All About Eve (1950), Cinematic Perfection
Everything about All About Eve has to be stated in superlatives. It is an undoubted masterpiece, a classic in cinema history.
Widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, its acting, and direction are quite simply, brilliant, and the script by Joseph L Mankiewicz is both witty, acerbic and sophisticated. In short it is an incredible film, a movie masterwork in which everything fits together perfectly.
It is a backstage drama which offers a darkly funny meditation on fame and celebrity, and the ways, often less than honest, in which they can be achieved.
Consistently praised by critics both at the time of its release and subsequently, All About Eve was nominated for a then record 14 Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (for George Sanders), as well as Best Director and Best Screenplay awards for Mankiewicz. Nominations went to Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter, thus holding the record for most female acting nominations in a single film. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and appears at #16 on AFI's list of the 100 best American films.
Basic Story Line
'All About Eve's' main drama lies in the conflict between an aging star, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), and an ambitious, much younger upstart, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter).
The story is told in flashback from an awards ceremony for Eve where we are told by various participants about the guest of honor and how she entered and affected their lives. We soon learn a great deal about Eve - none of it very flattering.
The movie opens with an acceptance speech given by gracious young Eve Harrington and, as the camera pans over the audience Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) begins a narration which goes back in time to the real tale of how such success was achieved.
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We soon learn that Eve has shamelessly and cruelly manipulated her friends and colleagues to suit her own selfish ambition, while ruthlessly climbing to the top of her profession. The woman she chooses as her mentor, and whom she later double-crosses, is Margo Channing (Davis), a neurotically successful stage actress who has recently entered her forties and has become concerned about her advancing age.
Eve initially presents herself to Margo as a devoted fan who insinuates herself into the lives of the theater people she meets and soon becomes Margo's personal assistant, then her understudy. But its plain from the outset that she's not all that she seems to be. Margo's dresser, Birdie (Thelma ritter) is the first to see through Eve's sob story. Eve wins Margo's trust and repays it by worming her way into every aspect of Margo's life, both personal and professional. She goes on to deceive Margo's best friend (Celeste Holm), beguile her loyal but devious critic (Sanders) and vainly attempt to steal away her fiancé Bill (Gary Merrill, Davis's real-life husband.)
Unaware of the depth of Eve's deviousness and the extent of her machinations, DeWitt and the wife of playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), Karen (Celeste Holm) unwittingly assist in the young girl's rise to the top. Eventually, everyone wises up to Eve's duplicity, but not before she's left a web of betrayal and cold-hearted deceitfulness behind her.
Mankiewicz based his screenplay on a story by Mary Orr that first appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1946.
Bette Davis - Margo Channing
Sometimes a film performance is so compelling, so brilliantly executed that it becomes iconic and it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Bette Davis' performance as Margo Channing in All About Eve is one such performance. She puts all her talent to good use and is the hub around which the whole movie revolves.
She was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1908 and her early interest was dancing but then she discovered the stage. She studied drama in New York City and made her debut on Broadway in 1929. The following year she moved to Hollywood and after a short spell with Universal she signed with Warner Brothers. They soon realised they had a genuine star on their hands.
She was the first person to secure 10 Academy Award nominations for acting. She won 2, in 1935 and 1938.
Independent off-screen as well as on, her battles with studio moguls and other actresses, were legendary. With a career spanning six decades, few in the history of film can match her longevity and appeal.
She was married four times. Her death in 1989 made front-page news throughout the world.
Bette Davis took over the role of Margo Channing when Claudette Colbert suffered a back injury. It is difficult now to imagine anyone else in the part.
All About Eve Resources
- Bette Davis Biography on Hollywood's Golden Age.com
A short biography and appreciation of the great actress.
Anne Baxter - Eve Harrington
By the time she was 13 she had already appeared in a stage production and had garnered rave reviews from the tough Broadway critics which helped her gain entrance to an exclusive acting school.
After learning her trade in a number of smaller movies, she was chosen by director Orson Welles to appear in The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942, and she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1946's The Razor's Edge. As well as All About Eve she is also remembered for her portrayal in 1956 of the Egyptian princess Nefertiri in Cecil B. DeMille's award winning The Ten Commandments.
On December 12, 1985, Anne died of a stroke in New York. She was 62.
George Sanders - Addison DeWitt
After an unsuccessful South American tobacco venture, Sanders entered show business in London as a chorus boy, going from there to cabaret, radio and theatrical understudy. He made his film debut as the god 'Indifference' in the Alexander Korda production The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936).
He became established among the Hollywood acting elite with a n unforgettable performance in The Moon and Sixpence in 1943. Sanders was married four times. He continued to play mostly villains and cads until his suicide in 1972.
Celeste Holm - Karen Richards
Gary Merrill - Bill Simpson
Hugh Marlowe - Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff - Max Fabian
Barbara Bates - Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe - Miss Caswell
Thelma Ritter - Birdie