Taking a cue from Warner, Sony, and other studios, Fox has
started a line of MOD (Manufactured on Demand) discs under the Fox
Archives label. This program gives them
a change for fans to obtain solid copies of their more obscure catalog
titles. One of the titles in their first
wave of releases is the Ida Lupino/ Monty Woolley vehicle Life
Begins at Eight-Thirty, a melodrama that gets a little sappy
at times but is still a worth-while film.
Once a great actor of the stage, Madden Thomas (Monty
Woolley) has fallen as low as a thespian can fall.
Due to his constant drinking he's been
reduced to playing Santa Claus in a department store, and he even gets
from that when he shows up soused.
Unrepentant, he goes home to his New York apartment where his
lame daughter Kathy (Ida Lupino) waits to take care of him. Madden is helped up the stairs by a new
neighbor, Robert Carter (Cornel Wilde) who just happens to be a
recognized the aged actor.
Of course once Kathy and Robert see each other Cupid's arrow
strikes and the two quickly fall in love.
Robert decides to get Madden a job and writes a part for him
newest play. Madden is a sensation in
the small part, and soon the parts get bigger and bigger until he's
title role in a major production of King
Lear. The difficulty arises when
Robert gets an offer from Hollywood
to write movies and asks Kathy to marry him.
She's never known anything in life except poverty and taking
care of her
father and she's not sure if he can survive on his own.
Added to that is her lame leg, something
she's been told she had at birth. Can
she really get married when there's a chance any children will inherit
This is a good film, but not a great one. The
main problems have to do with the script
which veers into heavy melodrama a bit too frequently.
Every conversation between Kathy and Robert
is terribly weighty and grim. The couple
is never shown having fun or even enjoying each other's presence, so
it's a bit
hard to swallow when they announce that they're both in love with each
Ida Lupino does a good job in her role, though there is one
glaring flaw with her performance: she
doesn't have any trouble walking though she's supposed to be "lame." When Robert first discusses her disability
with her, I was wondering if he was talking metaphorically since Kathy
look like she had a handicap at all. Aside
from that she gives a serviceable performance.
Monty Woolley is excellent in his role. He plays it with
energy and vigor, throwing himself into the role and delivering his
insults wonderfully. The love interest,
Cornel Wilde, is a bit of a non-starter.
He reads his lines suitably and hits his marks, but he has
presence and seems to disappear whenever Woolley is on the screen with
The plot is enjoyable though and the troubles that they trio
face are more realistic than those posed in many dramas from the 40's,
a good thing. Though the ending is a bit
too tidy, the film stays grounded in reality for the most part. No one rushed in and declares "lets put on a
show" to solve Kathy's money problems and Madden's alcoholism doesn't
disappear when it's convenient. The film
gains extra points for not taking the easy way out.
The mono soundtrack is generally clean and clear with only
faint traces of background noise. The
dialog is easy to discern and the music comes through nicely, even if
dynamic range is rather limited due to the technology of the time.
The full frame image
is better than I was expecting. The
unrestored movie obviously comes from a very nice print and is clear
excellent contrast. The level of detail
is very good too. The only real problem
is some light cross colorization that appears throughout the film from
Like most MOD releases, this does not contain any bonus
While the film does get a little too melodramatic in parts and
veers into sappy in a couple of places, it's redeemed by the fact that
treat the main character's alcoholism in a realistic manner and don't
with any easy solutions. Ida Lupino and
Monty Woolley do a solid job in the film too, and it's worth watching
performances alone. It comes recommended.