It Started with Eve (1941)

It Started with Eve (1941), directed by Henry Koster.

When fabulously wealthy, jolly tyrant Charles Laughton is on his deathbed he insists on meeting his future daughter-in-law. Hapless son Bob Cummings ("honest but weak") can't produce her immediately so he dragoons hat check girl Deanna Durbin for the job. Surprise! A pretty young woman in the house gets the old man's blood flowing and he perks up, maybe not dying after all. How to broach the truth while managing the real fiancée and her fierce pearl necklace-swinging mother?

This doesn't get listed in the top tier of screwball comedies but I have always been fond of it. Durbin, age 20 and with top billing, was about half way through her film career. She'd just left juvenile roles and handles the adult work deftly. They never allowed her characters to have any spice or sexual naughtiness; that would have blown too many fuses in the theater. She quit because she couldn't get good roles.

As always, Laughton is a hoot. He appreciates a pretty girl without being overly lecherous about it. He wants her around and plays matchmaker. Their mutual affection is really quite touching. The actor was only age 42 here.

Love the eccentric carved wood and stone mansion. Durbin plays piano and sings a few songs. Is she wearing a bra? (That scene where she pushes out the grand piano and takes off her jacket). Some very mild sex humor. Eternal butler Charles Coleman does a Churchill impression.

Mantan Moreland is the comical black railway porter typical of the period, but note the jokes are on the other characters. He has a race quip I don't remember hearing in film before: "High yellow: my favorite color!"