First Love is the film in which child star Deanna Durbin grows up -- and she handles the transition smoothly. Although there's still plenty of energy to her performance, the singer is more subdued than in her previous films, in which her abundant energy sometimes threatened to make the reels fly right off the movie projector. Durbin by this time was learning that less could be more, and it's the most mature of her performances to this date. Vocally, she's in excellent form, sailing through the likes of "Spring in My Heart" and "Home, Sweet Home" with ease, and making the absolute most of the challenging "One Fine Day" sequence that ends the film. Universal, wanting to protect its most valuable asset, surrounded her with a lovely production, which includes some ace camerawork from Joseph A. Valentine. The script is also very strong for a Durbin vehicle, cleverly adhering to the "Cinderella" plot while adding its own little twists and punches. Henry Koster has directed smoothly, keeping his star attraction center stage but allowing the able supporting cast -- especially the excellent Eugene Pallette -- with opportunities to shine on their own. First Love is certainly lightweight - too much so to be a classic - but it's sweet, entertaining and heartfelt.
by Craig Butler review