No one could have accused her of having an ordinary childhood like most of us because she was a child prodigy and a pianist by age 10. If one could binge watch her 31 theatrical movies, one would see a lot of piano playing. She came by it naturally since her mother was a concert pianist. Dad was an oil supply exec. By age 12, Dolly (as she was known) performed with the Los Angeles Junior Symphony. Life was good.
Her musical abilities got her one of the children's roles in the 1939 film, They Shall Have Music, with Joel McCrea and violinist Jascha Heifitz. She found more minor musical gigs at Paramount. One day they took a better look at her and decided to see what she could do and put her under contract. In 1942 she had a minor role in the Ginger Rogers-Ray Milland comedy, The Major and the Minor and the exposure was good for Lynn.
After a couple of girlfriend roles in the studio's fairly silly Henry Aldrich series (a cousin to MGMs Andy Hardy), she awakened the public with a lively, comedic performance as Betty Hutton's kid sister in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944). It was a sensational Preston Sturges' written and directed piece that got everyone out to the movies. Lynn usually reminded me of an actress who held back, never recommended, and perhaps it's why she never really planted her feet firmly in Hollywood clay. It's likely a Betty Hutton costar always had to keep up, but Lynn succeeded admirably. It just may be her best film. The public wanted more and the actresses were sisters again the same year in And the Angels Sing. joined by Paramount superstar, Dorothy Lamour.
Lynn's limited fame probably hit its peak when she starred opposite another Paramount star of nearly the same calibre, Gail Russell, in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944). It was an oh-so-popular but oh-so-silly exercise about real life writer friends, Emily Kimbrough and Cornelia Otis Skinner and their European holiday. A sequel, Our Hearts Were Growing Up, fed the public more of it two years later.
She made a couple of decent B-film noirs. It was unusual to see her in films that weren't lightweight fare, and I wish she'd done more drama. She had dual roles in Ruthless (1948), opposite two noir actors who were always up to no good, Zachary Scott and Sydney Greenstreet. Both she and Lizabeth Scott were cast against type when they costarred as sisters in Paid in Full (1950) in that Scott was the good sister and Lynn the bad one. Clawing at one another over the same man proved to be not a good thing.
She has the distinction of being the leading lady in three Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis films. She had rare top billing in Peggy (1950), another silly comedy. Being the leading lady in two John Derek films (1950s Rogues of Sherwood Forrest and 1955s The Annapolis Story) did nothing to enhance her reputation. And she pretty much zeroed out playing opposite Ronald Reagan and a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo. Who was going to take her seriously after that? Burt Lancaster directed and costarred with her in a homespun backwoods yarn, The Kentuckian (1955), and it proved to be her last theatrical film.
She then married her second husband, had four sons and slid into television. In 1970 the public got wind of her running a travel agency in New York where she had moved due to her husband's job. In 1971, long gone from the movies, she was offered a role in the Tuesday Weld-Tony Perkins movie, Play It As It Lays and she accepted. But before filming started, Diana Lynn suffered a massive stroke and died. She was 45 years old.