Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tonight's Movie: It Started With Eve (1941) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of Deanna Durbin's most special films, IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), is part of the three-film Deanna Durbin Collection I, available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

I previously reviewed THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939) from the set, which was released last month. The third film in the box is ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937).

Deanna Durbin's costars in IT STARTED WITH EVE are Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings; the latter actor also appeared in THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP. The trio, along with a collection of wonderful character actors, made a very special film which is both riotously funny and tremendously touching, sometimes in the same scene!

As the film begins, the death of business tycoon Jonathan Reynolds (Laughton) appears imminent. His concerned son Johnny (Cummings) has raced home from a trip to Mexico to be with his father.

Johnny became engaged to Gloria (Margaret Tallichet, married to William Wyler) while on his trip. Jonathan is anxious to meet his son's fiancee before he dies, and the doctor (Walter Catlett) insists she be summoned at once, as time may be running out.

Johnny desperately searches for Gloria, to no avail, and concerned his father may have just minutes left to live, he begs a hotel hat check girl named Anne (Durbin) to come meet his father.

Jonathan is impressed with Johnny's fake fiancee, and to everyone's surprise he begins to rebound. He's still frail, but he's got some fight left in him, and he's overjoyed with Johnny's choice of wife.

Johnny and Anne find themselves in a real quandary, all the more so with the real Gloria and her overbearing mother (Catherine Doucet) anxiously waiting in the wings for the chance to meet Jonathan. There's also the unspoken issue that Johnny is increasingly attracted to Anne, while Gloria is gradually revealed to be a gold-digger. When Johnny's wily father secretly catches on to the game, he realizes that Anne remains the right girl for his son.

I have writer Norman Krasna to thank for some special movie experiences this weekend, as not only did he cowrite IT STARTED WITH EVE (with Leo Townsend, from a story by Hans Kraly), he also wrote SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963). Krasna's track record is pure gold, including highly enjoyable titles such as THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1934), BACHELOR MOTHER (1939), PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943), and DEAR RUTH (1947), to name just a few.

The writers and director Henry Koster walk quite a line in this film, evoking tears from both genuine pathos and utter joy. This dichotomy is captured in two of Durbin's songs. The first, "When I Sing," is set to Tschaikovsky and is what I think of as "Once Upon a Dream" from my favorite Disney film, SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959). Hearing Durbin sing to that tune is a moment of movie musical bliss.

A later song, "Goin' Home," had the tears rolling down my cheeks, between the song's poignance, the characters' emotions, and Jonathan's precarious health. It's a deeply moving moment, and I perhaps reacted to it even more strongly than I might normally have due to fraught emotions from our current national moment. But never fear, just a few minutes later, Jonathan and Anne are at a nightclub doing an uproariously funny conga!

The movie is really almost more about the relationship Anne develops with Jonathan; the feelings in her relationship with Johnny are definitely there, including an amusing scene where they exhaust some of their emotions chasing each other around the furniture, but the most screen time and deepest emotions are between the father and his once and future daughter-in-law. Both actors are at the top of their game here.

The movie runs 90 minutes, and while I often preach that shorter is better, I wouldn't have minded a few extra minutes between Anne and Johnny. Otherwise it's a perfectly constructed film.

The movie was filmed by Rudolph Mate. The supporting cast includes Charles Coleman, Gus Schilling, Guy Kibbee, Dorothea Kent, Clara Blandick, Bess Flowers, and a number of other familiar faces.

The hotel desk clerk was played by John Eldredge. We had the privilege of paying our respects to him at his final resting place at Pacific View Memorial Park just a couple of weeks ago.

For more on this film, please check out my original review which followed my first viewing in 2009. Incidentally, I'll be reviewing the final film in the set, ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL, at a future date.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray picture is very good, with excellent sound quality. The disc includes the trailer and a commentary track by Samm Deighan.

IT STARTED WITH EVE is highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

A charmer from start to finish and Charles Laughton has to be the movies' most adorable manipulative millionaire ever!

5:26 AM  
Anonymous John Hall said...

I've ordered this set. Always wanted to see IT STARTED WITH EVE. I saw the remake (before I knew it was a remake) back in 1964 and loved it. Sandra Dee and Maurice Chevalier star along with Robert Goulet, Andy Williams, Gene Raymond and Charlie Ruggles.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This movie is an absolute charmer. It's one of my very earliest movie-watching memories and for the longest time I only remembered certain scenes in it. Didn't know the actors or the title. A few years ago I finally stumbled on it again. :)

10:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad to know you love this film too, Caftan Woman and Margot. John, hope you'll enjoyed IT STARTED WITH EVE as much as we all have!! I haven't seen the remake but I like Sandra Dee so perhaps I'll catch up with it at some point.

Margot, I love this was such an early movie memory for you. I remembered scenes from a couple films which I wondered about for literally decades before I figured out what they were! (Turns out I was remembering THE BLOB and SMASH-UP: THE STORY OF A WOMAN, how's that for disparate films!)

I hope more people will discover Deanna Durbin thanks to this set and future Kino Lorber releases!

Best wishes,

9:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older