The three Craig sisters, in Switzerland with their ten-years-divorced mother, run away to New York to prevent their father from marrying calculating socialite Donna Lyons. The overpowering vivacity of the Smart Girls (nominal ages 14-20) sweeps all before it, but a romantic complication between middle sister Kay and their accidental ally, Lord Michael Stuart, threatens shipwreck to their schemes... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Deanna's feature film debut shows she had an amazing voice...
MGM dropped Deanna Durbin after one short subject she made in '36 called "Everybody Sings" with Judy Garland. They kept Garland and dropped Durbin, whereby Universal took a chance on Deanna--who turned out to save the studio from bankruptcy with a string of successful, but formula Durbin films. She would go on playing Little Miss Fix-It in a number of vehicles written for the express purpose of exploiting Durbin's wonderful soprano voice.
THREE SMART GIRLS, when seen today, is a charming but very dated tale about three teen-age sisters scheming to reunite their parents. It was the sort of thing MGM would later do with JANE POWELL who, like Durbin, had a pleasing soprano voice and was routinely given the same Miss Fix-It roles, usually in an attempt to reunite her parents too.
CHARLES WINNINGER is the father who hasn't seen his daughters in ten years. Daughters DEANNA DURBIN, NAN GREY and BARBARA READ are intent on breaking up their father's romance with "the other woman" BINNIE BARNES. A very youthful RAY MILLAND (looking like a matinée idol), provides the romantic interest for one of the girls.
It's all played in very broad style, particularly by ALICE BRADY as Barnes' society mother, filmed in ritzy surroundings that must have seemed terribly unreal to Depression-era audiences and Durbin and the girls are a little too self-confident and condescending in their attitudes to be the likable girls they're supposed to be. But none of it bears much resemblance to reality--a fault of many a classic '30s comedy.
The material isn't sufficiently bright enough to keep you from wondering when Deanna will sing again--and it's surprising to learn that this was nominated for Best Picture in 1936.
Summing up: Definitely not one of my favorite Durbin films even though she shows her perky personality...nor am I fond of the "Penny" character that she plays here...but when she sings, all is forgiven.
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