Movie Name: All About Eve
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date(s): October 13, 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Everyone knows all about Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). She’s the daughter of a farmer, a woman who lost her husband in the war, and went from an unknown to an award winning actress after falling in love with the stage. That is the story that everyone knows, but there is another Eve Harrington that only those close to her know. This is the story of Eve’s rise to fame after a “chance” meeting with her idol Margo Channing (Bette Davis) through her friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm). It is the story of how Eve went from simply helping behind stage to starring in a play written by Karen’s husband Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe) to being the star…and how Eve wasn’t afraid to hurt people along the way to do it.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve was a huge success. The film garnered one of the largest numbers of nominations in Oscar history. It was based on the short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr which first appeared in Cosmopolitan (May 1946) and was based on the life of the secretary of actress Elisabeth Bergner. It won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Best Costume Design—Black-and-White, Best Director, Best Writing—Screenplay, and Best Sound Recording with nominations for Best Actress (both Anne Baxter and Bette Davis), Best Supporting Actress (both Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter), Best Art Direction-Set Direction—Black-and-White, Best Cinematography—Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, and Best Music Score. The film has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry and is often listed near the top of “Best of Lists”. The line “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night” is also considered one of the greatest all time lines from film.
You could easily argue that many “old classics” are overrated and overblown. I think you’d have a hard time doing that with All About Eve. The story, acting, and great characters make this film continue to be fresh and a real winner.
The story is very classic. You have an example of a wolf in the fold with Eve Harrington. As a viewer you can see her evil nature (she’s often ranked as one of the best all time villains), but the people around her seem not to notice her plotting and deceiving ways. From lying about her past to plotting for her future, Eve will do anything to get her way. The story cleverly crafts the tale through the award ceremony and even shows that after the movie ends that Eve now could be the victim of someone gunning for her…it is a never ending cycle in theater.
Eve’s crafting nature and a few scenes have some critics painting her as the vengeful lesbian (with George Sanders as her homosexual companion who is also crafting). I don’t really buy this, and I see her more as a sociopath who really doesn’t have a connection to anyone. She’s the Dexter Morgan of the stage with no morality code…she’ll do whatever she has to do to get and keep what is hers.
Despite being based on stage, the story also has wide reaching applications to life in general. There are always going to be Eves and there are always going to be those so driven. Though it is set in the stage, it could easily be the film world (which is looked down upon in the movie, but TV is even worse) or the political stage. I can see a lot of All About Eve in the comedy Election which is set in a high school…it is unfortunately human nature which makes the story keep a hold on the audience even these later years.
The cast also doesn’t hurt the movie. Bette Davis was on a downslide when she was given the role of Margo (she replaced Claudette Colbert) and the movie helped save her career. Celeste Holm is good as Margo’s best friend who accidentally betrays her, but off-stage, Holm and Davis wouldn’t even talk to each other in a feud that carried on for years after the movie. Anne Baxter is strong as the evil Eve and ironically did replace Bette Davis on the TV series Hotel in the 1980s when Bette Davis had to drop out. A real scene stealer was Thelma Ritter as Birdie who can see through Eve’s act immediately and isn’t afraid to say it. Both Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe are rather generic as Margo and Karen’s loves, but George Sanders as the reporter who turns the tables on Eve is classic. The movie is also noted for one of Marilyn Monroe’s earliest roles as Sanders’ date at the party.
Visually, All About Eve does have some great shots, but also falters a bit. It doesn’t hurt the overall product, but it is noticeable at times. The movie has a really awkward chroma key shot of walking down the streets of New York (I wish these older films had just ponied up the money) but the movie also doesn’t set itself up for many dynamic locations or visuals.
All About Eve is a classic and one of the better Best Picture selections by the Oscars. The movie is fun, topical, and worth seeking out even today (today, however, Eve’s past could be figured out with a quick internet search…plus, she’d probably already have a YouTube acting page). The movie has had a lot of influence on other films and it is worth seeking out for this reason. Plus, you all probably know an Eve Harrington and maybe this will help you spot her before it is too late!
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