Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Black and White
Video Availability: Available on MCA/Universal home video.
Deanna Durbin...Anne Terry
Charles Laughton...Jonathan Reynolds
Robert Cummings...Jonathan Reynolds, Jr.
Guy Kibbee...Bishop Maxwell
Margaret Tallichet...Gloria Pennington
Catharine Doucet...Mrs. Pennington
Walter Catlett...Doctor Harvey
Leonard Elliott...Reverend Stebbins
Wade Boteler...Newspaper Editor
Dorothea Kent...Jackie Donovan
Screenplay...Norman Krasna, Leo Townsend
Original Story...Hans Kraly
Director of Photography...Rudolph Maté, A.S.C.
Art Director...Jack Otterson
Film Editor...Bernard W. Burton
Assistant Director...Philip Karlstein
Set Decorations...R.A. Gausman
Musical Director...Charles Previn
Musical Score...H.J. Salter
Vocal Coach...Andres de Segurola
Sound Director...Bernard B. Brown
Produced by...Joseph Pasternak
Directed by...Henry Koster
Millionaire Jonathan Reynolds, Jr. (Charles Laughton)
is on his deathbed. Everyone is expecting him to die, and the newspapers
already have the headlines prepared. Inside of his big mansion, he
is lying in bed, surrounded by doctors, nurses and clergymen. They
are awaiting the arrival of his son, Jonathan "Johnny" Reynolds, Jr. (Robert
Cummings) who is in Mexico.
He arrives and is sad to see his father so sick. They talk, and Reynolds tells Johnny that he would like to see the woman he is going to marry. Johnny knows that his father won't live much longer, and wants to fulfill his dying wish. He rushes down to the hotel where his snobby fiancee, Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) and her mother (Catharine Doucet) are staying. He calls for them but they have gone out. Desperate, he spots a pretty young hatcheck girl named Anne Terry (Deanna Durbin). He asks her to help him out since he is rushed for time and offers her money if she'll pose as his fiancee. She agrees and travels to the mansion with him.
He takes Anne to see his father. Reynolds thinks she is very pretty, and takes an instant liking to her. After that, Johnny walks Anne to the door and pays her the $50 he offered her. She takes it, but only because she spent all of her money on singing lessons, and wants to go back home to Shelbyville, Ohio. Just at that moment, Gloria calls and asks if she should come over. He tells her not to, and waits up all night, hoping that his dad will make it.
Reynolds does make it through the night and feels much better in the morning. He unexpectedly asks to see his son's fiancee again. Surprised, Johnny rushes down to the train station, where he manages to catch Anne before she gets on the train and convinces her to pose as Gloria for his father once again.
Reynolds is very happy to see her and gives her the combination to a hidden safe containing the family jewels. Johnny feels very uncomfortable, since Anne isn't his fiancee. Reynolds' affection for her grows even more when she lets him smoke some cigars, which his physician, Dr. Harvey (Walter Catlett) has forbidden. Dr. Harvey then brings in some get-well cards and telegrams for Reynolds, one of them being from famous conductor Leopold Stokowski. Anne is excited to hear this, and asks him about him. Reynolds says that Stokowski is a frequent guest at his house. Anne wants to audition for Stokowski and get her big break, but Reynolds refuses. In order to convince him, Anne goes down stairs, moves a piano to the foot of the stairs, and sings a song for him. Amazed by her voice, Reynolds actually gets out of bed to hear her better! He then decides to throw a party in her honor, so that she can sing for Mr. Stokowski.
Soon, Reynolds is well enough to walk around the house. Now that he is better, Johnny realizes that Anne can't play his fiancee forever, especially since Gloria and her mother are anxious to meet his father. He tells Anne this, but she says that they can't tell Reynolds now since he has arranged for her to sing for Leopold Stokowski. Johnny doesn't care however, and decides to tell his father that they got in an argument and broke the engagement off.
That night at dinner, Johnny tells Reynolds the story only to be interrupted by none other than Anne, who runs in sobbing and begs Johnny for forgiveness. He is upset but, at his father's urgings, takes her back. When Reynolds leaves the room, Johnny becomes outraged at Anne, since she spoiled his plan. They get in an argument and Anne tells him that she'll be willing to tell him, but only after the party/audition. Reynolds overhears this and realizes that Anne is not really his future daughter-in-law. He decides not to let on that he knows, though. Then, Gloria and her mother arrive, announced as "the Smiths" (as arranged by Johnny). They are introduced to Reynolds who doesn't care about them at all. Gloria thus becomes mad at Johnny since he hasn't told his father about the fake fiancee yet.
That same night, when Johnny is gone with Gloria, Anne, feeling guilty, decides to tell Reynolds about the whole thing. He realizes her intent and manages to get around it.
Before she leaves, Johnny and Anne talk and come up with a plan to end their "relationship." The night of the party, she calls Reynolds and tells him that she can't come since she is feeling sick. He goes over to her apartment and tells Anne that he knows what is going on. He tells Anne that if she isn't going to the party, she might as well go with him to "a little place" where no one knows him. She agrees.
That little place turns out to be a swinging nightclub, where everyone does know him. A photographer snaps a picture of them together, and Anne tells Reynolds to have the picture destroyed so that rumors won't start. He catches the photographer and, instead of telling him to destroy the photo, tells him that the girl he is with is his son's fiancee. Reynolds then calls his son and tells him to come to the nightclub. Anne asks him why he brought her here, and he said it is because he supports the opera and thus has many connections. She might get her big break by just being seen with him. He and Anne then spend the night laughing and dancing.
Meanwhile, at the party, Johnny realizes his father is gone and then receives the phone call. Outraged, he goes down to the club to find his father and Anne dancing the conga on the dance floor. He tells Anne off, she throws a drink in his face and storms off.
The next morning, Anne is getting ready to leave for Shelbyville, Ohio when Johnny runs up and says that he just got a call that his father is sick again and is close to death. Anne goes with him to the mansion, only to find that it was a prank. Reynolds is fine. He informs Johnny that Gloria and her mother left for Mexico. He is happy with this news, but doesn't want to show it. Johnny and Anne then realize that they are in love with each other, and apologize for all the quarreling they have done. Reynolds is happy to have brought them together.
[Songs performed by Deanna Durbin in boldface]
"Tchaikovsky Waltz" (Tchaikovsky)
"Going Home" (Dvorak)
Academy Awards and Nominations:
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter - nominees)
"It Started with Eve...should please - as they say - both young
and old. It's the perfect '8-to-80' picture."
- New York Times
It Started with Eve is definitely one of my favorite Deanna films. It is the first film in which she plays a grown woman and she does a fantastic job. Charles Laughton is perfect as the dying millionaire and Robert Cummings is funny as his son. I would say that this is by far Deanna's funniest film, especially the "fight" scene between Durbin and Cummings and the nightclub scenes. The music is not that great, in my opinion. There are only three songs, which are good, but not that memorable. Instead of a musical, I would classify this movie as a very good screwball romantic comedy with music. It is a must for any fan of Deanna!
This was the first of two films Deanna and Charles Laughton would make together, and the third and last film she would make with Robert Cummings.
Deanna and Charles Laughton had a fun time making this film, and remained friends until his death in 1962.
Remade as I'd Rather Be Rich in 1964 with Sandra Dee and Robert Goulet.