Three Smart Girls


1h 26m 1936
Three Smart Girls

Brief Synopsis

The daughters of a divorced couple try to keep their father from remarrying.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Dec 20, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

Joan, Kay and Penny Craig run away to New York from Switzerland with their housekeeper, Martha, after their mother tearfully informs them that their estranged father, Judson Craig, a New York banker, is marrying again. Judson is shocked when he receives the cable advising him of the arrival of his daughters, whom he has not seen in ten years, and sends his secretary, Wilbur Lamb, to meet the girls at the boat and take them to his house in Newport. He then meets his girl friend, golddigger Donna Lyons, for lunch and tells her about his children. The girls arrive at Judson's apartment without the help of Wilbur, and confess to Judson's valet, Binns, that they have come to prevent their father's marriage to Donna. Binns is secretly pleased and informs them of their father's whereabouts. The three girls cause a ruckus when they enter the elegant restaurant, and their shouts of delight at the sight of Judson embarrass Donna, who has no fondness for children and is as surprised as Judson to see that his little girls are now young women. Disgusted, Donna leaves the luncheon and returns home to her mother, who tells her she should have flattered the girls. At dinner that night, Donna takes her mother's advice, and although Penny is sent to bed early, Donna entertains the rest with a song. Judson's business assistant, Bill Evans, comes in and is amused to hear Joan and Kay whispering venomously about Donna. When Penny starts moving her bed around upstairs, interrupting Donna's song, Judson goes up to reprimand her, but instead ends up enjoying a joke with her. Judson's renewed interest in his daughters distresses Donna and Mrs. Lyons, who privately ask him to send the girls home immediately. Judson reluctantly agrees to this plan, but finds himself unable to tell his daughters of his decision after listening to Penny's beautiful singing voice. Late that night, Wilbur finally arrives to tell Judson that he could not find the girls at the dock, and Judson fires him. The next day, with the girls' approval, Bill hires the penniless, alcoholic Count Arisztid to impersonate a wealthy aristocrat and lure Donna away from Judson. That evening, the count goes to a nightclub to meet the girls as arranged, but sees an old friend and drops the magazine that was to signal the girls of his arrival. The magazine is picked up by Lord Michael Stuart, a wealthy banker, who, unknown to Kay, had seen her earlier at a hotel and fallen in love with her at first sight. Kay mistakes Michael for the count, and to please her, he goes along with her instructions to woo Donna and arranges to meet Donna the next day for lunch. Meanwhile, the count has become hopelessly drunk and leaves the club. In the morning, Michael sends flowers to both Kay and Donna, and asks Kay to come to his apartment as he will need money and instructions on how to behave toward Donna. In reality, Michael just wants to see Kay, who is also falling in love with him in spite of the fact that she still believes he is an unemployed lush. Michael and Kay go for a walk in the park, and he stands Donna up. Judson calls Donna at home, and when Mrs. Lyons says that Donna is ill, Judson goes for a surprise visit. Mrs. Lyons tries to make excuses for Donna, who is waiting at the restaurant for Michael, but Donna suddenly appears, and Judson proposes that they marry the next day in Atlantic City. Mrs. Lyons ensures that the wedding is announced in all the newspapers, and Joan and Penny dejectedly tell Bill that the count has been too busy flirting with Kay to be effective with Donna. Bill becomes enraged, as he has just given the count more money and is unaware that it is Michael, not the count, who has been working for them. He beats up the count and enjoys Joan's concerned and tender ministrations to his wounds. Kay rushes to Michael's apartment, as she believes he has been hurt by Bill, but he is unscathed, and she finally realizes that he is not the count. When she discovers his lie, Kay angrily blames him for her father's impending marriage and leaves. Michael immediately meets with Donna and protests that she went to the wrong restaurant. Then after telling her his happiness depends on her, he gives her two tickets for a cruise on which he will be sailing. That night, having heard that Mrs. Craig is due to arrive soon, Penny tearfully tells Judson she cannot bear to see her mother made unhappy by his marriage, and he kindly consoles her. In the morning, Penny runs away, and Judson frantically phones the police. When he tells Donna that their marriage must be delayed, Mrs. Lyons begins to argue with him, driving him to rescind the engagement altogether. Donna and Mrs. Lyons board the ship just before it sails, only to discover that Michael never had any intention of joining them. The police return Penny to Judson, and Penny is overjoyed to hear that Donna is gone for good. After Michael arrives to prove his love for Kay, everyone meets Mrs. Craig as she disembarks from her voyage, and as Penny looks on approvingly, Mr. and Mrs. Craig hold hands.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Dec 20, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Award Nominations

