SPRING PARADE—what a delight. Freshening up the gloom in 1940, this exuberant exercise in mirth and music stars 18-year-old Deanna Durbin in the 8th of her 22 films. The giddy escapades are once again directed by Henry Koster, who did six of her pictures. Bruce Manning’s and Felix Jackson’s script retooled a story from Ernst Marischka that had been previously been filmed in Germany in 1934. In the earlier flick, since Hitler been in power for two years, Jewish members of the cast shot their scenes in Austria and Hungary. For the Hollywood confection, the idealized storybook Austria-Hungary of pre-WW1 (musical-comedy version) was accomplished in California for something over $950,000. Grosses racked $2,900,000 (53rd for the year) and the merry froth whipped up Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Music Score, Song (“Waltzing In The Clouds”) and Sound. *
Hungarian village girl ‘Ilonka Tolnay’ (Durbin) journeys to Vienna where, according to a gypsy fortune teller, true love awaits. Working for a jolly bakery chef (S.Z. Sakall, in great form) she meets an army drummer (Robert Cummings, sharp comic timing) who yearns to become a composer-conductor. When Ilonka sends a message (in a pastry) to Emperor Franz Josef (Henry Stephenson, cheerful) topsy goes turvy, bringing everything to where it must be.
A treat from start to finish, beginning with Durbin setting the goofy tone by singing “It’s Foolish But It’s Fun” while strolling barefoot down a trail leading her pet goat. After engaging in a hilarious dance-off with Mischa Auer, more laughs come from the bakery antics of 8-year-old Billy Lenhart and Kenneth Brown, 9, (billed as ‘Butch & Buddy’), two kid actors who make you smile rather than cringe. Entire movie is a treat.
89 light-hearted minutes, with Anne Gwynne, Allyn Joslyn, Franklin Pangborn, Peggy Moran, Reginald Denny and John Banner (debut).
* Yet once again, the whole “Book by it’s Cover” admonition wags a gentle grandma finger. Your cinema-sodden scribbler has long been aware of Miss Deanna Durbin, but until days ago had never seen one of her movies. Peasant clod! Part of toiling in this ever-revelatory field of review blurbing is to dutifully seek out examples of bygone stars, styles and series that you missed as a child or dismissed as an adult: “Oh, that ancient goop? No thanks.” Just as Yours Abashed has been happily surprised by good picks involving ‘Mr. Moto’, ‘Blondie’ and ‘Mexican Spitfire’, this Durbin frolic made a new fan. Despite that she was a major and adored star from the late 1930s and into the 40s, DD’s movies aren’t readily available. Discs (dubious quality) are pricey, and as of February 2023 You Tube offers only this and one of her few forays into drama, Christmas Holiday. Just remember the next time you say, or hear someone else sniff that you/they wouldn’t care for someone/something that you/they’ve never seen/experienced that you/they are not displaying acumen but are chickening to a safe form of prejudice. I have spoken. Enclose check payable to Mark Knows All. Go about your business.