All About Eve

  • Written and Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • October 13, 1950 (NYC)
  • Based on the 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr

A highly regarded but aging Broadway star encounters an ambitious young fan who maneuvers themselves into the star’s life which ultimately threatens their career and personal relationships.

All About Eve is the type of story that’s been done dozens of times since, but few have been done as effective as this. There are twists and turns along the way and there is a certain superb acting throughout by all involved. Going into this I only knew the title and some of the performers as well as it being considered a classic, but I had little other knowledge. I found the movie a little ‘meh’ during the start with as it set up the scenario. By the end I was thoroughly impressed and feeling that this was a movie I would easily watch again.

Bette Davis as Margo Channing is just bitter and angry. Her best days are clearly behind her, yet she still has all the talent and more that made her a Broadway star. The problem is that she’s not above at this point in her life lashing out at people and treating them like crap. Her talent gives her great power, but her personality leaves her position very weak.

Enter Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) who insinuates herself into Margo’s life on the pretense of being a devoted fan. If that is all she was then we wouldn’t have much of a movie. Margo is more than willing to allow in someone that idolizes her and so both are set on a path. Her vanity leads to her undoing.

Eve is perhaps one of my favorite movie villains in quite some time. She is intelligent and manipulative and extremely cunning. From the start to very nearly the finish the character manages to set up scenario after scenario that helps her as well as take down Margo without any real backlash on her. She has an ability to read people and situations and turn them to her best interest.

Eve’s traps are not obvious but carefully laid out. She plants the seeds for others to do her bidding and they fall right in line. By the time they realize what’s going on there’s no way they can get out of it without terrible consequences falling upon themselves. That is absolutely brilliant plot and character crafting.

We have a fantastic cast besides Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. Once you have a good movie-and this is a good movie-you need the talent to execute it and there is talent in this from start to finish. All About Eve co-stars George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates and Walter Hampden.

And how can there be a classic film of old Hollywood without Thelma Ritter in a part somewhere? That woman during her career gained a list of credits that would make anybody jealous. Aside from All About Eve, she was in Miracle on 34th Street, A Letter to Three Wives, The Mating Season, Rear Window, Pillow Talk, With a Song in My Heart, Pickup on South Street, The Misfits, and Birdman of Alcatraz. That there is a resume to be envied by any performer.

And we even have Marilyn Monroe in a small yet well executed on her part early role as starlet Claudia Casswell. To be honest Monroe’s character didn’t have much impact on the film overall but she more than managed to shine as bright as the more experienced players in this film. Despite her popular image today she had a lot of talent. She had great comedic timing which is on display here and some good dramatic chops as well which are only hinted in her minimal screentime.

Aside from the twist on the reality of Eve, the other good twist is how theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) figures it all out. Throughout the movie he is framed as a keen observer of humanity as well as being a bit of a cynic. He’s able to pick up on clues about people and things but keeps some of his realizations close until it benefits him. And how he turns the tables on Eve to protect himself is just one of the great moments in film.

It wasn’t too uncommon in movies back in the day for the villain to get their final comeuppance and that’s no difference with Eve. At the end of the movie Addison knowing full well what the young student (Barbara Bates) is really doing just lets it happen to Eve who did the same to Margo. While that certainly does get justice to the villain it leaves yet another villain to get justice.

This is a small thing but Margo’s line “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” really jumped out at me. I’ve heard it or some variation dozens if not hundreds of times in my life when watching something but as old as this film is it certainly jumps out at me as a possibility that this is where it all stemmed from. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said better than it was by Bette Davis.

All About Eve is essentially a flashback story. It opens with Eve receiving an award for her superb performance in a recent production. There is no hint of what the true Eve is like. That is revealed during the course of the film. It would’ve been rather lazy writing to lay out the truth of the character right away rather than craft the truth of the character during the course of the narrative. Going into this blind you would think early on that Margo is the true villain of the film and that her crappy character engineered her own downfall, but you would be wrong.

The direction and writing by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in this film is superb. The characters are authentic in their situations and there’s a strange believability about it all from start to finish. The theater may not be as big of a deal today as it once was, but you could certainly see some individual doing what Eve did to achieve stardom.

All About Eve is a fantastic bit of classic Hollywood moviemaking. It’s powerful, it’s creative, and it’s intelligent and it’s all done through story and amazing acting. If you haven’t checked out this classic film, you most certainly should. You will not be disappointed at all.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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