Best Picture

1937

Best Sound

1937

Best Writing, Screenplay

1937

Articles

Three Smart Girls


Teen singing sensation Deanna Durbin made her feature film debut in Three Smart Girls (1936), a romantic comedy about three sisters trying to reunite their divorced parents before Dad (Charles Winninger) marries a gold digger (Binnie Barnes). Along the way, the two older sisters (Nan Grey and Barbara Read) find romance, and the youngest, Durbin, shows off her operatic soprano in several songs. The film would save Universal from bankruptcy and establish the careers of Durbin, producer Joe Pasternak, and director Henry Koster.

The vocal talents of Canadian-born, California-bred Durbin were evident from an early age. She had voice training, and planned for an operatic career, until a talent agent recommended her to MGM, which signed her to a contract when she was just 14. Around the same time, the studio also signed another talented young singer, Judy Garland, and put the two teens into a short, Every Sunday (1936). Legend has it that studio chief Louis B. Mayer saw the film and told his underlings, "Fire the fat one," meaning Garland, but they fired Durbin instead.

Pasternak had emigrated from Hungary to California as a teenager, and had begun his film career as a busboy and waiter at Paramount studios. By the mid-1920s, he was directing shorts at Universal, and a few years later returned to Europe to manage Universal's studios in Berlin. But by the mid-1930s, Hitler was on the rise, and Pasternak, a Jew, returned to America, taking with him the talented German director, Henry Koster, who was also Jewish. The two arrived to find the studio in dire financial straits, and their jobs in jeopardy. Setting up their offices in the studio stables, the two filmmakers began trying to figure out how they were going to make their first American film, Three Smart Girls, with a minuscule budget and a tight shooting schedule. They began casting, looking for a young actress to play the youngest sister, and envisioning a plucky Mary Pickford-type girl. When the casting director showed them Every Sunday and told them Durbin had been dropped by MGM, they immediately knew they had found their star. After Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration enthusiastically endorsed the script, the budget was increased.

Veteran character actors such as Charles Winninger, Alice Brady, Lucile Watson, and Mischa Auer brightened the cast. Perhaps the best known among the younger cast members was the fourth-billed Ray Milland. He had begun his career in England, and had arrived in the U.S. in 1930, steadily building a career playing second leads. He had only recently begun playing romantic leads. The success of Three Smart Girls boosted his career at his home studio, Paramount, where he had played a few minor roles and had been stuck working on screen tests of other young hopefuls.

Filming of Three Smart Girls took a little over a month, and although Pasternak and Koster had always known they had something special, both they and the studio were pleasantly surprised when it became a huge hit. The film earned an Oscar® nomination as Best Picture, and for its sound recording and original story. There would be two sequels using the same characters, Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) and Hers to Hold (1943).

Following the success of Three Smart Girls, Universal immediately demanded another Durbin picture, and the team came up with 100 Men and a Girl (1937), co-starring Durbin with famed conductor Leopold Stokowski and a symphony orchestra. It was also a hit. The Durbin-Pasternak-Koster team would make six films together, and Durbin and Pasternak would team on an additional four. Durbin's films would take Universal from near-bankruptcy to solvency. In 1938, Durbin was given a special Oscar® "for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth." But by the early 1940s, Durbin was anxious to grow up onscreen, and Pasternak and Koster were ready to move on. The two men went to MGM, where they became even more successful producing a series of lavish musicals with stars such as Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell.

