Three Smart Girls

Three Smart Girls is a 1936 American musical comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Barbara Read, Nan Grey, Deanna Durbin (her feature film debut), and Ray Milland.[2] The film's screenplay was written by Adele Comandini and Austin Parker, and is about three sisters who travel to New York City to prevent their father from remarrying. The three plot to bring their divorced parents back together again.

Three Smart Girls
Lobby card
Directed byHenry Koster
Produced byJoe Pasternak
Screenplay by
CinematographyJoseph A. Valentine
Edited byTed J. Kent
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 20, 1936 (1936-12-20) (US)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,635,800[1]

It began an eight-year span of successful Deanna Durbin musicals and spawned two sequels, Three Smart Girls Grow Up and Hers to Hold.[2]


Three sisters living in Switzerland hear their father is going to marry a younger woman in New York. They travel there to stop it.

Their plan involves getting a man to seduce her father's fiancee. They accidentally hire a genuinely rich man who falls for one of the sisters.



The film was based on an original story. It was purchased for Universal by Adele Comandini. In May 1936 the studio announced they would make it as a vehicle for 13 year old Jeanne Dante, who had been on Broadway in Call It a Day, and it would be produced by Harry John Brown who had recently joined Universal from Warners.[3]

In July 1936 it was announced Deanna Durbin would appear alongside Dane, with "Henry Kosta" to direct.[4] By August Dante had dropped out and the three girls were to be played by Durbin, Nan Grey and Barbara Read. Binnie Barnes signed to play the vamp.[5]

Ray Milland was a last-minute replacement for Louis Hayward, who was originally cast, but fell ill shortly of pleurisy four days into filming. The replacement was made in September.[6][7]


The film was a huge box office hit.


The film not only made Deanna Durbin a star, it led to a number of imitations.[8]


Three Smart Girls received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Best Sound (Homer G. Tasker), and Best Original Story.[9]


  1. Three smart guys: How a few penniless German émigrés saved Universal Studios Asper, Helmut; Horak, Jan-Christopher. Film History; New York Vol. 11, Iss. 2, (Jan 1, 1999): 134.
  2. Erickson, Hal. "Three Smart Girls (1936)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  3. GREEN PASTURES' PLEASES HOLLYWOOD New York Times 24 May 1936: X3.
  4. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times 1 July 1936: 29.
  5. Binnie Barnes, Back From Reno, Will Enact VamP in "Three Smart Girls" Los Angeles Times 22 Aug 1936: 7.
  6. SUPER STYLE PAGEANT PROMISED IN IRENE DUNNE FEATURE: Sparkle of Alice Faye to Lend Zip to Temple Film Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times21 Sep 1936: 13.
  7. Around and About in Hollywood Read, Kendall. Los Angeles Times 23 Sep 1936: 15.
  9. "The 9th Academy Awards (1937) Nominees and Winners". Oscars. Retrieved August 8, 2011.

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