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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Life Begins at Eight-Thirty
Life Begins at Eight-Thirty
Fox Cinema Archives // Unrated // June 20, 2012
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 5, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
 
Taking a cue from Warner, Sony, and other studios, Fox has started a line of MOD (Manufactured on Demand) discs under the Fox Cinema 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 fired from that when he shows up soused. 
 
Unrepentant, he goes home to his New York apartment where his faithful but 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 playwright and 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 into his newest play.  Madden is a sensation in the small part, and soon the parts get bigger and bigger until he's offered the 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 her genetic defect?
 
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 other.
 


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 didn't 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 drunken 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 little screen presence and seems to disappear whenever Woolley is on the screen with him.
 


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, which is 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 magically disappear when it's convenient.  The film gains extra points for not taking the easy way out. 
 
The DVD:

 
Audio:
 
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 the dynamic range is rather limited due to the technology of the time.
 
Video:
 
 The full frame image is better than I was expecting.  The unrestored movie obviously comes from a very nice print and is clear with 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 time to time.
 
Extras:
 
Like most MOD releases, this does not contain any bonus features.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
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 they treat the main character's alcoholism in a realistic manner and don't come up with any easy solutions.  Ida Lupino and Monty Woolley do a solid job in the film too, and it's worth watching for their performances alone.  It comes recommended.
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