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What a movie! It's the cinematic ideal, the standard by which
subsequent films are judged, at least in terms of acting and dialogue.
Maybe the camera, which does nothing but sit there as the actors act,
could have been made a little less static. But the story screams stage
play, which implies lots of talk and not much "action". The film
doesn't pretend to do all things. But what it does do, it does
As Margo, Bette Davis gives what I would consider one of the best performances, if not the best performance, in any film I have ever seen. She truly becomes Margo, that "fixture of the theater", so beloved yet so insecure. And as Eve, "the mousy one, with the trench coat and the funny hat", breathy Anne Baxter proves adept at subtleties that allow her character to change gradually over time.
Then there's George Sanders who effortlessly slips into the role of witty, urbane, pompous Addison DeWitt, columnist magnifico, a man whose high opinion of himself allows him to declare to us, as viewers, that he is "essential to the theater". Celeste Holm and reliable Thelma Ritter give topnotch performances as well.
And the Mankiewicz script, which tells the story of a group of theater people, is heavy on dialogue, but it's totally believable, as characters talk shop and interrelate, by means of suitable verbal conflict and subtle subtext. Even more than that, the dialogue is witty and clever, with tons of theatrical metaphors, like when Bill (Gary Merrill) angrily tells Margo: "And to intimate anything else doesn't spell jealousy to me, it spells a paranoid insecurity that you should be ashamed of." To which Margo just as angrily spits out: "Cut, print it, what happens in the next reel? Do I get dragged off screaming to the snake pits?"
One of my favorite scenes has several people sitting on a stairway at a party. A curvaceous but bird-brained Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe), "from the Copacabana school of acting", desires another drink. "Oh waiter!", she yells out. Addison schools her: "That isn't a waiter, my dear; that's a butler." To which she fires back: "Well I can't yell 'Oh butler', can I? Maybe somebody's name is Butler". Addison then concedes: "You have a point, an idiotic one, but a point."
I'm not sure I really like the characters in this film. Generally, they're self-absorbed, vain, haughty, and backbiting. They're not all that likable. And that would be my only serious complaint.
Otherwise, "All About Eve" is a film that excels at great language and great acting. If ever there was a film that deserves the status of "classic", this is surely it.
They say that talk is cheap but you wouldn't believe it listening to
the pearls that drip from the mouths of the characters in this, the
greatest of all the dialogue-driven comedies to have come out of
Hollywood, (at the time it was nominated for a then record 14 Oscar
nominations and won 6). It opens with a monologue that introduces all
the leading players that is at once literate and cinematic at the same
time and you know instantly that his is, above all, a movie to listen
to. (What film-buff doesn't quote its screenplay ad-nauseum; gay men,
at least according to "The Boys in the Band", are said to know the
script by heart). And while drag queens the world over have always
based their Bette Davis imitations on the character of Margo Channing,
(Davis' greatest role and her greatest performance), the film is never
merely camp. The acerbic wit that runs through the film always has a
ring of truth to it; the characters, overblown as they are, are always
The acting alone is to die for. Can you believe that other actresses were once considered for the role of Margo? (Claudette Colbert?). Davis makes it her own not by acting Margo but by being Margo. I can't think of another role more indelibly suited to an actress than this. In a lesser film she might have swamped her co-stars but Mankiewicz, who wrote and directed, gives everyone equal credence.
