Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!
Perhaps the most famous Bette Davis line, from a movie stuffed with great lines. Mankiewicz gives us acerbic dialogue, sharp and glittery as a knife throwing display. One might wonder if the lines made the actors scintillate better or the other way round. George Sanders especially was a surprise, dripping acid as the penetrating self-aware critic, Addison DeWitt – a name that might have been lifted from a Restoration Comedy.
I’m Addison DeWitt. I’m nobody’s fool, least of all yours.
Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) manages to worm her way into the world of her idol, Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). She works her way up from personal assistant to understudy to star. She is not always as nice as she seems. But she has what is needed to suceed in the “theatuh”.
Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience – there’s theater. Donald Duck, Ibsen, and the Lone Ranger. Sarah Bernhardt and Poodles Hanneford, Lunt and Fontanne, Betty Grable, Rex the Wild Horse, Eleanora Duse – they’re all theater. You don’t understand them, you don’t like them all – why should you? The theater’s for everybody – you included, but not exclusively – so don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theater, but it’s theater for somebody, somewhere…
All About Eve got 14 Oscar nominations, a record not equalled until Titanic, forty-seven years later. Showered with Oscars, this wonderfully bitchy (and witty) comedy written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz concerns an aging theater star (Bette Davis) whose life is being supplanted by a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing ingenue (Anne Baxter) whom she helped. This also introduced audiences to a new young actress called Marilyn Monroe(sadly, she would die 10 years later) who, for all her sex-symbol status shall be clueless to acting to the end.
I mention this rather uncharitable remark since this movie is all about acting, and Monroe is way behind others in that department. We get three sterling performances from Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and from George Sanders and each delineate character differently and the film greatly takes off as a result.
It’s true that Bette Davis has the showier role in ALL ABOUT EVE, and she bites into her role and never lets go. Whereas Anne Baxter, in an understated, more subtle performance, really had the more difficult role and even Bette herself admitted so when talking about the film. Actually, Bette–in real life–was a lot like the diva Margo Channing. It was no great stretch for her to play the role as brilliantly as she does. There are stories about the behind-the-scenes making of the film indicating how Celeste Holm refused to speak with her except on camera and poor George Sanders was subject to one of her hissy fits at a party celebrating the film after he won his Oscar. A classic from Mankiewicz, a legendary screenwriter and the brilliant director of A Letter to Three Wives,The Barefoot Contessa, and Sleuth,Thelma Ritter also gets a chance to speak some dazzling lines.
Relish the climatic post-Award dinner scene in Eve’s apartment, after Margo has told her “You can always put that award where your heart ought to be.” Enter young actress, Barbara Bates, another “Eve” who worships the actress. The scene where she drapes Eve’s cape over her shoulders, Sara Siddons Award in her hands, admiring her reflection in a three-paneled mirror hinting of the sly ingénue who is out to climb over Eve given a chance.
The movie is an unforgettable study of a few women and their men. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and perceptive show biz dramas Hollywood ever made. (ack: Tom Keogh)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis Margo Channing
Anne Baxter Eve Harrington
George Sanders Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm Karen Richards
Gary Merrill Bill Sampson
Hugh Marlowe Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff Max Fabian
Barbara Bates Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe Claudia Casswell
Thelma Ritter Birdie Coonan
Walter Hampden Aged Actor (Speaker at Dinner)
Running Time: 138 minutes
* Best Film
* Best Director
* Best Supporting Actor (Sanders)
* Best Screenplay
* Best Costume
* Best Sound
* Best Actress (Baxter, Davis)
* Best Supporting Actress (Holm, Ritter)
* Best Art Direction
* Best Cinematography
* Best Editing
* Best Music
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