It Started with Eve (1941)

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Released 7-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1941
Running Time 86:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Henry Koster
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Deanna Durbin
Charles Laughton
Robert Cummings
Guy Kibbee
Walter Catlett
Margaret Tallichet
Catherine Doucet
Bess Flowers
Case Custom Packaging
RPI Box Music Anton Dvorak
Peter Illytch Tchaikovsky
Charles Previn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It Started With Eve was somewhat of a departure for Deanna Durbin. For the first time since her debut, Universal's top star was not solo billed above the title, instead sharing the card with second billed Charles Laughton and, in slightly smaller typeface, Robert Cummings. This reflected the fact that the September 1941 release was not so much "a Deanna Durbin movie", but rather an ensemble romantic comedy which also happened to feature three musical outbursts from the young soprano. In her first nine movies, under the production guidance of Joe Pasternak, Deanna Durbin had developed from a vocally precocious adolescent into an assured young screen actress; warm, lovely and womanly. It Started With Eve has her sparring with two formidable talents ten and twenty years her senior, but unfortunately this was the last Durbin movie to have Pasternak's name in the credits.

    Its origins in a story by Hans Kraly, a German screenwriter who until the early 30s had worked with Ernst Lubitsch, the screenplay by Leo Townsend and playwright/screenwriter Norman Krasna moves with easy assurance from the rather sombre opening into romantic comedy, knockabout farce and overt sentimentality. All of these variations in tone are handled adroitly in the intelligent and spare script, and under the seemingly effortless direction of Henry Koster.

    Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton) is a cantankerous millionaire who is on his deathbed. His son, Jonathan Junior (Robert Cummings) is soon to marry Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) and the "last wish" of the old curmudgeon is to meet his would have been daughter-in-law. Unfortunately she is not available, so Junior runs out into the streets to find a convenient substitute, coming back with hat-check girl Anne Terry (Deanna Durbin - looking gorgeous), promising her $50 for her deathbed performance. The "dying" old man takes quite a shine to Deanna - who wouldn't - and the next morning announces to everyone's astonishment : "I'm hungry!" The curmudgeon has had a miraculous recovery, but the problem is that Junior's fiancee is about to arrive on the scene, accompanied by her pearl-twirling "mother" (Catherine Doucet). The old man totally approves of his son's fiancee, but it's the wrong girl! To conceal his deception, Junior has to re-enlist Anne's services. Anne is an aspiring singer, and after two years of New York rejection she is returning home to Shelveyville, her ticket purchased with Junior's $50. Junior rushes to the station and after an amusing, and extremely well played scene at the train, Anne returns to continue the deception. Sit back and enjoy the complications, the comedy, the sentiment, the music and the inevitable happy ending.

    Performances are faultless. Charles Laughton's scheming, kindly old fox is Laughton at his most endearing, with the possible exception of Witness for the Prosecution. Playing much older than his forty-two years, a surprisingly slimmer Laughgton - the script makes several references to his character's weight loss - is perfect throughout, whether in the deathbed scene, the comedy or the sentimentality. His reaction to Durbin's Goin' Home is remarkable, as are the magnificent close-ups in that sequence (74:09).Various pieces of Laughton "business" throughout the film are truly memorable, whether its stretching his legs getting out of bed, doing a little jig across a room or nightclubbing doing the La Conga with a stunningly glamorous Deanna. Laughgton's performance is the core of this film, and his is rightly the final image of the film, not the customary fade-out close-up of the smiling, singing Deanna.

    As I said, Deanna Durbin looks gorgeous in this film. Modern, smart and beautiful. She performs with warmth and ease with Laughton, and is a great partner with Cummings in the comedy scenes. This is a multi-faceted role and she pulls it off with charm and apparent ease. Though not a musical there are thankfully three opportunites for Deanna's character to sing and these do become highlights. There is the previously mentioned Goin' Home (Dvorak), Clavelitos (Valverde) - What diction! Talk about tripping lightly on the tongue! - and When I Sing (Tchaikovsky). The last piece has a fun introduction from Deanna at the keyboard, and it looks as though she really could play. Robert Cummings is at his thirty-year-old best here. Charming, fast, funny and slightly befuddled, he made a great comedy partner for Deanna in their three films together.

    The remainder of the supporting cast is extremely strong, with wonderful Guy Kibbee as the dithering Bishop Maxwell and Walter Catlett as the prissy Doctor Harvey. Briefly appearing as a nurse we have Clara Blandick, Auntie Em from The Wizard of Oz, and a nightclubbing ubiquitous Bess Flowers, who gets one line. Seeing  Laughton out on the town with Durbin, the Queen of the Hollywood Extras beautifully enunciates : "Is he still alive?".

    Top script, top production, top direction, top cast, top performances - It Started With Eve is a must see movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer of this sixty-seven year old film is a knockout, a black and white visual treat.The image is presented in a 4x3 transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original presentation having been 1.37:1.

    The image is steady, razor sharp and clean with no low level noise.There is a minute amount of grain and a beautiful grey scale. Blacks are deep and there are no flaring whites.

    The image is at least on a par with the excellence of First Love.The only film to video artefact I observed was some very occasional aliasing on a bannister (36:00), some cigars (40:36) and Robert Cumming's overcoat (46:00).The only film artefact I noted was the very occasional white flick. I progressed frame by frame to find some.It is a thrill to see such an outstanding film in almost immaculate condition.

    There are no subtitles and the disc is single layered.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

    The audio is also in very good condition.

    There is only one language, English, in a Dolby Digital 2.0 reproduction of the original mono Western Electric Noiseless Recording.

    The dialogue is clear and sharp with not one syllable indistinct and no sync problems. Deanna Durbin's visuals match the pre-recorded vocals perfectly.

    There appears to be no doctoring of the soundtrack at all. As a result there is at times a very slight background rumble, only audible at high volumes.

    There is also the occasional crackle or pop, but these comments aside, the quality of the 1941 sound is exceptional. Deanna Durbin's vocals sound great, loud, clear and undistorted. Orchestrations are vibrant and clear, and the original musical scoring by Charles Previn sounds most attractive. Listen to the delightful few seconds accompanying Charles Laughgton on the stairs (39:10).

    There are no dropouts.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
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Extras

    The box set of nineteen movies on nineteen discs contains a Sixteen Page Souvenir Booklet.

    Apart from this booklet and the Stills Galleries on five of the titles - no gallery on It Started With Eve - there are no other extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer. The reverse of the slick for It Started With Eve contains small reproductions of four stills.

    The picture disc reproduces the title's cover.

    There are no subtitles.

Menu

    All menu screens are 4x3. The main menu design is extremely basic. The screen comprises two stills from the film, with orchestral audio. The options are Play Film or Scene Index. Selecting this option gives a new screen with two further stills and a list of ten scenes. No thumbnails, no sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In Region 1, It Started With Eve is included in the two-disc Deanna Durbin: Sweetheart Pack. The other titles are Three Smart Girls, Something in the Wind, First Love, Can't Help Singing and Lady on a Train.

    The nineteen-title box set is also available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price. It Started With Eve is also available separately or in The Deanna Durbin Collection: Box 3, which also includes Hers to Hold, Up In Central ParkNice Girl? and His Butler's Sister.

Summary

    It Started With Eve is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Charles Laughton is superb and it also just happens to star an adorable Deanna Durbin. A beautiful black and white image with very good sound.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, March 14, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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