Anne Baxter was never better than as the poisonous Eve; Celeste Holm, wonderful as the clipped, sophisticated Karen; George Sanders oozing epigrams as if from every pore as the screen's most famous critic, Addison DeWitt, (what a name!). These were career-best performances and in smaller parts, Thelma Ritter's cynical, wise-cracking Dresser, Birdie, and Marilyn Monroe's vacuous Miss Caswell, ('a graduate of the Copocobana school of dramatic art'), are just as unforgettable. In the seventies someone had the, not very bright, idea of turning it into a Broadway musical called 'Applause'. While not half-bad you still came away feeling you had seen a karaoke version of "All About Eve".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**************this might contain spoilers**********************
The movie Perfect Stranger opened today and as many critic noted the script was not up to standard. But then again one is always reading how today's script's just don't cut it. And one wonders why? Surly today's directors can draw upon previous movie scripts if no more than to see how well they are constructed. And no script was more in it's craft that Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve. I could also point out Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity and a few others but All About Eve is one one Mankiewicz's best, along with A Letter to Three Wives and the charming People Will Talk. But, as many a poster knows All About Eve garnered 14 academy award nominations, winning 6. Bette Davis was robbed! Sure, Gloria Swanson was dazzling in Sunset Boulevard but she didn't have the competition Miss Davis had in All About Eve. There was Anne Baxter reprising a similar role she played in the 1944 film Guest in the House. And George Sanders playing a variation of his role in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think the academy members gave him his award for his magnificent body of work. His award was well deserved. But miss Baxter couldn't hold a candle to Miss Davis who essayed her role in 14 days. And out of sequence. The first scene filmed for the movie was Miss Davis encountering Addison De Witt in the lobby of the theatre. The producers could only get the theatre for a certain time not on it's schedule so did what it had to do. Film that scene. The interior of the theatre scene was filmed at a later date. Many people don't know that Hollywood is a very small town. And the academy award members is not a large body at all, maybe a little over two thousand. But at that time the members had long memories and since Miss Davis was no longer Queen of Hollywood let alone under a contract to a major studio they knew they had no allegiance to her. She had stepped on too many academy members toes, and some still felt the sting. Gloria Swanson, well, she just came out of retirement for this one film and so they felt no allegiance to her, either. Neither studio backed the two stars. And the award went to Judy Holliday for a very boring movie called Born Yesterday. A role that Miss Holliday had performed on Broadway many many time. It's hard to watch Born Yesterday today and you really wonder why the members didn't give the academy award to Miss Davis. All About Eve is a timeless movie, a classic and a gem and the towering performance in the entire film is by Bette Davis. To go further in the case of vendetta, the members did give Katherine Hepburn an award for her unforgettable performance in The Lion in Winter but to make sure Davis couldn't catch Hepburn she got another award for the insipid Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a role not worthy of an academy award. Still, Miss Davis somehow comes out a true winner when all one has to do is to watch All About Eve. We are her academy award.
Along with "Sunset Boulevard" and "The bad and the beautiful" this is the best film about Hollywood behind the masks and all the glamor of theater and film. Extremely stagy, but Bette Davis was never better, and George Sanders is as always deliciously slimy and arrogant to the max; only Baxter is not quite convincing as the star to be. But it does not really matter because the direction is great, and the dialog is amazing all the way. A real roller-coaster of a movie that contains both bundles of laughter, and some truly terrifying moments as well. Davis has the line of a lifetime that expresses the essence of the film: "Fasten your seat belts! It's gonna be a bumpy night!"
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"
Maybe, stretching a point, this movie could have been called 'All About
There've been a number of films that explore the passion for success on the stage: Stage Door (1937) and A Star Is Born (first made in 1937 and made several times thereafter) being two of the most notable. And, other films have also taken an introspective look at the machinations of the acting profession The Player (1992) and even the goofy, but entertaining, Get Shorty (1995).
This one, however, is the definitive voyeuristic analysis of why actors will do anything to get to the top, for three reasons. First, it has a script that is flawless in its construction, logic and plot development; to use a hackneyed phrase it all hangs together seamlessly, showing and telling, with three different voice-overs the depths to which some go to reach the heights of narcissistic glory. Second, such a film required a strong hand to keep the actors in check, to prevent it from descending into farce, and that's why Joe Mankiewicz was needed; well, it was his script, anyway so who better to direct, with his fine record of films? And, third, the main protagonists: never before, I think, has a script followed so closely the juxtaposition of a true star (Bette Davis) in her waning years, playing an actress in her waning years, and being challenged by a relative newcomer (Anne Baxter), playing a newcomer challenging the aging star. Such delicious irony, I think, is rare to see on screen. Add to that, a collection of actors (George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Celeste Holm, the irrepressible Thelma Ritter) of the time who ably and professionally flesh out a drama about the reality of life in fiction.
