First Love (1939): Deanna Durbin’s First Screen Kiss

First Love is a modern variation of the Cinderella legend –there’s even “six white mice” as a sextet of motorcycle policemen!).

Deanna Durbin, then 17, plays Constance Harding, the poor relation of wealthy tycoon James Clinton (Eugene Pallette). When she comes to live with the Clinton family, she clashes with her eccentric and ambitious aunt Grace (Leatrice Joy) and her nasty cousin Barbara (Helen Parrish),

James likes the girl, but he devotes his attention to dealing with his lazy son Walter (Lewis Howard). Left behind during a society ball, Constance is championed by the household servants, who provide a gorgeous gown and transport to the event.

She meets her Prince Charming, the likeable socialite Ted Drake (Robert Stack in his debut), but after midnight, she leaves her slipper behind. Later, the hateful Barbara convinces Constance that Ted was only teasing her. Constance returns to school and her studies, only to be dissuaded by her teacher (Kathleen Howard), who made the same mistake years before.

Durbin to sing five songs, including the Puccini-inspired aria “One Fine Day,” and receives her first screen kiss.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Cinematography (b/w): Joseph Valentine

Interior Decoration: Jack Otterson and Martin Obzina

Score: Charles Previn

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

Gregg Toland won the Cinematography Oscar for Wuthering Heights, Lyle Wheeler the Interior Decoration for Gone with the Wind, and Bert Glennon the Score for Stagecoach.

 

Running time: 84 minutes.

Directed by Henry Koster

Written by Bruce Manning and Lionel Houser

DVD: February 6, 1996