originally posted on the blog Java's Journey

For the Love of Mary (1948) is a light RomCom which follows Mary Peppertree (Deanna Durbin), a White House switchboard operator who takes her job very seriously and is on familiar terms with people in all three branches of government, including the President of the United States (who personally wants to make sure that Mary gets married to someone... anyone, it seems, so he arranges her dates).

David Paxton (a very charming Don Taylor) interrupts the gaiety with his insistence on speaking with the President about the government's interference of business off the coast of Paxton's island. Mary, the effective gateway guard to the Executive branch, must encounter the tenacious Paxton throughout the course of the film.

What the movie lacks in . . . something, it makes up in showcasing just how far into outer space Deanna Durbin's star ascended. This movie was released in 1948.  At this point in history it is not common that a character in a movie gets familiar with the President of the United States.

The fact that the script allows Mary to be chummy over the phone with the revered leader of the free world suggests that Ms. Durbin was well-liked enough to get away with it. That's popular. Very popular. Mega-star popular.

In that sense, For the Love of Mary is almost a fitting last film for a leading lady whose characters have charmed guys from paupers to potentates. She's got the President (and the rest of the federal government) in her pocket as well.

After having played in one short film and twenty-one feature length movies in thirteen years (all starring vehicles), Ms. Durbin retired in her late 20s.

Since then, the star has famously refused all but one interview - a 1983 interview by David Shipman. I'm holding out hope that Ms. Durbin might be receptive to another interview, or even better, write her memoirs or autobiography.

Author Jeanine Basinger says this of Ms. Durbin's retirement:
There was an honest quality about her, and audiences felt it. Whatever motivated her to leave the business- the desire to be real and have a life that made sense- is the truth that audiences felt in her on-screen presence. Durbin connected right to audiences. She seemed to be one of them. The amazing thing about her was that it turned out to be true, She came down off the screen and proved it by rejoining them. Her defection wasn’t a ploy and was never rescinded. . . . Deanna Durbin, that most open and radiant of movie stars, remains more enigmatic than Garbo. She retired and led a normal life, the one thing that seems to have eluded almost every other movie star.


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