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Can't Help Singing (1944)

Approved  |   |  Musical, Western  |  29 December 1944 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 365 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 5 critic

A senator's daughter (who can't help singing) follows her boyfriend West in the days of the California gold rush.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 4 more credits »
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Title: Can't Help Singing (1944)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Robert Paige ...
David Bruce ...
Leonid Kinskey ...
Miss McLean
Senator Frost
Andrew Tombes ...
Sad Sam
Clara Blandick ...
Aunt Cissy
Olin Howland ...
Bigelow (as Olin Howlin)
George Cleveland ...


With the California Gold Rush beginning, Senator Frost's singing daughter Caroline loves a young army officer; the Senator can't stand him, and has him sent to California. Headstrong Caroline follows him by train, riverboat, and covered wagon, gaining companions en route: a vagrant Russian prince and gambler Johnny Lawlor, who just might take her mind off the army. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


THE THRILL YOUR EYES WILL PRIZE FOREVER! (original print ad - all caps)


Musical | Western


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

29 December 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Caroline  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Over its December 1944-January 1945 run at Lowe's Criterion Theatre in Manhattan, this film broke the attendance record. See more »


After her bath Caroline changes into a clean white dress. However, she has had no access to her trunk where she would have kept her clothing. Such a voluminous dress couldn't have been stored in her hat-box or her small case, her only other luggage. See more »


Referenced in Hollywood on Trial (1976) See more »


Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Sung by chorus, Robert Paige, Deanna Durbin
Danced by 2 uncredited specialty dancers
See more »

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User Reviews

Durbin at her most engaging, plus two great Kern/Harburg songs
27 January 2008 | by (San Antonio, Texas) – See all my reviews

There is a reason Deanna Durbin was one of the top Hollywood stars from the mid-Thirties through the Forties. She was a natural actress with a fine face and figure and a deep- throated soprano she knew how to use. She was one of those people the camera loves. Her personality, direct and warm, comes straight across to the audience. She could handle all the immaculate make-up Hollywood gave her as she matured into a young woman, but there always was something of the tomboy about her. She had a natural exuberance, a sense of humor and a good-natured willingness to take pratfalls or march into mud-holes. And she was a professional at her craft. In this movie, Can't Help Singing, watch how she manages to wander through the woods singing, through bushes and over hillocks, avoiding branches, and periodically fronting pretty scenery. This scene is shot in long takes. I have no idea how many takes it took, but Durbin manages to move, sing, smile, emote a bit and hit all of her marks without any sign of effort or evidence of an editor's scissors used to mask mistakes.

By the time Durbin was 14 she was major box office, and stayed there until she retired in 1950 at 29. She never liked the glitz and fan adulation of stardom. She and her third husband left for France right after she retired and that was that. She still lives just outside Paris, has turned down any number of film offers and hasn't granted an interview with anyone since 1949. As a person who was grounded in reality and decided to live her own life, Deanna Durbin gets a tip of my hat.

Can't Help Singing is a lush, colorful musical about a young woman, Caroline Frost, daughter of a wealthy senator, who leaves Washington against the wishes of her father to meet the man she intents to marry. He is a cavalry lieutenant, and the senator has seen to it that his regiment has been sent to California to guard gold during the start of the Gold Rush. Caroline is determined, and along the way has to deal with steamboats, Russian con-men, a cross-country wagon, Indians, finaglers, grafters, boss-men and card sharps. The card sharp winds up holding more than cards. He turns out to be the romantic lead. After 90 minutes of songs, comedy, adventures and the occasional kiss, all ends well for everyone.

This was Deanna Durbin's only color movie and the studio went all out. Can't Help Singing is stuffed with wide-open vistas, detailed studio sets and costumes that would make Vincente Minnelli envious. What makes the movie memorable, however (in addition to Durbin), are two songs from the score by Jerome Kern and E. Y. Harburg. From the moment the movie starts and we see Durbin driving a two-horse carriage singing "Can't Help Singing," it's time to sit back and smile. The number is one of those big, fat, intensely melodic songs that few composers besides Kern could pull off. She sings it twice, the last time part of a production that takes place in an outdoor western bath house. It pops up now and then as a melodic background line. The song works every time. The second Kern/Harburg show-stopper is "Californ-i-ay," where "the hills have more splendor; the girls have more gender." It's another major production number with a big melody and clever lyrics. Everyone and everything from the two leads to giant vegetables take part.

The movie is pleasant enough, although the two Russian con-men get tedious and Durbin's leading man, while manly enough, doesn't make much of an impression. The movie belongs only to Deanna Durbin, as all of her films did. With those two songs from Kern and Harburg, it's worth spending some time with.

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