Arguably Deanna Durbin’s best movie is It Started With Eve (1941). In addition to near perfect casting, the script brings the romantic comedy genre up a notch or two.
Unable to find his fiancée in time, business tycoon Johnny Reynolds (Robert Cummings) pays struggling singer Ann Terry (Durbin) to pretend to be his fiancée for a few moments to please his fatally ill father, Reynolds Sr. (Charles Laughton). The deceit goes awry when Reynolds the elder regains his health the next morning and expects the two to marry soon. Johnny’s actual, gold-digging fiancée Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) is not happy with this arrangement.
It’s difficult to explain how this standard plot is better than that of many other romantic comedies. Perhaps it is the genuine warmth communicated between Reynolds and the woman he believes is his potential daughter-in-law. When Johnny thinks of a scheme to undo the lies he’s perpetuated - stating that he and his fiancée quarreled and parted ways - Reynolds the elder looks absolutely crushed, as if she had broken up with him personally.
Perhaps the movie is a success because the older person is not scripted as a buffoon or idiot - a common occurrence among romcoms where juveniles arrange everything themselves. He is not just an obstacle to the young man’s plans but one who catches on to the scheme and begins manipulating the situation to bring about what is ultimately best for everyone.
However, Cummings is not an also-ran here. He’s asked to do the heavy lifting in the comedy department and he does it well. From pretending he’s in love with a girl that he’d rather strangle [“If you hear something snap, don‘t turn around it‘ll be your neck”] to the awkwardly sensual game of tag that Ann and Johnny play, Cummings will have you in stitches throughout the film.
It Started With Eve is a charming and sophisticated comedy that will please a wide range of audience members.
- Bosley Crowther of The New York Times gives It Started With Eve a rave review, calling it “the perfect ‘8-to-80’ picture.” Read the review from October 3, 1941 here.
Charles Laughton and Susanna Foster in It Started With Eve from
(Duration: approximately 50 minutes)
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