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Deanna Durbin and Donald O'Connor make this one work. Check out O'Connor's "I Love a Mystery" routine
When Mary Collins strides out utterly confident on stage to sing, I had a momentary flashback to Ethel Merman in 1959 striding down the theater aisle and calling, "Sing out, Louise, sing out!" Mary Collins, I mean Deanna Durbin at 26, was a supremely confident actress and singer, and there are a few times when you wouldn't want to get in her way. Balancing that are things Merman didn't have...a warm personality, a lovely face, a smile that could win you over and a voice that wouldn't break your eardrums. Merman was an amazing, one-of-a-kind performer; so was Deanna Durbin. What they share is a perfect confidence in their talent.
With Something in the Wind, audiences were watching a romantic comedy with songs featuring a mature young woman they'd been in love with since she was 15. Alone among the child stars of the Thirties, Deanna Durbin grew up on screen while maintaining her stardom, her poise and her box office clout. Here, as Mary Collins, she's a disc jockey who discovers that her aunt who raised her, also named Mary Collins, had been receiving regular checks from a wealthy industrialist. They had once been in love but the marriage plans had been broken up by his family. The whole thing was platonic, but when the old man died his will stated that the financial arrangements must continue. But now the young scion of the family, Donald Read (John Dall), wants to stop the arrangement and pay Mary Collins off. He wants no scandal. He thinks our Mary has been his grandfather's friend. He doesn't realize our Mary has an aunt with the same name. Mary doesn't know what he's talking about but is furious at the implication. Donald is a prig and engaged to a well-bred socialite. His grandmother is a woman who believes breeding is all. His younger brother, Charlie (Donald O'Connor), is much more unconventional. After our Mary is kidnapped and at first kept at the Read family mansion until she agrees to the arrangement, we are in for over an hour of romantic mix- ups, complicated machinations, a perfect lawyer (blind and deaf), six songs by Durbin, three songs and comedy routines by O'Connor, and then true love finding a way. What does the movie add up to? For firm Deanna Durbin fans, a delight. For those who simply like her a lot, a mixed bag.
On the plus side are Durbin and O'Connor. One almost wishes they'd been the happy couple at the end. Durbin sings everything from a bit of Verdi to a down-and-dirty "You want to keep your baby lookin' right, doncha, Daddy?" Her personality shines through. She's funny and sincere. O'Connor is O'Connor and he's great. He has one number, "I Love a Mystery," which is almost a rehearsal for his "Make 'Em Laugh" routine in Singin' in the Rain. The songs, by Johnny Green and Leo Robin, are just fine, with two better than just fine numbers, "The Turntable Song" and "Something in the Wind." And one unexpected and stylishly handled bit features a cameo by Jan Peerce, the great American tenor who had a long career at the Met, as a singing jailer. Durbin is in the jail. It's not long before before they're sharing a duet from Il Trovatore and arguing about who stepped on whose obbligato.
But the movie begins to get tedious when the Mary Collins mix-up is finally discovered, love between Mary and Donald emerges and serious complications concerning proper family breeding sets in. Most problematic is John Dall as Donald Read, the stuffy hero who learns to love. Dall always seemed to me to be not only a limited actor but a man who, just as Lawrence Harvey always seemed genuinely unlikeable, always seemed genuinely artificial. He was unnerving as the artificially sincere killer-for-thrills in Rope a year later, but here he creates a big hole in the movie. He simply isn't interesting enough or strong enough to compete in the comedy or romance departments with Durbin.
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