It Started with Eve

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It Started with Eve
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Koster
Screenplay by
Story by Hanns Kräly
Produced by Joe Pasternak
Cinematography Rudolph Maté
Edited by Bernard W. Burton
Music byHans J. Salter
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 26, 1941 (1941-09-26)(USA)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1,166,000 [1] or $1,250,000 [2]
Box office$2,264,300 [1]

It Started with Eve is a 1941 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Deanna Durbin, Robert Cummings, and Charles Laughton. [3] The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score (Charles Previn and Hans J. Salter). [4] The film is considered by some critics to be Durbin's best film, and the last in which she worked with the producer (Joe Pasternak) and director (Henry Koster) who groomed her for stardom. It Started with Eve was remade in 1964 as I'd Rather Be Rich .



The millionaire Jonathan Reynolds is dying, and his son Johnny returns from Mexico City to his deathbed. The attending physician, Dr. Harvey, informs Johnny that his father does not have much time to live and that his last wish is to get to know Johnny's future wife. Johnny drives quickly to his hotel to find his fiancée, Gloria Pennington, but she has left with her mother. Desperate, he asks Anne Terry if she can play Gloria for an evening. She agrees. She is kind to the dying man and he is pleased with her manner.

To everyone's surprise, the father feels much better than expected the next morning and asks if he can see his son's fiancée once again. Dr. Harvey is still concerned about the health of his patient and asks Johnny to keep pretending that Anne is Gloria. Johnny catches Anne at the train station as she is about to leave for her hometown and convinces her to return with him.

He and Anne arrive home, to find that Gloria and her mother have suddenly appeared there. Johnny tries to explain the situation. At the same time, Anne, who is an aspiring opera singer, learns of the father's New York opera world contacts. She suggests giving a party for the elderly Jonathan to show off her vocal ability. Johnny agrees, but wants to introduce his father to his real fiancée, by telling the father that he and Gloria (Anne) are separated, and his new girlfriend is the real Gloria. Anne asks him to wait until after the party, but Johnny refuses.

The next evening, Johnny informs his father about the separation. At this moment, Anne falls into the room and asks for Johnny's forgiveness. Johnny is almost forced by his father to forgive her. When Jonathan leaves the room, he, however, learns the true story through the ensuing loud dispute between Anne and Johnny. Gloria and her mother are now fully satisfied. Again, they see Johnny with Anne, but, this time, Johnny's mouth is covered by lipstick marks. Deciding that enough is enough, the mother and daughter leave yet again.

At last, the day of the party arrives. Jonathan is back in good health, and Johnny goes to the party with Gloria and her mother, explaining to his father that Anne has a headache and cannot attend. Jonathan then sets off to see Anne. He tells her that he knows the true story, but wants to go out for a farewell dinner between old friends. They go to a nightclub where they drink and dance together. Jonathan secretly sends word to Johnny to come to the club. When Johnny and Dr. Harvey arrive, Johnny accuses Anne of endangering his father's life. Anne flings his drink in his face and leaves.

The next day, Johnny catches Anne once again at the station to tell her that his father has had another heart attack and wants to see her. They rush to the mansion, only to find that Jonathan is fine—it was his doctor who collapsed. Jonathan just took advantage of the mixup to bring the young couple back together. Johnny and Anne recognize their true feelings for each other, which pleases Jonathan.




The film was originally known as Almost an Angel. Joe Pasternak announced he would make Almost an Angel in 1938 as a vehicle for Danielle Darrieux. Ralph Bock and Frederick Kohner wrote a script. [6] Then in 1939 Franciska Gaal was announced as star. [7]

The film was eventually never made - the title was transferred to another project by Pasternak in December 1940 which would become It Started with Eve. Henry Koster was directed and L Fodor and Norman Krasna wrote the script. [8]

In February 1941 Charles Laughton signed on. [9] The following month Deanna Durbin agreed to co-star; plans to put her in Ready to Romance with Charles Boyer were abandoned. [10]


Filming started 27 May 1941, just after Durbin returned from honeymoon for her first marriage. [11]

Pasternak announced during filming that he would be leaving Universal after 16 years. [12] He later wrote about it in his memoirs:

I called her into my office and told her why it had to be and why I was leaving. It was the only time in our years together I saw her weep. "You can't," she said. "You can't do this to me." But I had my personal reasons, and they did not all concern her and I said I must. It was not easy to talk to her because a lot of water had flowed under the bridge. She had her life to live now and it could not be the same as before. She said some nice things and ran out of the office. [13]

In October 1941 Koster said this was the toughest film he had ever worked on. He had an argument with Norman Krasna which resulted in Krasna quitting the film with 40 pages still to be written. Richard Carle died after working in the picture for three weeks. He was in every scene and they all had to be shot again with Walter Catlett in the role. Then Durbin became ill for four weeks; they shot around her for five days then had to stop production. When she came back Laughton fell ill and there was another delay. An electrician fell from a scaffolding on the set and broke a leg and another was burned. Pasternak signed to go to MGM and Koster was getting divorced. [14]

Koster later said he thought Durbin looked at her most beautiful in this film because of Rudolph Mate's photography. [15]

Filming did not finish until September. Cummings had to go work on King's Row during the shoot. [16]


In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called the film "light and unpretentious fare" and "should please—as they say—both young and old. It's the perfect '8-to-80' picture." [17] Crowther singled out the performances of Charles Laughton, who plays cupid, and Deanna Durbin. Crowther wrote:

Henry Koster, who directed the picture and has directed most of Miss Durbin's better films, certainly knew how to get the best out of Mr. Laughton, that man of great renown. For this is one of the sharpest performances the old boy has given in years ... Mr. Laughton plays with flavor, mischief, humor and great inventiveness. He knows how an old man would behave—and he never carries it too far. Under a perfect make-up, you'd hardly know it was Mr. Laughton—which is saying a lot. [17]

Regarding Durbin's performance, Crowther wrote, "Miss Durbin is as refreshing and pretty as she has ever been and sings three assorted songs—including a Tchaikovsky waltz—with lively charm." [17]

Durbin later said the film "was handed to Charles Laughton. He was marvellous in the picture and the fact that we remained very close friends even though we were both aware of "Eve" being a Laughton not a Durbin film, shows how fond we were of each other." [18]

Awards and nominations

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  7. Schallert, E. (1939, Jul 05). "DRAMA" Los Angeles Times
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  10. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1941, Mar 21). "Deanna Durbin to appear with Charles Laughton in 'Almost an Angel' at Universal" New York Times
  11. Schallert, E. (1941, May 28). "Koster will continue as Durbin film guide" Los Angeles Times
  13. Pasternak, Joe (1956). Easy the Hard Way. Putnam. p.  182.
  14. "Koster Who Used to Be a Painted Will Make Them in Color from Now On". Variety. October 8, 1941. p. 4.
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  18. "Letter from Deanna Durbin to William Everson". April 1990. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2022.