All About Eve

Released:  1950

Cast:  Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Gregory Ratoff, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Bates

Oscar Wins:  Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Best Costume Design – Black and White (Edith Head, Charles LeMaire), Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Adapted Screenplay (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Sound Mixing (Thomas Moulton)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Actress (Anne Baxter), Best Actress (Bette Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm), Best Supporting Actress (Thelma Ritter), Best Art Direction – Black and White (George W. Davis, Lyle R. Wheeler, Thomas Little, Walter M. Scott), Best Cinematography – Black and White (Milton R. Krasner), Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean), Best Original Score (Alfred Newman)

SUMMARY:  The film opens on an awards ceremony honoring the best of Broadway:  the highest award is presented to Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter).  One of the members of the audience, critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), begins Eve’s story in a voiceover.  Following his narration, the film flashes back a year.  Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is one of Broadway’s biggest stars, but she is afraid that her age will cause the decline of her career.  After one of Margo’s performances, Margo’s best friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) notices a young fan outside the theatre, and brings her inside to meet Margo.  This fan turns out to be Eve, who wins over Margo and her friends with her sad life story.  Margo warms to Eve, and hires her as an assistant (irritating Margo’s maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter), who seems to be the only person who doesn’t like Eve).

Although Eve appears to be very helpful to Margo, it is gradually revealed that she is scheming to undermine Margo’s personal relationships and career.  Eve is even able to become Margo’s understudy, and is able to perform the role when Margo has to miss a performance.  There are a lot of theatre critics in the audience that night, and Eve becomes an overnight success.  Eve tries to further take over Margo’s life by seducing Margo’s boyfriend Bill (Gary Merrill), but he rejects her.  Eve next moves to Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), the writer of her newest play and the husband of Margo’s friend Celeste.  Addison, who has been helping Eve to further her career, is infuriated at how Eve appears to be using him.  He reveals to Eve that he knows all about her real past, and blackmails her into staying with him.  The film then moves back to the awards ceremony shown in the opening scene.

During her acceptance speech, Eve thanks Margo, Bill (Margo’s now-fiancee), Lloyd and Karen, who obviously have no love lost for Eve.  After the ceremony, Eve returns to her apartment, where she finds a young woman waiting for her.  This girl, Phoebe (Barbara Bates) mimics almost exactly Eve’s behavior when she first met Margo.

MY TAKE:  I really like this movie for a lot of different reasons.  First off, I love Bette Davis:  she’s a bad-ass.  Apparently, during filming she so intimidated a young Marilyn Monroe that Marilyn had to leave the set to throw up.  As someone who experienced a lot of ups and downs in Hollywood, Bette is especially believable as an actress who fears that her career is starting to end.  The love-hate relationship between Margo and Birdie is also very funny.

Secondly, the plot of this movie is great.  When it starts, you feel very sorry for the sweet and (seemingly innocent) Eve, who is only trying to be helpful.  It’s hard to believe that she could be up to anything sinister.  As the movie continues, though, you start to see that Eve really is trying to muscle in on Margo’s entire life.  My own feelings toward Eve changed along with those of the movie characters, and that the sweet disposition really is just an act (albeit a very, very good one).  Much to the delight of the viewers, Eve is unable to wreck Margo’s life, and actually ends up damaging her own when her schemes come back to bite her.  The ironic part is that while Addison instantly catches on to Phoebe, Eve seems totally unaware that she is now on the other end of what she did to Margo.

This movie is also impressive because of the performances of the actors, particularly the women:  this is the only film to have four female acting nominations (though none of them won).  All told, the movie was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, which was a record for the time.  Eve Harrington is also No. 23 on AFI’s list of Heroes and Villains, and the quote, “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night,” Is No. 9 on AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes.  All told, it’s an impressive movie as well as an entertaining one.

RATING:  It’s an awesome movie, and it has aged extremely well.


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