It Started With Eve (1941)

It Started With Eve (1941)
It Started With Eve (1941) Run Time: 90 min. | b/w

Director:  Henry Koster

Stars: Deanna Durbin, Charles Laughton, Robert Cummings, Guy Kibbee

Genres: Comedy | Musical | Romance

Storyline
Durbin’s best film. To please a dying father, Deanna poses as the son’s fiancée, but when the patient shows signs of recovery, complications arise. Lots of fun, with Laughton in fine performance mode.
Box Office
Budget: $1,166,000 (estimated)

4 Comments

  1. IMDBReviewer

    August 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    IT STARTED WITH EVE (Universal, 1941), directed by Henry Koster, stars popular singer Deanna Durbin in one of her finest movie roles. Not quite a Biblical tale about Adam and Eve and the apple as the title might imply, nor is there any character in the story named Eve, but actually a comedy of errors in the screwball comedy tradition providing Durbin, still in her late teenage years, an opportunity in a more adult performance, with fine support by the diverse Charles Laughton in a character role that's both funny and touching, and Robert Cummings as a young man caught in the middle of a series of situations and having a difficult time coming up with a suitable explanations.

    The scenario revolves around Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton) a middle-aged millionaire on his death bed whose final request is to meet the young lady engaged to his son, Johnny (Robert Cummings). To make his father's last days on Earth a pleasant one, Johnny rushes out into the rain to get his fiancé only to learn from the desk clerk that she and her mother are not available. Not wanting to waste any more valuable time, Johnny encounters a hat check girl (Deanna Durbin) and offers her $50 to return home with him and pose as his fiancée for about an hour. Explaining the circumstances at hand, she agrees. Masquerading as "Gloria Pennington," the girl, Anne Terry, meets the ailing Mr. Reynolds, who takes an immediate liking to her. After their union, the old man finds his son to be in good hands, and can now die in peace. The following morning, Jonathan miraculously recovers from his illness, gets out of bed demanding a large breakfast from his servants and for Johnny to bring "Gloria" back to visit with him. Complications ensue when Johnny not only has to locate Anne, who's about to take the next train back home to Shelbyville, Ohio, but to explain to the real Gloria (Margaret Tallichet) and her mother (Catherine Doucet), having returned from their trip, the situation that has occurred. Things become even more complex when Johnny tries to prevent his father from learning Anne not to be his fiancée, and keeping Anne from attending his father's dinner function where she wants to audition for his theatrical agent friends in hope to land a singing career.

    A highly enjoyable comedy with an original premise done at a leisurely pace with a couple of classical songs thrown in for good measure making use of Deanna Durbin's singing talent, including Peter Tchaikowsky's "The Tchaikowsky Waltz" and Antonin Dvorak's "Going Home." Supporting players consist of Guy Kibbee as Bishop Maxwell; Walter Catlett as Dr. Harvey, the nervous family physician; Dorothea Kent as Jackie Donovan, Anne's roommate; Clara Blandick as The Nurse; and comedian Mantan Moreland adding humor as the harassed train station baggage man.

    Obviously a high point in Durbin's career that did very well at box office, it's interesting to note that a fun movie such as this is not relatively better known. Durbin and Cummings do well in the roles that might have been tailer-made for Irene Dunne and Cary Grant for example. However, the characters of Anne Terry and Johnny Reynolds were obviously written for much younger performers as enacted by Durbin and Cummings.

    IT STARTED WITH EVE did play for a while on American Movie Classics (1992-93) about the same time it was distributed on video cassette by MCA Home Video. The Hans Kraly story was redone by Universal as I'D RATHER BE RICH (1964) featuring Sandra Dee, Robert Goulet and Maurice Chevalier, with a few alterations, but like the original, has been lost to cinema history, known mostly by film scholars and historians. Even with the original currently available on DVD and latter cable broadcast on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 30, 3013) might offer IT STARTED WITH EVE some new life to a new generation of movie lovers looking for something amusing, nostalgic as well as lighthearted entertainment by its three principal actors. (***1/2).

  2. IMDBReviewer

    August 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    This is an absolutely delicious film!