In 1949, Durbin moved to France with her third husband and disappeared from the public eye. In his autobiography, Pasternak wrote that they kept in touch over the years, and he always told Durbin that if she ever wanted to return to the screen, she should call him. She never did. In a rare interview with British film historian David Shipman in the early 1980s, Durbin said that every time he was in Paris, Pasternak would call her and ask, "Are you still happy?" Invariably, she would say she was, and he would say, "Well, I'll try again next time," and hang up. Durbin said the only time she'd been tempted to return to show business was when she was offered the starring role in the original stage version of My Fair Lady (1956).

Director: Henry Koster
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Screenplay: Adele Comandini, Austin Parker
Cinematography: Joseph Valentine
Editor: Ted J. Kent
Costume Design: Albert Nickels
Art Direction: John W. Harkrider
Music: songs by Walter Jurmann & Bronislau Kaper
Principal Cast: Deanna Durbin (Penny Craig), Binnie Barnes (Donna Lyons), Alice Brady (Mrs. Lyons), Ray Milland (Lord Michael Stuart), Charles Winninger (Judson Craig), Mischa Auer (Count Arisztid), Lucile Watson (Martha Trudel), Nan Grey (Joan Craig), Barbara Read (Kay Craig).
BW-84m.

by Margarita Landazuri
Three Smart Girls

Three Smart Girls

Teen singing sensation Deanna Durbin made her feature film debut in Three Smart Girls (1936), a romantic comedy about three sisters trying to reunite their divorced parents before Dad (Charles Winninger) marries a gold digger (Binnie Barnes). Along the way, the two older sisters (Nan Grey and Barbara Read) find romance, and the youngest, Durbin, shows off her operatic soprano in several songs. The film would save Universal from bankruptcy and establish the careers of Durbin, producer Joe Pasternak, and director Henry Koster. The vocal talents of Canadian-born, California-bred Durbin were evident from an early age. She had voice training, and planned for an operatic career, until a talent agent recommended her to MGM, which signed her to a contract when she was just 14. Around the same time, the studio also signed another talented young singer, Judy Garland, and put the two teens into a short, Every Sunday (1936). Legend has it that studio chief Louis B. Mayer saw the film and told his underlings, "Fire the fat one," meaning Garland, but they fired Durbin instead. Pasternak had emigrated from Hungary to California as a teenager, and had begun his film career as a busboy and waiter at Paramount studios. By the mid-1920s, he was directing shorts at Universal, and a few years later returned to Europe to manage Universal's studios in Berlin. But by the mid-1930s, Hitler was on the rise, and Pasternak, a Jew, returned to America, taking with him the talented German director, Henry Koster, who was also Jewish. The two arrived to find the studio in dire financial straits, and their jobs in jeopardy. Setting up their offices in the studio stables, the two filmmakers began trying to figure out how they were going to make their first American film, Three Smart Girls, with a minuscule budget and a tight shooting schedule. They began casting, looking for a young actress to play the youngest sister, and envisioning a plucky Mary Pickford-type girl. When the casting director showed them Every Sunday and told them Durbin had been dropped by MGM, they immediately knew they had found their star. After Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration enthusiastically endorsed the script, the budget was increased. Veteran character actors such as Charles Winninger, Alice Brady, Lucile Watson, and Mischa Auer brightened the cast. Perhaps the best known among the younger cast members was the fourth-billed Ray Milland. He had begun his career in England, and had arrived in the U.S. in 1930, steadily building a career playing second leads. He had only recently begun playing romantic leads. The success of Three Smart Girls boosted his career at his home studio, Paramount, where he had played a few minor roles and had been stuck working on screen tests of other young hopefuls. Filming of Three Smart Girls took a little over a month, and although Pasternak and Koster had always known they had something special, both they and the studio were pleasantly surprised when it became a huge hit. The film earned an Oscar® nomination as Best Picture, and for its sound recording and original story. There would be two sequels using the same characters, Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) and Hers to Hold (1943). Following the success of Three Smart Girls, Universal immediately demanded another Durbin picture, and the team came up with 100 Men and a Girl (1937), co-starring Durbin with famed conductor Leopold Stokowski and a symphony orchestra. It was also a hit. The Durbin-Pasternak-Koster team would make six films together, and Durbin and Pasternak would team on an additional four. Durbin's films would take Universal from near-bankruptcy to solvency. In 1938, Durbin was given a special Oscar® "for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth." But by the early 1940s, Durbin was anxious to grow up onscreen, and Pasternak and Koster were ready to move on. The two men went to MGM, where they became even more successful producing a series of lavish musicals with stars such as Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell. In 1949, Durbin moved to France with her third husband and disappeared from the public eye. In his autobiography, Pasternak wrote that they kept in touch over the years, and he always told Durbin that if she ever wanted to return to the screen, she should call him. She never did. In a rare interview with British film historian David Shipman in the early 1980s, Durbin said that every time he was in Paris, Pasternak would call her and ask, "Are you still happy?" Invariably, she would say she was, and he would say, "Well, I'll try again next time," and hang up. Durbin said the only time she'd been tempted to return to show business was when she was offered the starring role in the original stage version of My Fair Lady (1956). Director: Henry Koster Producer: Joe Pasternak Screenplay: Adele Comandini, Austin Parker Cinematography: Joseph Valentine Editor: Ted J. Kent Costume Design: Albert Nickels Art Direction: John W. Harkrider Music: songs by Walter Jurmann & Bronislau Kaper Principal Cast: Deanna Durbin (Penny Craig), Binnie Barnes (Donna Lyons), Alice Brady (Mrs. Lyons), Ray Milland (Lord Michael Stuart), Charles Winninger (Judson Craig), Mischa Auer (Count Arisztid), Lucile Watson (Martha Trudel), Nan Grey (Joan Craig), Barbara Read (Kay Craig). BW-84m. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Believe me, Donna, ten million at the altar is worth twenty million in the bush!
- Mrs. Lyons
Do you realize that I have guests downstairs, that Miss Lyons was singing? I thought the ceiling would come down!
- Judson Craig
Why didn't you stop her?
- Penny Craig

