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All About Eve
IMDB rating:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis as Margo
George Sanders as Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm as Karen
Gary Merrill as Bill Simpson
Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff as Max Fabian
Barbara Bates as Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe as Miss Casswell
Thelma Ritter as Birdie
Walter Hampden as Aged Actor
Randy Stuart as Eve's Pal on Telephone
Craig Hill as Leading Man in 'Footsteps on the Ceiling'
Leland Harris as Doorman
Storyline: Aspiring actress Eve Harrington maneuvers her way into the lives of Broadway star Margo Channing, playwright Lloyd Richards and director Bill Sampson. This classic story of ambition and betrayal has become part of American folklore. Bette Davis claims to have based her character on the persona of film actress Talullah Bankhead. Davis' line "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" is legendary, but, in fact, all of the film's dialog sparkles with equal brilliance.
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Icons On The Verge
As close to perfection as they come. A film than can be viewed again and again without ever getting tired. Bette Davis's Margo Channing is a film icon of major proportions. A point of reference. Her fear of the abyss is as human as it is at the center of this selfish, insecure, sacred cow. She is surrounded by some other sensational women. Thelma Ritter, Celeste Holm, Anne Baxter and in a tiny but telling part, Marilyn Monroe - a graduate from the Copacabana school of dramatic art. Wittily prophetic. George Sanders is another piece of extraordinary casting and writing. "I'm essential to the theater" Indeed. And here is a film that has become essential to anyone who loves movies"
Just Brilliant!
Brilliantly acted and cleverly characterized, with sparkling dialogue that mercilessly parries the gloss from the New York theater world's highly sophisticated veneer, "All About Eve" is a scintillating comedy of manners that compels rapt attention for the whole of its 2¼ hours. We like George Sanders, pointing out Gregory Ratoff to his escort, Marilyn Monroe (whom the script describes as "a member of the Copacabana school of acting"), with the words: "There's a real live producer, honey! Go and do yourself some good!" And the final scene, in which Sanders asks Barbara Bates, "Do you want some day to have an award like that of your own?" — "More than anything else in the world!" she answers. "Then you must ask Miss Harrington how to get one", he replies. "Miss Harrington knows all about it!"

It is often complained of Mankiewicz's work that it is too stagey and too talkative, that there is not sufficient movement. There is some justice in this charge in the consideration of such films as Five Fingers, The Quiet American, House of Strangers, and Dragonwyck; certainly Mankiewicz's two spectacles, Guys and Dolls and Cleopatra, are much improved by sharp editing. But in his best films, The Late George Apley, A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve, People Will Talk (which I regard as his masterpiece — it was too off-beat, unfortunately, for contemporary audiences or critics to appreciate), and The Barefoot Contessa, any trace of over- talkativeness is more than offset by the range and variety, the unusualness of the characters. Moreover, it is the characters themselves that determine the plot — not the fate or some external force.

Thus, in All About Eve, Margo Channing is the victim of her egocentricity, Sampson the victim of his own cynicism and Richards, the victim of his own ingenuousness. Eve Harrington is cunning and ruthless enough to exploit these traits in her climb to stardom. Besides Mankiewicz's two awards, All About Eve also won statuettes for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Best Costumes and Best Sound Recording. Also, producer Darryl Zanuck won the Thalberg Memorial Award for consistent high-quality production over the previous three years.

The film also won the New York Film Critics' Citation for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Actress (Bette Davis). Actually, I thought that Miss Davis' performance, fine as it was, was overshadowed by Anne Baxter's interpretation of the scheming Eve. To cover with a winning veneer of innocence a character that would not stop at blackmail or adultery to win stardom, cannot have been an easy assignment for a young actress; yet Miss Baxter brought it off flawlessly.

