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Three Smart Girls

Released Dec 20, 1936 1h 24m Kids & Family Musical Comedy List
86% Tomatometer 7 Reviews 52% Audience Score 250+ Ratings
This lighthearted musical follows the travails of 14-year-old Penny Craig (Deanna Durbin) and her two older sisters as they attempt to reignite a romance between their mother and their estranged father before he weds a fortune-hunter. Leaving their home in Switzerland, the three young women journey to New York City and hire a washed-up count (Mischa Auer) to break up their father's engagement, wreaking plenty of wholesome havoc for all concerned. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (7) Critics Reviews
Variety Staff Variety Film is a sentimental comedy and has that rare quality of making an audience feel better for having seen it. Jul 6, 2010 Full Review Dave Kehr Chicago Reader It's an efficient, entertaining atrocity. Jan 1, 2000 Full Review TV Guide A highly pleasing first cousin to the screwball comedies of the day. Rated: 4/4 Jan 31, 2012 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Koster's light musical comedy made debutante Deana Durbin a major star for a decade and was so populr during the Depression that it spawned several (inferior) sequels. Rated: B- Mar 22, 2009 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Makes you feel better for seeing it. Rated: B+ Feb 21, 2007 Full Review Ken Hanke Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) Modest film debut for Deanna Durbin has loads of charm. Rated: 4/5 Mar 29, 2004 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (21) audience reviews
Audience Member Ridiculous fanfare with the usually reliable Charles Winninger in the lead role as a successful banker who has been divorced for 10 years and is now set to remarry a gold-digger played listlessly by Binnie Barnes. The real schemer here is Alice Brady, who plays Barnes's mother and is perfect for the part. The film though did serve its star Deanna Durbin with the golden opportunity to sing and sing she does quite well. As her made, Lucile Watson, who played outstanding supporting mother roles in the 1940s, is terribly miscast here. Of course, the 3 sisters come to America from Switzerland to sabotage dad from remarrying. The film never bothers to mention why Winninger had divorced his wife to begin with. Hoping to get Barnes to fall for a fake nobleman, Mischa Auer, the latter is soon confused with the dashing Ray Milland and some funny sketches ensue. In the end, everyone gets what's coming to them except the audience who paid to see this film. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review steve d Cute with some really good performances. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member oof that was rotten I'll say. the only good parts was when the one girl was showcasing her singing. Other than that it was a very poor, unfunny outdated version of the parent trap. The 3 girls were bratty, hysterical, and dumb girls versus smart. None of the characters were likable. It was filled with stupid hijinks and idiot, immature, and stereotypical characters. The plot was ridic and the girls were too old to be interfering in their parents rship that had been over for over 10 years. I'd skip this one. Rated 1 out of 5 stars 01/15/23 Full Review Audience Member The best comedy movie ever made! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/26/23 Full Review Audience Member During the Great Depression films featuring child actors like Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney were hugely popular as they were light, escapist entertainment that allowed the downtrodden masses to experience a reprieve from their day to day lives. Deanna Durbin was one such child star as with her sassy demeanor and soprano voice she charmed viewers of the 1930s and appeared in an average of two films every year. This was the film that launched her as a star and the fact that it was a huge box office hit was probably what earned it a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed the film as while it was intended as a simple pleasure for families I found Durbin's shtick irritating and the romance within the film rather uninteresting. In an idyllic small town on a lake in Switzerland three sisters, the spunky Penny, Deanna Durbin, the romantic Kay, Barbara Read, and Joan, Nan Grey, live with their abandoned mother Dorothy, Nella Walker. They have all been left by their wealthy and selfish father Judson Craig, Charles Winninger, who lives in New York City and has become engaged to shallow society beauty Donna Lyons, Binnie Barnes, who only wants him for his money. The girls manage to pull together enough money to visit their father and intend to have him break up with Lyons so that he can return to them and their mother. When they arrive they disrupt the plans of Lyons and her mother, Alice Brady, while catching the attention of Lord Michael Stuart, Ray Milland. They use Stuart to lure Dorothy away from her marriage after his plan for an alcoholic count to replace him fail but these plans are complicated by the fact that Stuart is falling in love with one of the sisters. Like most films made for children the plot is thin and rather ludicrous but there is some potential for genuinely touching content in the story of a father being reconciled with his family. Sadly this is one of those films, much like The Parent Trap (1998), in which his abandonment of them is never really explained and the reconciliation is so smooth that it is entirely unbelievable. The mother of the girls is barely seen and when she is she only exists a plot device used to place the girls in a more glamorous location and allow Durbin to sing. Their father is an equally underdeveloped character as he is meant to be humorous with all of his little tics and wonderfully fatherly towards the end of the film. His transition from the sort of man who leave his wife and child to chase a younger, attractive woman to a genuinely loving father is non-existent. From the moment they show up he seems ready to be a father and so it is confusing why he would not be with them in the first place and what he is doing with a woman who is clearly a gold digger. The gold digger was possibly the most interesting character in the film as she and her mother had a very strange, potentially abusive relationship and examining the psychological impact that her mother's influence has had on her. This is unlikely to be found in a kid's movie obviously but I would liken the presence of Lyons in this film to that of Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain (1952) as while that film is obviously better than this one she is an extreme character in a film that features characters who are otherwise sweet and understated. Screenwriters Adele Comandini and Austin Parker could have included just a little more of Lyons as she really spiced up the film and staved away the irritation I felt when Durbin was on screen. My biggest issue with the film was that I found it's star to be incredibly irksome as Durbin came across as bratty instead of seeming charming and cute as she was probably meant to come across. She shouts out all of her lines in a monotonous tone and scenes that should be funny such as one in which she berates a cab driver for his poor driving skills just felt forced. Her singing scenes also come out of nowhere and feel incongruous within the film and her voice has echoes of Grace Moore, not a good thing. If you happen to find something to appreciate in performers like Durbin then this film may be your cup of tea but to me this was not worth watching. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review david l Three Smart Girls is a very mediocre movie which is technically well made and it has its charming scenes, but most of it felt very odd, unappealing in musical numbers and very silly in many of its scenes. Deanna Durbin was a big star during this period, but now she seems very annoying above all else. The whole movie is a silly affair that ranks among the oddest Best Picture nominees without a doubt. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Three Smart Girls

My Rating


Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis This lighthearted musical follows the travails of 14-year-old Penny Craig (Deanna Durbin) and her two older sisters as they attempt to reignite a romance between their mother and their estranged father before he weds a fortune-hunter. Leaving their home in Switzerland, the three young women journey to New York City and hire a washed-up count (Mischa Auer) to break up their father's engagement, wreaking plenty of wholesome havoc for all concerned.
Henry Koster
Adele Comandini
Universal Pictures
Production Co
Universal Pictures
Kids & Family, Musical, Comedy
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Dec 20, 1936, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
May 7, 2015
1h 24m
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