It Started with Eve (1941)

I love how a movie with this title ended up being the first I watched in a new year. So appropriate, and totally unplanned. The title is never explained in the movie. I assume it refers to women meaning trouble for men since time immemorial. This is the second picture I’ve ever seen starring Deanna Durbin. It was shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel to commemorate Durbin’s 2013 death. I didn’t care for Durbin when I saw her on screen for the first time in 1940’s “It’s A Date”. I don’t think she gave a bad performance. I just felt she and Kay Francis (the reason I watched the movie in the first place) were undermined by the weakness of its writing. The whole project felt like a flimsy excuse to show off Durbin’s talent at singing opera style and it didn’t matter to me since that style turns me off.

“It Started with Eve” was a big improvement, giving Durbin a good character to play in a well-told story. She stars as a woman who agrees to be a man’s pretend fiancé in order to appease his dying father. The man is played by Robert Cummings, who I found mostly annoying (although he and Durbin have one very amusing scene together). The father is played by Charles Laughton, who I’ve enjoyed in every role I’ve seen him play except “Mutiny on the Bounty”. Interactions between the Laughton and Durbin characters were my favourite parts of the movie. In addition to several funny scenes, they also share serious moments that reminded me of the moving father and daughter-in-law relationship of the emotionally effective “Tokyo Story” .

Durbin has impressive comic timing in her lighter scenes and when she cried for the dramatic ones, I really cared and felt sad for her. The only part of Durbin’s performance I didn’t enjoy was her singing because I never like opera singing. Durbin is always either touching or fun in the movie, just as her role requires. I quickly realized that she truly was a REAL actress, not just the singer of limited acting talent that I assumed she was based on “It’s A Date”.
I only wish she hadn’t sang in a style I find grating, no matter who is singing. When Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne introduced “It Started with Eve”, he suggested that anyone watching the movie would understand why Durbin was so adored. Speaking for myself, I can say he was right.


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