OTHER VIEWS: I'd had the general idea for All About Eve in mind for a long time. But I never had a middle, a second act. Then our New York office submitted a short story by Mary Orr called "The Wisdom of Eve" — later a radio script — and I had my second act. Incidentally, Zanuck deserves some credit for what happened. He was the only studio head in town with the courage and intelligence to try new things. I don't think I could have made this picture on any other lot but 20th Century- Fox. -- J.L.M.
two great performances
In June, actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is the youngest to win the Sarah Siddons Award. Flash back to October, shy Eve is waiting outside of the theater for Margo Channing (Bette Davis) after her lead performance. The playwright's wife Karen Richards notices her there as always after every performance and invites her backstage. The obsessed fan tells them that she lost her husband in the war. Eve insinuates into Margo's life first by moving in and then becoming her assistant. Slowly, Eve schemes to undermine Margo and take over her place.

This is one of Bette Davis' greatest role. She is pitch perfect as the aging star. Then there is Anne Baxter who personifies innocence at the start. It's a bit of a shock to see her spiral in her ambitions. It dawns on the audience that they've been had. These two great performances anchor a compelling story of the rise and fall of stardom.
Superb drama
Superb drama.

The story of a woman, Eve (played by Ann Baxter), who ingratiates herself into the social circles of a famous theatre actress, Margo (played by Bette Davis), and her theatre-centric friends. After a time it starts to look as though Eve's motives and methods aren't as innocent as they seem...

A great story of manipulation, social politics and ambition. While you think you can see how everything ends up, how they get there is still very interesting. Plus, there's a twist or two in store...

Superb performance by Bette Davis as the curmudgeonly, jaded Margo. While Eve might be the character in the title, Bette Davis gets the most screen time. Just about every line she utters drips with cynicism and is worth a soundbite/videobite. Very quotable.

Ann Baxter is great as Eve. Good support from George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe and Thelma Ritter. Marilyn Monroe also has a minor role.

Davis and Baxter got Best Leading Actress Oscar nominations for their performances (losing to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday). Holm and Ritter got Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations (losing to Josephine Hull for Harvey).

An absolute classic.
Great screenplay acted out by great performers
Some films earn their place in the canon due to the importance they had at the time of their release. All about Eve was no doubt important, but it also holds up better today than many movies released this decade. It's wit is just as sharp, and the performances are still top notch. It's a movie about hunger for power, staying relevant, and realizing that nothing lasts forever - all of which are still interesting themes today. (Staying relevant will maybe never lose its relevancy.) While the cast is stellar all around, Bette Davis' performance really stands out as just amazing. She's the highlight of any scene she is in, and when she's not a part of the scene, you miss her. Much of it is because she really captures the character (which might have been easy for her), but also because of the writing. So many movies around this time has excellent dialogue. It's like they didn't care if it was realistic at all, it was more important that it was good.

There's only one scene I really object to, and with a fear of spoiling it, I'll say it's a scene between DeWitt and Eve in hear bedroom near the end, where Eve's reaction feels either over done (which does not match her character at all), or, if meant to be genuine, seems uncharacteristic of her. Perhaps it's just not aged that well? If so, it's unlike the rest of the movie.
All About Eve
All About Eve is a realistic portrayal of backstage Broadway theater, with a classic story structure centering on the aspiring, conniving young actress developing a relationship and using her wiles to attempt to replace the aging diva. The movie is set behind the scenes of the theater, and the story revolves around deception and ego.

The cinematography, lighting and set design, are all designed in a realistic manner, without any over the top elements. Costumes and makeup for each film are similarly very realistic.

Bette Davis is superb in her performance as the aging diva Margo Channing. The dialog and acting performances are spectacular.
"Funny the things you remember and the things you don't."
Bette Davis is just fantastic. I've never been as enamored with an actress, past or present, as Bette Davis. Many male actors have stayed on my radar for years, but Bette Davis is alone among the women. All About Eve tells the story of an aging actress and a young woman that will do anything to take her place. The 1950 film starring Anne Baxter and George Sanders with Davis, was an interesting character study into the lives of those most involved with acting and the theatre. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve really delves into the relationships between writers, actors, directors, and those they love exposing the side of the industry, rarely seen by those on the outside.

Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is a Broadway star, heavily sought after by the best in the business. Margo has become increasingly concerned with her advancing age. She focuses on aging constantly and is worried her career is on the brink of a plummet. One day, waiting at the stage door of one of Eve's performances, a young girl named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is hoping to meet the star. When she happens upon Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), a member of Margo's inner circle, Eve edges her way in for a meeting backstage with Margo. Eve blows Karen away with her knowledge of Margo's performances, as she has seen every performance of Margo's current play. Eve astounds backstage when she meets director, and Eve's boyfriend, Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill), playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) as she tries to wrangle a spot closest to Margo. After a successful meeting, Eve begins working for Margo and subtly taking apart Margo's life by the seams, all the while looking as if she is simply a doting fan. Eve fools everyone, with the exception of Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). DeWitt can be somewhat ruthless himself but refuses to see Margo be taken down by trusting a fan too much. Addison DeWitt takes control of the situation and keeps Eve under his wing protecting Margo at the same time. After Eve is accepting DeWitt's strong suggestion to vacate, she meets a young woman who calls herself Phoebe, willing to emulate her every move.

I've covered the fact that I really enjoy watching Bette Davis. Davis is a one-of-a-kind actress and we really haven't seen one like her since. An ensemble piece, All About Eve boasts brilliant performances from all involved. As wonderful as each performance was, George Sanders was the one that consistently steals the show. Each scene he is in, Sanders is just captivating and by far the standout, for me. The first couple times I watched All About Eve, I found the film nearly perfect. I almost always love ensemble pieces and enjoyed this one each time I watched it. This time, looking at the film as critically as I ever have before, it didn't quite measure up like it has in previous screenings. As exceptional as All About Eve is, it's one that doesn't replicate the initial viewings as well as some other films. Perhaps it's because there's no surprise factor after you see the film once and know what Eve is up to, but this viewing just doesn't measure up as its previous viewings, for me. All About Eve, a wonderful Bette Davis vehicle with a splendid ensemble cast, is still deserving of its status, and a wonderful Best Picture winner.
A masterpiece of old-style theatre back-stabbing with a cherished, hand-picked cast.
THE definitive saga of backstage brouhaha ever dished out by Hollywood. A triumph of screen-writing, never will one see such ripe, acrid dialogue spewed out like this again -- every indelible scene gloriously stained with classic one-liners. An actress wanna-be looking for her big break carefully worms her way into the glamorous life of a legendary Broadway star, then tries to supplant her privately and professionally.

A sterling, incandescent cast provides the fire and music to this concerto of theatre attitude. Bette Davis knew she was handed a dream role when she was cast as Margo Channing, the indomitable diva caught up in the throes of mid-life crisis both on- and off-stage. Not willing at all to deal with it tactfully, she makes life a living hell for anyone within knife-throwing distance. This juicy, once-in-a-lifetime part turned Davis' own flagging middle-aged career back on its feet, especially coming on the heels of one of her biggest "dumps" ever, "Beyond the Forest." Remarkable as it may seem, Bette was not the first choice here, replacing an injured Claudette Colbert. With all due respect to Colbert, Bette Davis was BORN to play Margo Channing. A mauling lioness one minute, a coy, declawed pussycat the next, Davis relishes every wickedly bitchy scene she gets to tear into. Yet in her more introspective moments, she evokes real sympathy for Margo (as only a true star can) especially when her character missteps. It's a resounding victory for the Queen Bee in every way, shape and form.

