Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943): Deanna Durbin’s Oscar Nominated Feature

In this Universal studio’s serio agit-prop comedy, Deanna Durbin, the popular adolescent star (“100 Men and a Girl”), plays the titular role, in the guise of an idealistic missionary named Ruth, who sneaks a group of nine Chinese war orphans to safety into San Francisco.

Helped by ship’s steward Timothy (Barry Fitzgerald), Ruth poses as the wife of a wealthy shipping magnate who was lost at sea.  Things change, when Ruth unexpectedly falls in love with her husband’s grandson (Edmond O’Brien), and they get even more complicated, when the real Mr. Holliday (Harry Davenport) suddenly shows up.

The famous French director Jean Renoir (“Grand Illusion”), who was in exile in Hollywood during WWII, shot most of the footage, though Universal removed the picture from him and added songs, not to mention several significant retakes.   In the end, Bruce Manning, the film’s producer, received a solo director credit.

The plot is rather silly, and not particularly suited to Durbin’s talents as a dramatic actress, but some of the songs and numbers are modestly diverting.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Scoring Oscar was vet Alfred Newman for “The Song of Bernadette,” starring Jennifer Jones in Oscar-winning performance.