Trivia

Notes

Thirteen-year-old Deanna Durbin made her feature film debut in this picture. Previously she had been a featured singer on Eddie Cantor's radio show, and had appeared in the M-G-M short film Every Sunday with Judy Garland. However, when that studio did not pick her options up, she was signed by Universal. Reviews overwhelmingly praised her performance. The Film Daily review noted that "only on rare occasions has a newcomer scored so powerfully and decisively in an initial vehicle." A news item in Film Daily noted that Jeanne Dante was cast in this film, and a news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that European composer Franz Gorthe was also assigned to write a score. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to an article in New York Times, this film was originally slated to be a low budget vehicle. However, after Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, endorsed the script heartily to Rogers, who already had received a request from Joseph Pasternak to enlarge the budget the picture was upgraded. Information included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library call Lucile Watson's character "Trudel." Modern interviews with director Henry Koster add the following information about the production: Louis Hayward was originally slated for the part of "Lord Michael Stuart," but Ray Milland was suggested by casting director Dan Kelly after Hayward withdrew from the film. Koster also notes that as he had recently emigrated from Europe, Charles Freeman, who is credited as dialogue director, acted as his interpreter for a short time. Koster also claims that Hans Kraly contributed to the screenplay, but remains uncredited because he was blacklisted at the time. According to Koster, the Switzerland scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead, CA. Koster notes that the initial studio reaction to the completed film was unenthusiastic until the evening of the preview, when the audience responded with laughter and applause. The success of this film resulted in a contract for Koster with Universal. A sequel, Three Smart Girls Grow Up, followed this film (see below).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1937

Released in United States on Video January 17, 1995

Released in United States 1937

Released in United States on Video January 17, 1995