Her "supporting cast" also manage to create a buzz of excitement. Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe, known for their relative blandness, are splendid here in their respective roles as queen bee's lover and playwright. While Merrill's Bill Sampson tames Margo the woman with gutsy directness and virile passion, Marlowe's Lloyd Richards appeases Margo the star with flattery, great dialogue and a calm resolve. Worth watching, then, are their fireworks scenes with Margo when intelligence and restraint no longer work. Debonair George Sanders gives customary snob appeal and dry cynicism to his waspish, ultimately loathsome columnist Addison DeWitt, who swarms around Broadway's elite knowledgeable in the fact his lack of heart and poison pen yield exclusive rights and power. The most sensitive and sensible one in the collective bunch, the one lacking a true stinger, is Karen Richards (played wonderfully by Celeste Holm), Margo's best friend and confidante, who finds herself caught between the queen and a hard place when she accidentally makes a pact with the devil. Thelma Ritter couldn't be overlooked if she tried. An inveterate scene-stealer, she weathers strong competition this time in a movie crammed with clever conversation and pungent zingers. As coarse but well-meaning Birdie Coonan, a brash ex-vaudevillian now the queen's ever-loyal "drone", Ritter's character properly handles her boss's antics with amusing grit and backbone. On the periphery of this Broadway beehive is mop-faced Gregory Ratoff as an edgy, gullible, thick-accented producer, Marilyn Monroe as a hopelessly vacuous starlet, and Barbara Bates, as a novice schemer with a very bright future, all making their few scenes count -- especially Bates, who is forever enshrined in the film's stunning final shot.

The chief thorn in Margo's (and everybody's) side, and the other real star of this picture, is the queen's titular lady-in-waiting, Eve Harrington. As played by Anne Baxter, this role is probably the most delicate and difficult of all for the weight and believability of this drama falls squarely on her shoulders. Unfairly overlooked all these years by the flashier posturings of Davis, Baxter does a beautiful job of drawing initial pathos then panic as she slowly unveils her own lethal stinger. By film's end, Baxter is directly on par with her scenery-chewing co-star. Killer to killer. Champion to champion.

Six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay (also Mankiewicz) and Supporting Actor (George Sanders) went to this cinematic bon mot. Had Bette Davis and Anne Baxter not competed as Best Actress (Baxter refused to place herself in the Supporting Actress category), it would have drummed up two more awards to be sure.

Developing a faithful cult following over the years, this film deserves to be on everybody's "top ten" list.
Tremendously witty trap for post-war women, with Lavender Scare underpinnings
Friedan spoke of the "problem that has no name" — the demand of society that women give up the agency they had been demanded to accumulate to lubricate the wheels of the war machine with their factory work. No longer required as servants of warfare, they were supposed to be content with reclassification as unpaid and dependent family worker, because enough of "their men" had returned from abroad. As Smedley Butler so cuttingly detailed, war is a racket. When a racket moves an entire society then the sexes are going to get caught up. Hollywood, the propaganda vehicle in those days, needed to dress up the shabby role of "happy little housewife". And so, one sees slickly corrupted presentations of Friedan's problem.

You see, feminists like Friedan also were part of the trap. Instead of being able to fully comprehend that egalitarian gay relationships are not a threat to the foundation of society (e.g. its war profiteering and other machinations), even those who recognized the problems inherent in withdrawing the newly-found agency of women had to decry them in order to put a nice sheen on the "institution" of heterosexual marriage. Why? Because they didn't understand that only a small percentage of people are gay enough to want serious gay relationships in the first place. Think I'm joking? The former PM of Australia stated with a straight face that same-sex marriages, if legal, threatened the extinction of humanity! The "logic" was that same-sex relationships, presumably because they're more egalitarian, were so attractive to most people that they would abandon heterosexual relationships that are about reproduction (for taxes and other resources). There are several failures of logic and examples of ignorance in the Howard claim but the bottom line is that All About Eve uses that very viewpoint as its foundation for dramatic conflict.

The fight against the dreaded gayness causes all things to take place in this film. Eve's relentless hollow pursuance of stardom is due to her vapid lesbianism. She has no heart and seeks to put an award there. She and the gay man (critic) who she conspires with are "killers". In fact, she's not even fully human. She has a "feverish little brain" like a rat. She studies people, mechanically, like a serial killer — rather than a natural and warm woman who is interested in true love, what Margot transforms into. Lesbianism is just trickery, as when she and her lover conspired.

