Durbin and Laughton have a ball in... It Started with Eve (1941)
Desperate to fulfill his father's wish, Johnny hurries to his hotel to get his fiancee, Gloria, who went out and can't be found. Who is found, however, is hatcheck girl Anne (Deanna Durbin) -- Johnny
The doctor tells Anne and Johnny it's time they leave, Anne gently letting go of his hand. Johnny thanks her for what she did and pays her $50. Anne confesses that she shouldn't take it but she really needs the money to pay off her singing lessons and to go back home to Shelbyville, Ohio. The two said goodbye, Johnny going back to worry by his father's bed and Anne going back into the depressing, rainy night.
On the night of a party he's throwing in Anne's honor so she can sing for a famous conductor, Anne's conscience gets to her and she decides to skip the party and return to Ohio. Reynolds admits he's wise to their scheme, but he knows that Johnny and Anne belong together so he cooks up his own scheme. He fakes a return of his illness, causing Johnny to once again grab Anne off of a train and rush her to the house, where they're reunited for good.
It Started with Eve is a fantastically charming film, one that is held entirely on the shoulders of Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton. I'm probably going to be lynched for this, but I've never really jumped on the Laughton bandwagon. That's not to say that I think he was a bad actor or anything -- he was clearly an amazing one, but I would never call him a favorite, nor would I ever watch a film because his name was attached to it.
It Started with Eve hasn't exactly changed that, however I do appreciate the actor more and I have to admit that this film has my
Ever the dedicated actor, Laughton lost 40 pounds to convincingly portray a man who has been confined to his bed for months. One of the best sight gags is Reynolds's baggy clothes once he's gotten healthier, Laughton muttering to himself how ridiculous he looks.
Hurt, Reynolds goes to see her anyway and is saddened to learn that she's leaving for Ohio in the morning ("You were going to go away without saying goodbye?"). She sings one more time for him, and while she does, tears fall down her face and he silently listens. Before it gets too mushy, though, Reynolds takes Anne out on the town for a proper goodbye, leading to a great moment for the audience: Charles Laughton dancing the conga. For some silly reason, this is nowhere to be found on the interwebs, so I can only provide you with photos at post's end.
While Laughton certainly gives the young songstress a run for her money, Ms. Durbin is without a question the film's star. And not just because she's given three numbers to sing, although they're definitely great, simple routines, my favorite being "When I Sing." (The music for this song came from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet, but if you're a Disney fan, you'll recognize it as "Once Upon a Dream" with different lyrics.)
Truthfully, I enjoy Deanna's acting more than I do her singing. My defense is that operatic singing like Deanna's is not my style, while
Johnny thinks he's gotten rid of Anne, telling his father some story about how they got into a huge fight and broke things off. She doesn't want to miss her chance to become a singer, though, so, suddenly, Anne runs into the house, apologizing profusely to Johnny and begging him to forgive her. She then pretends to loudly sob to drown him out, and voila, they're a "couple" again.
Reynolds encourages his son to literally kiss and make up, Johnny taking his revenge by planting a long kiss on Anne. If you pay close attention, she fights against the kiss, then softens as she begins to enjoy it, and then goes back to struggling. Pissed, she bites his ear. He retaliates by biting her ear. Tickling and pinching ensues.
When Reynolds leaves the room to find a cigar, Anne chomps down on Johnny's hand and he chases her around the room. They're fighting around the piano when Reynolds returns, causing them to seamlessly pretend like Anne had been playing
This is the first time Johnny hears Anne sing and he's naturally enchanted, his anger towards her melting as he listens to her. (It helps when you have a halo of light around your head, illuminating your hair and face like an angel with sparkling eyes. Ah, the movies.) What's hilarious about this is that Johnny still has Anne's
I know a lot of people dismiss Bob Cummings, tossing around words like "bland" and "stiff," but I rather enjoy him. He's a reliable, steady presence, and with the right material he could do well. I think his stuff with Hitchcock, Saboteur and Dial M for Murder, allowed for maybe his best performances. I don't know, I hear everyone kick the guy's name to death and I just feel sorry for him. He wasn't that bad (hey, he wasn't George Brent -- yeah, I said it), and in comedies like this and Moon Over Miami he does very nicely.
I would say that he was one of Deanna Durbin's best screen partners, alongside David Bruce and Franchot Tone. Before Eve, they had starred together in Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) and Spring Parade (1940), and they were good friends off the screen too. During filming of their scenes, they would try to break each other up by doing silly faces or Cummings would only look at her left eye, causing her to exclaim "I can't stand the way he looks at me. It makes me feel one-sided!"
For a weekend amidst filming, Durbin and her new
It Started with Eve is available on DVD separately and as part of the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack, a collection I can't recommend enough. If you want to see more of Durbin and Cummings together, you can check out Spring Parade on YouTube here -- it's not the best quality, but the film isn't on DVD, so it'll do. Enjoy!
This is part of the O Canada Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. For the other entries celebrating Canadian imports like Deanna Durbin, Canada-set films, and actual Canadian productions, click here.