Perhaps even more interesting than the actual film would have been a documentary filming the action on the sets, as the film was made... One can only dream, I guess, to have been a fly on the wall.
A word about the dialog: checking the above link for Quotes, I see that all of the lines I rate as some of the best I've heard, all show up in the list which is, also, one of the longest list of quotable film quotes I've seen. If you're hesitating about seeing this film, just scan through those quotes to get a sense of what is in store.
As implied, the direction from Mankiewicz and the acting particularly Davis, Baxter and Sanders are riveting. Bette Davis is the personification of diminishing self-confidence as the onset of age dominates and depresses; Baxter is almost sociopathic in her portrayal of naked ambition disguised as sycophantic concern for one and all, but particularly for those who will advance her ambitions; and George Sanders does give the performance of his career and deservedly received the award for Best Supporting Actor. Other actors (Dick Powell or Claude Rains, for example) could have played that role, for sure; Sanders, however, does such a good job, it's a though the character of Addison DeWitt (what a play on word sound Addison, the wit and critic, given a name that sounds like a New Yorker's disparaging put-down. Was Mankiewicz having a bit of fun at New York's expense?) morphs into George Sanders completely. And, vice-versa...
So, treat yourself to a filmic experience that you'll never see repeated for obvious and sad reasons. But also, this type of narrative is long gone from the Hollywood scene: talky movies are box-office death these days, as we all know unless you're in a Phone Booth (2002) or on a Cellular (2004).
One can only hope that nobody attempts a remake of this masterpiece. Highest recommendation...
"All About Eve" is the kind of movie that blows your mind, not because
of special effect or something like that, but because of what movies
are all about, a great direction, a great screenplay, and great acting.
Stage star Margo Channing(Davis) is friend to playwright Lloyd Richards(Marlowe) and his wife Karen(Holm), in love with director Bill Samson(Merill), and the idol of Eve Harrington(Baxter) who becomes her secretary-aide. Eve begins to dominate: she sends Bill Margo's birthday wishes and arranges a party for him, at which point Margo explodes. Eve becomes Margo's understudy and, when Margo misses a performance, critic Addison DeWitt gives her rave reviews while making acerbic remarks about aging actresses like Margo.
In it's first scenes, you can see an unusual style in this kind of movie, and it doesn't look old, even nowadays. The plot is not very entertaining, but the dialogues and the acting grabs your attention, and some quotes leave you speechless to describe how good they are, and it's memorable scenes, like the dialogues between Eve and Bill about the theater, and the last scene, which is probably the best one, are awesome.
The acting is almost perfect by all it's cast, except for Marilyn Monroe's short appearance, that with three or four lines, can show that she is not in the same acting level of the rest of the cast. Bette Davis is what really stands out (Although George Sanders as DeWitt is almost as good as her), she's funny, and know where to show her emotions, and when to hide it.
Verdict: Almost everything works, and it's a classic that should not be missed.
What was I pleased about? I am still young in age and only recently decided
to start viewing the classics, the movies everyone loves. When I sat down to
watch All About Eve, I knew I was watching a film that so many others
imitated and were inspired by. The screenplay is what everyone praises about
the film, but I found the acting to be the film's biggest strong point.
Bette Davis and Anne Baxter gave the best performances of their lives and
it's a shame that neither one won an Oscar, though both were nominated. A
great film, a masterpiece, to say the least. Won 6 Academy Awards including
Best Picture (1950) and Best Director. Film is also #16 on AFI's 100
Greatest Films list.