Margot, the quintessential harpy of Greek myth, is tamed by a younger man. This flip in the gender roles is part of the cleverness of the trickery happening. The common assumption, that younger women belong with older men, is reversed, a seeming improvement for female agency that comes at greater cost — her career. That loss of career, not accidentally, comes with her affirming that older women should leave the business because they're not beautiful enough anymore. Gone is the Margot who doesn't care how young the woman in the part is because of her talent and ferocity. Replacing her is Grandma Channing, who will somehow remain enchanting to the younger man once she has given up all the feminine wiles that made her enchanting – like her fantastic acting and her grande dame exaggeration. Bill sees into her true heart, though — the soft warm fuzzy one that stays in the kitchen to bake muffins.

Heterosexism has the word sexism in it for a reason. Almost no one uses the word for reasons, too. In this film, it is the tool for the promotion of sexism. The film's poster said it is about "women and their men". It's about the role of women now that their men are back from the abroad. That role is definitely not to be "strong women" who will be corrupted by lesbianism and the resulting feminist demands. It won't be to leave men floundering, bereft of female companionship, forced into the arms of other men — seeking art rather than child rearing. Make no mistake. The gay male character is purposefully put right next to Marilyn Monroe to make a point. His sophistication is shallow and self-defeating. Leads to a blind alley. By contrast, a virile red-blooded heterosexual man knows just how to treat a lady. The film is so slick that even Ebert was oblivious vis-à-vis that entire narrative is based on repudiating homosexuality (female agency being one of its symptoms) in favor of patriarchal heterosexual marriage. He gabbed about Channing as being a "universal type" and merely focused on mechanical aspects of filmmaking. People have been conditioned in the modes of seeing the world according to heterosexual patriarchal imperative. Also willful blindness? How any thinking viewer can miss obvious bits like Eve and another woman conspiring together and holding each other's bodies while doing it... Of course she was a lesbian! And, of course it's amusing to her for a gay man to claim that she's his property. It's amusing for a gay man to try to possess a woman in a patriarchal way. The perversion of the scene is obvious and intentional. Film cleverly lays out the Friedan problem in pretending that it's only a problem if one is gay. Reaffirms inferiority of feminine brain, when it comes to the Machivellian requirements of running the world; also shows gay man trying, and failing, to live up to duty as a man (woman under his control).

Davis is wonderful, despite these themes. She was in love with "Bill" then. The writing is cute with cutting sophistication. I can't escape from all the clichés, stereotyping, and backward beliefs it promotes. Example: Plain folks have common sense to see through nonsense artsy types are tricked by. Although he wrote that Hollywood "needed to drop its vendetta against them", the best Mankiewicz manages to do in this film is not have gays kill themselves (i.e. the Children's Hour). It just shows that all that their "hearts"' desire is folly.
Where are the stage performances?
All About Eve is all about Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. One an outspoken and uninhibited diva with a kind heart. She's always honest, even if it might hurt feelings, not in the least of herself. The other an innocent and naive wallflower that can turn into a skilled devious witch in the blink of an eye.

The male leads are somewhat interchangeable, alike in looks and behaviour. Exception is DeWitt, who is slick, distinguished and amoral and therefore a rather interesting character. The scenes in which he confronts Eve are among the highlights.

Marilyn Monroe has a small part, and, though we all know of her, eh, average acting abilities, she has a radiance about her that has future stardom written all over it.

Oddly enough, for a movie about the theatre, we hardly see any scene in which theatre performances are shown. These scenes might have been left at the cutting table, but more likely it has just been a matter of indolence or incompetence. For a story about two top theatre actresses it must be quite a challenge to deliver these stage abilities on the silver screen, but quite essential too. It's nevertheless an enjoyable movie, where the interesting plot and acting power of the two lead actresses will keep you in your seat.
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