"BEFORE L' MA
PERFORMER. . ."
"The Jews of this country have only three things to fear: Bernard Baruch, the motion picture industry, and Eddie Cantor."
-- Father Charles Coughlin
The career of Eddie Cantor, distinguished by its shrewd, adaption to new mediums, switched gears after Cantor left Goldwyn. The change was hardly noticed at the time, although it was well marked, sudden, and, in its own way, profound. Cantor had decided that his youth was over. He would now become the first in a long line of superstars to "reinvent" himself.
His first show for Texaco signaled a new era for broadcasting as well. Texaco Town was a well-rehearsed, well-mounted program featuring a singing chorus, special-material numbers, and musical introductions (generally "Pony Boy") for all individual performers. A special song, whose lyrics included a sly reference to Eddie's sexual prowess as the father of five daughters, heralded Cantor as "the Mayor of Texaco Town."
The major highlight of the first show was the debut of a new, anonymous young singer introduced as Bobby Breen's friend, the daughter of the fire chief. The girl devastated listeners with one of the most unforgettable renditions of Arditi "Il Bacio" in the annals of music. The applause from the studio audience was overwhelming, but Cantor still did not identify the singer.
The obvious ploy worked, as thousands of listeners wrote in asking about the unnamed sensation. The girl, as it turned out, had just completed her first movie, Three Smart Girls. Her name was Deanna Durbin.
Deanna, thirteen years of age, had been brought to sing for Cantor by Rufus LeMaire, now the casting director for Universal Pictures. The audition, held in the conductor Alfred Newman's bungalow on Chaplin's UA lot shortly before Cantor's split with Goldwyn, proved a revelation. At thirteen, Deanna's voice was fully developed, a high soprano that would have been welcomed in the world of opera with very little additional training.