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Film Title

All About Eve

 Director

 Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Cast

  • Bette Davis as Margo Channing
  • Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington
  • George Sanders as Addison DeWitt
  • Celeste Holm as Karen Richards
  • Gary Merrill as Bill Sampson
  • Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards
  • Thelma Ritter as Birdie Coonan

Synopsis: A young, scheming and manipulative ingenue insidiously worms her way into her theatre idol’s social circle, armed with a cunning plan to replace her and take her acting crown from her.

All About Eve is the ultimate backstage drama, brimming with acerbic wit and as many quotable lines as that great playwright Shakespeare.  Starring the legendary Bette Davis in a role that fits her just like a glove, All about Eve is one of the most critical, wittiest and darkest insights into the word of show business and the ways in which you can become famous in an underhand way.

Flashbacks of a fake

The film begins with a scene of the theatre awards. As the camera pans around the room, the theatre critic Addison DeWitt delivers a knowing voice over that explains something about each of the principal characters that will appear in the film. This also gives an insight into his own character as he has a suave and slightly haughty voice.  When his voice over finishes, an award is presented to the eponymous Eve. As she accepts the award with an innocent and girlish bow, the film freezes and everyone else’s reaction to her acceptance is shown, mostly with a hint of disdain. The film then goes to a flashback to explain how the seemingly innocent and graceful Eve managed to accomplish this high and extremely prestigious honour.  This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie, as I like how the story starts at the end and then goes back to the beginning to explain what is happening in the present. The way in which the camera moves about the room as Addison gives his blunt view on each of the important characters is amazing.  The audience sees what Addison wants us to see and they see the characters from his viewpoint, as we don’t know anything about them except what Addison is telling us.

Margo’s monologue

But one of the best and most memorable moments in the film comes when after her car breaks down and she can’t make it to the theatre to perform, Margo opens up to Karen about herself and how insecure and full of doubt she is. I find this moment very reflective, as the character of Margo comes across as she does on the stage, perfect and outstanding.  Although she can be bitchy and defensive, beneath this façade she has the same troubles as everyone else. Her monologue is amazing in its honesty and shows her vulnerable side that she has hidden away from others to survive in the theatre industry. Her whole life is the theatre and she knows that she isn’t going to be young forever, so this adds to the melancholy tone of her monologue.  The last lines of her self-reflective monologue are especially revelatory of how much the theatre means to her, “Slow Curtain . The end”. This is clearly referencing the end of traditional plays or motion pictures.

Backstage bickering

One of the main aspects of the film that makes it so memorable is its caustic and witty screenplay. I especially love the part in which at a party Margo, who is starting to grow suspicious of Eve, delivers the now famous lines to her guests “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”.  This kind of cynical wordplay is heard throughout the film; it also helps make a satire out of the various unjust ways of becoming a star. The biting bitchery and numerous barbed exchanges between the characters in the film are just fantastic to watch.

Identity theft- theatrical style

The theme of identity is apparent in many ways throughout the movie. Eve makes numerous attempts to take Margo’s place as the queen of the theatre. She is her obsessive number one fan who will stop at nothing to become a star.  She is basically trying to take Margo’s theatrical crown. Eve will stop at nothing to become a star and she knows exactly how to get it.

The deceptive identity of Eve

Also, the ways in which Margo’s friends perceive Eve.  She is deceitful and ruthless but comes across as an adoring and naive young woman.  There are only two people who see through Eve’s lies at the beginning of the film, Addison and Birdie.  Later on in the movie, the others begin to see the real Eve behind the mask of innocence and how she has used them for her own personal gain.

The performances are uniformly excellent, especially those of Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. I find it interesting that one character is eventually getting older and her career is fading while the other is very youthful and her career is just about to begin. The eponymous Eve appears to have had a hard life and be a sweet and naive girl but her real motives are to become a big star no matter what the cost. Baxter brings a girlish charm to the conniving and cunning character of Eve, a trait that helps her character infiltrate her idol’s social posse with a charming and shy disposition. Thelma Ritter lights up the supporting cast and provides the cynical humour as Margo’s assistant, Birdie. Her clipped reply to Eve’s sob story when she meets Margo “What a story!  Everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end” provides a knowing quality to her, as she is the first to see through the young fan’s deception. Celeste Holm is glowing as the woman taken in by Eve, but ultimately used by her without her noticing.

Out of the few men in the film, George Sanders as the poisonous critic Addison stands out. He is pitch perfect as the caddish and dishonest critic who also sees through Eve’s sly deception but helps her ultimately become a star.

Even if you don’t like old movies, one cannot resist the charm and brutal wit in All About Eve.  If you want to watch a film with fantastic dialogue and equally outstanding performances, All About Eve is definitely the film for you.  Movie trivia buffs should look out for a cameo featuring Marilyn Monroe in one of her first movie roles.

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