Monday, 30 January 2012

"All About Eve" (1950)

"Fasten your seatbelts."
"All About Eve"

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (won the Oscar)
Running Time: 2 hours,  18 minutes
Random Fact: Gary Merrill and Bette Davis, who marry in the movie, went on to become real-life husband and wife after filming was done. All About Eve was also one of the first major movie roles for Marilyn Monroe.
Based on the short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr

Bette Davis .... Margo Channing (Oscar nominated)
Anne Baxter ..... Eve Harrington (Oscar nominated)
George Sanders ..... Addison DeWitt (won the Oscar)
Celeste Holm .... Karen
Marilyn Monroe .... Miss Casswell
There are moments when I realise how painfully underdeveloped I am as a writer and that moment is usually when I'm watching All About Eve. This story of rivalry and underhand bitchiness in the theatre world is perhaps one of the most fantastically witty scripts ever produced by Hollywood. All About Eve practically reeks of intelligence and fast-moving quips.

Filmed in 1950, All About Eve is, ironically, really all about Margo. Margo Channing, played by Hollywood legend Bette Davis, is a middle-aged theatre actress who, for years, has been the acknowledged queen bee of Broadway. Every major award, every major role, every sell-out performance, has been hers to command, but the price of fame has been a steep one - although she is rich, successful and respected, Margo has had to sacrifice a good deal of personal happiness to achieve her ambitions and, as she knows, she is still at the mercy of the critics and ambitious young actresses who want the life she has. And it's one critic in particular, the manipulative but superbly well-spoken Addison DeWitt (played by George Sanders, who many may remember as the voice of the velvet-toned Shere Khan in Disney's The Jungle Book) who takes great pleasure in needling Margo and her sense of superiority.

The story of All About Eve begins with what we'd probably call a stalker today. A young, obsessive fan of Margo's, called Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter), has been to the theatre every night for the last few weeks to watch Margo in her latest theatrical triumph as a feisty Southern belle. One of Margo's Society friends, Karen, has noticed this poor, bedraggled fan and brings her backstage to meet her idol. Eve tells a heartrending story about having lost her husband in the recent Second World War and how it is only the joy of theatre which allows her to escape her depression. Moved by her story and impressed by her apparent loyalty, Margo hires Eve to be her personal assistant. As the movie unfolds however, Margo begins to suspect that Eve may in fact be out to sabotage her. Eve's new friendship with Addison DeWitt and her cosy conversations with Margo's boyfriend and playwright-friends rile Margo's paranoia and insecurities. What follows is a wonderfully believable depiction of jealousy, cruelty, manipulation and, in one hilarious yet heartbreaking scene, drunkenness.

All About Eve is a brilliantly directed, brilliantly written and brilliantly acted movie. It's hard to imagine a movie so cerebral being made today by a major studio much less attracting the kind of excitement this one did back in 1950. Subtle, dark and elegant, it has some of the best one-liners in cinema history and every time I watch it, I find something new to enjoy. 


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