The story of an actress in decline, past her prime, offered at the last
moment to an actress who herself was in decline and past her prime. The
parallels between fiction and reality could not have been more blurred
as they were during the creation of what has been considered to be one
of the greatest movies about the theater and one of Bette Davis' most
indelible performances. Starting from the link between Davis and
Elisabeth Bergner via a remake Davis acted in 1946 called A STOLEN LIFE
-- itself a version previously performed by Bergner, and snowballing
into the anecdote that Bergner herself had been the apparent victim of
an unusual admiration by a young female actress of whose identity and
life little is known (unless you read Sam Stagg's book "All About All
About Eve"), ALL ABOUT EVE is as interesting -- and at times, even more
so -- as to its backstory to what was presented on screen as the final
By 1949 Bette Davis was strictly on the way out. She had been in a 4-year slump with movies that were failing commercially even when they still got fair to good reviews, with the notable exception of BEYOND THE FOREST in which Davis played a woman much too young for her age and donned a black wig that made her look even older. Many of the roles Davis (later) admitted as to wanting to have played while she was still at Warner Bros. were going to her professional rival Joan Crawford; indeed, Crawford, relegated to second fiddle at MGM with hand-me-down roles Norma Shearer rejected, and coming out of her strong debut at Warner's with MILDRED PIERCE, a role Davis herself rejected and one that gave Crawford her only Oscar win, was now getting the better pictures at Warner's. From MILDRED PIERCE to FLAMINGO ROAD, Crawford was back on top, if at least temporarily so.
Such a thing must have made Davis mad. Seeing that the camel's back had been broken with the failure of BEYOND THE FOREST, she was now a free agent, but needed work. PAYMENT ON DEMAND was a mostly forgotten film she'd made which did not receive a release until the 1951, and was so far the only job offer she was getting. The notorious story as to how she got the role of Margo Channing -- where Claudette Colbert sprained her back -- is the stuff of Hollywood legend, but it ensured Davis one more chance to assume a major role in a major movie. What she possibly didn't know was that this would be the one that would define her as a screen icon -- forever she'd be quipped with her most quoted line from this film: "Fasten your seatbelts -- it's gonna be a bumpy night." And she couldn't have foreseen that on set of ALL ABOUT EVE she'd also meet and marry the man who played her lover on screen: Gary Merrill.
There is so much that can be spoken about this timeless classic. It's such an iconic movie, a thing of elegant beauty that hasn't been repeated since and one of the most quotable movies of all time. Again, highly recommended and a must-read is Sam Stagg's book which tells everything, down from the casting list for each role (at one point Gertrude Lawrence and Joan Crawford were up for Margo Channing), wardrobe, stories as told by the actors themselves, Celeste Holm's resentment of Davis on the set -- a thing that was probably Davis' fault, since she wasn't known for being social and Holm from then on took great offense and to this day remains offended. And on and on. Snippets of dialog that never made it into the film is presented in the book, and it's understandable: it would have bogged down the story a bit much. (Would it that Mankiewicz had done the same thing with his dialog in CLEOPATRA!) A fascinating book.
And a fascinating movie that over a half a century later can still be seen for what it is: a scathing portrayal of backstabbing, backstage, and a complex study of a professional and social climber and what she will do to ensure success. Full of in-jokes that have to be heard to be believed, and one of the oddest pairings of a male-female dynamic in Anne Baxter and George Sanders who play a game of cat and mouse throughout with a terrific, sadistic denouement, it's one of the essentials, a movie that has to be studied in order to admire movies, not because of its visuals -- if anything, ALL ABOUT EVE fails in presenting ground-breaking visuals and opts for a play-like feel -- but for its entirety. Razor-sharp performances from everyone -- ranging from the film's major parts, played by Davis herself, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Gregory Ratoff, Hugh Marlowe, to the minor players -- Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Bates, and Randy Stuart (or THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN fame).
All About Eve is truly one of the wittiest and classiest films ever made! The screenplay is superb and the actors are all divine, especially Bette Davis in her best role ever! A real gem, a true classic.
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