Monday, July 06, 2009

Tonight's Movie: It Started With Eve (1941)

After enjoying GREEN FOR DANGER, we watched another terrific film this evening, IT STARTED WITH EVE. Two of the silver screen's most magnetic performers, Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton, square off against each other with wonderful results.

Jonathan Reynolds (Laughton) is dying and wants to meet his son's new fiancee before he passes on. The son, Johnny (Robert Cummings), can't immediately locate his fiancee Gloria (Margaret Tallichet -- Mrs. William Wyler), so he asks a hat check girl, Anne (Deanna Durbin), to step in and pretend to be his fiancee for an hour, since it's an emergency and there is no time to lose; Johnny wants his father to die happy.

Jonathan Sr. loves the pretend "Gloria" (Durbin) and amazingly begins to rebound the next day. Now young Johnny is really in a bind, with his angry real fiancee stuck in her hotel room and a pretend fiancee visiting his father each day. Of course, the real Gloria is a money-hungry gold digger with a witchy mother (Catherine Doucet), and the pretend Gloria sings like an angel and...well, she's Deanna Durbin, so it's no contest!

The film is an interesting blend of moments which are sincerely touching and laugh-out-loud funny. Cummings and Durbin chasing each other around on the furniture in one scene had us chuckling, and so did the sight of Laughton doing the conga. Laughton's hijinks trying to circumvent his doctor's orders against cigars are also quite amusing. But along with the humor, Laughton and Durbin each also had us tearing up at certain moments.

The music is lovely and struck a particular chord with me because Deanna's first number is set to the Tschaikovsky Waltz later known as "Once Upon a Dream" in my favorite Disney film, SLEEPING BEAUTY. It was a wonderful surprise hearing her sing lyrics set to that piece of music.

Deanna Durbin movies always feature fine supporting casts, and this one is no exception. It includes Walter Catlett as Laughton's exasperated doctor, marvelous Charles Coleman in his patented butler role, and Guy Kibbee as a bishop. There are many other familiar faces in the cast including Gus Schilling, Irving Bacon, Mary Gordon, Clara Blandick, Dorothea Kent, and Sig Arno.

IT STARTED WITH EVE was directed by Henry Koster. It was shot in black and white and runs 93 minutes.

This movie is available in a fine print on VHS. It has also been released on DVD in a set with five other Durbin films. (Update: This film is also now available as a single-title DVD release in the Universal Vault series.)

Previous reviews of Deanna Durbin movies: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), and THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939).

2020 Update: IT STARTED WITH EVE is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. My review of the Blu-ray is here.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

This film sounds all sorts of amazing! I wish it were on DVD.

Sorry I haven't been commenting but I've been reading your posts through my Google Reader.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Raquelle,

Thanks for your note! This was a wonderful film -- I hope you're able to get ahold of it. I just discovered it had a DVD release as well and am going to update my post accordingly -- so perhaps you can Netflix it! I have read some complaints in the past about the prints of Durbin movies which have made it to DVD, but hopefully it's at least as good as the excellent VHS print.

Best wishes,

11:07 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

I have this movie on laserdisc and think it is charming. I like her song "when I sing the cares of the world all go away...." I re-watched part of the movie a few weeks ago.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm happy you've got this one, Missy! It's definitely one we'll be rewatching.

Best wishes,

2:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Here is a YouTube link to the section of the film which contains the song Missy and I especially liked. It's a few minutes into this 10-minute segment.

Best wishes,

2:14 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I saw this back when I was given the entire DVD collection of Durbin movies from the library. Surprisingly they had not broken them out into separate movies, so when I requested one, I got them all. I really liked this one and I also found it charming and if I remember correctly the DVD print was good.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad you saw and enjoyed this one already, Irene, and I'm glad to hear the print was good. The DVD set is tempting despite concerns about print quality; the price is right. We have borrowed all our Durbin movies from my father's library -- I then bought my own videotape copy of HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (very inexpensive on Amazon) -- my younger daughter really wants to own IT STARTED WITH EVE now. :)

Best wishes,

3:27 PM  
Blogger jau said...

I know and love Green for Danger but I've never even heard of It Started with Eve! I can't wait to see it. Thanks for your recommendation, as always!


6:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Let me know what you think when you get a chance to catch up with it, Anne! Hope you'll enjoy it too.

Best wishes,

11:10 PM  
Blogger The Siren said...

Isn't this a surprisingly adorable movie? Durbin was very talented, and I don't know why she got such a reputation for being saccharine and unwatchable. Her movies have aged pretty well, in my view. She had good comic timing and had great chemistry with Charles Laughton (more than she had with Cummings, which was amusing). If you can grab a copy of Christmas Holiday, it is well worth checking out.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Campaspe. I very much agree. In fact, I find Durbin has a refreshingly crisp -- and funny! -- persona which is the opposite of saccharine. Her film personality is quite unique. I've thoroughly enjoyed becoming familiar with her films for the first time over the past couple years.

I would love to see CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY and hope to track it down at some point!

Best wishes,

11:27 AM  

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