Note: Today, in a post long-overdue, we continue our exploration of the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack with a review of 1941’s It Started with Eve. Previous reviews from this DVD set include Three Smart Girls, Something in the Wind and First Love. Stay tuned for reviews of the final two films in the set, Can’t Help Singing and Lady on a Train!
The editor of The New York Daily Star Press is waiting anxiously for a man to die. That man is Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton), a billionaire. The editor is planning to dedicate practically the whole edition to Reynolds, beating the Herald to the story.
Meanwhile, Reynolds’ son Johnny (Robert Cummings) has returned from Mexico City to see his ill father. Johnny knows that his father is near death, and the elder Reynolds has one final wish: to meet Johnny’s fiancée Gloria (Margaret Tallichet).
Gloria and her mother have accompanied Johnny to New York and were planning to visit Mr. Reynolds the next morning. That may not be soon enough, so Johnny heads to the hotel to find Gloria.
When he’s unable to get in contact with her, he enlists coat-check girl Anne Terry (Deanna Durbin) to pretend to be his fiancée, so he can fulfill his father’s final wish. The plan works just fine… until Mr. Reynolds begins to feel better!
It Started with Eve was directed by Henry Koster. The screenplay was penned by Norman Krasna and Leo Townsend from a story by Hanns Kräly. I’d Rather Be Rich, a gender-reversed remake about a dying man who wants to meet his granddaughter’s fiance, was released in 1964.
Deanna Durbin is more delightful than ever in her role of Anne Terry, an aspiring singer who is just about to give up on her stage-bound dreams and head back to Ohio when she gets roped into this mistaken identity ordeal with the Reynolds family. The character is perfectly suited to Durbin — kind and sweet, but also spunky and talented.
Charles Laughton is brilliant and brings a lot of laughs as the Reynolds patriarch. His scenes shared with Deanna Durbin are lovely; the two make a surprisingly great comedic duo, and their friendship is heartwarming to watch. The bond that grows between them is just as important as (if not more important than) the film’s romance, and they even get to share a dance number! Laughton and Durbin would appear together again in 1946’s Because of Him, and according to TCM, were great friends off-screen up until his death in 1962.
Along with Durbin, Laughton is a standout in the film, though the entire cast is wonderful. Johnny Cummings is perfectly cast, frenzied and full of nerves as Johnny, who quickly finds himself in over his head when his plot goes awry.
As for the script, the outcome isn’t exactly difficult to predict, in true rom-com form. To make up for that, the path to that outcome contains a few little twists, and there are plenty of sweet/funny moments to be enjoyed. For the most part, the mood is kept bright, the humor kept silly, and the romance kept sickeningly cute. There are a few scenes that are more dramatic, but rather than bringing the mood down, they’re effectively used to add some emotional impact to what would otherwise be a fun, fluffy picture.
It Started with Eve is the best Deanna Durbin film I’ve watched so far, dethroning Three Smart Girls as my favorite from the Sweetheart Pack. This delightful romantic comedy boasts a quick pace, a good script, and an even better cast. The score: 5/5!