    Laughton steals the show as always, in a role similar to the one Walter Connolly played in "It Happened One Night". If you love 40’s films and mistaken identity plots, you won’t be disappointed. Deanna Durbin was perfectly cast and has a lovely rapport with Laughton. She is radiant when singing, and her voice is natural and beautiful. At the age of 27, she walked away from stardom to have a secluded life. We can at least be thankful for the films she made.

    A real gem from start to finish!

  3. IMDBReviewer

    August 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    With Deanna Durbin’s charm, Charles Laughton’s energy, a decent supporting cast, and a worthwhile story, "It Started With Eve" is a funny and engaging comedy. It may seem like a weird idea to pair such dissimilar talents as Durbin and Laughton, but it does work. As Laughton’s son, Robert Cummings gets mostly straight lines, but he performs his role well, and Walter Catlett also has some good moments as a rather high-strung doctor.

    The story starts out a little slowly, but once it gets rolling it is interesting. It also has some thoughtful moments, as the characters try to figure out how to deal with all the dilemmas that start when Cummings’s character has to improvise a way of comforting his seriously ill father. The actual plot developments are insubstantial in themselves, but are generally used to good effect. It could have been played as an all-out screwball comedy, but here the more balanced approach seems to work at least as well.

    The movie builds up steam as things develop, and saves some of the best moments for the climactic sequence. It’s a successful combination that makes for enjoyable viewing.

  4. tfsadmin

    August 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Would anyone not take a bet that a 20-year-old young woman would be mincemeat if she tried to take a film away from the skilled and hammy hands of Charles Laughton, especially when Laughton, to modern eyes, looks suspiciously like he's playing Tim Conway playing one of Conway's old, tottering geezers? It Started With Eve, an attractive romantic comedy, stars Deanna Durbin, Robert Cummings and Charles Laughton. It was a shame Laughton wasn't a few years younger. He and Durbin turn out to be quite a pair, both of them adept at delivering smart lines, doing subtle double-takes or moving from subversive good cheer to tear-jerker moments of sincerity. They dominate the film and they do it as equals. Robert Cummings was a skilled light-weight lead. Here. as in so many of his films, he just doesn't have the leading-man gravitas to appear as anything but an earnest puppy. When he shares a scene with either Laughton or Durbin, he makes a pleasant second banana.

    It Started With Eve begins with Jonathan Reynolds (Laughton), a rich old tycoon, apparently on his death bed. When his son, Jonathan Junior (Cummings), comes rushing in from a trip to Mexico, old Jonathan asks to meet young Jonathan's new fiancé, who has come to New York with him, accompanied by her mother. Young Jonathan tries to contact his fiancé, can't reach her, and believing his father is now dying, happens upon Anne Terry (Durbin), a hat-check girl. He rushes Anne to the side of his father and introduces her as his fiancé. But the next day his father recovers. Now young Jonathan has his fiancé he can't let his father meet, and his father wants to keep seeing Anne, thinking she's the fiancé. The movie's an hour-and-a- half of mistaken identity and screw-ball encounters. Love finally wins out, but only after Laughton plays matchmaker and Durbin sings two or three songs. Along the way we have some clever lines ("The trouble with being sick is you have to associate with doctors!"), a good deal of skullduggery as Laughton contrives to smoke the cigars his doctor forbids him, and a fast pace set by director Henry Koster. Laughton, of course, overacts but gets away with it. He also has a comb-up hair style that, if he were a foot shorter, would let him pass for a munchkin. He does a lot of stooped-over shuffling, squinting from under his eye- brows, and little bits of business that we wind up hardly noticing when Durbin is around. She must have been quite a challenge for him. Durbin, at 20, is no longer the child star. She's well-nigh gorgeous, with a figure that could make staring illegal. She is natural and straight- forward, and completely self-assured. She's one of the few actresses who could get away with sniffing mightily or falling down next to a piano and make us smile just at her style. She was, in a word or two, sui generis. And for those who admire subversive scene-stealers, the movie has that master, Walter Catlett, playing Dr. Harvey. Catlett was in hundreds of films, usually playing blowhards or flustered shysters. He's a bit subdued here, but just the sound of his voice is enough to make me smile.

    The movie is a bit of froth, expertly served. If it's a little dated, well, so am I.

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