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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Recap: We begin at the end, were the young actress Eve Harrington is
presented with a prestigious award. There, the cast around her
remembers how it all came to this moment. How they found Eve around the
stage door, apparently the devoted fan. They took her in, gave her a
chance and she used it to all it was worth. Although being in the
company of prominent theatre professionals, and despite given an award
for a play later, Eve gives the performance of her life to play all
angles, to rise to the top, quickly and at all costs. Only writer
Addison DeWitt sees through her, but instead of revealing her he gives
aid with small advice, as another little project of his.
Comments: I find it is prudent to be careful when seeing old dramas, even when they are lauded and awarded as All about Eve is. They might be anything, a stellar classic or a boring slow movie that is just beyond me how everyone thinks it is so great. All about Eve is close to be the former, it is great, despite being quite long at 138 minutes (I believe). It is one of those movies where the sum is greater than its parts.
First off, and most important always, is the groundwork. The story. It is complex, intricate and not too apparent. It carefully examines its main characters, but not too quickly, it reveals small tidbits here and there, gives a small hint. It is a drama but seem to lend a lot of qualities how to develop a story from the genre of mysteries or crime. But also there is a hint, small but always there in the background of humor. A witty one-liner or remark or the behavior of a diva. It is a splendid story, keeping at least me in its grip during the entire run.
Second, there is the cast. Cast is nothing without a good story, but a good cast can let a story shine. This cast does. Anne Baxter is splendid as the coldly manipulating but oddly passionate Eve. Bette Davis is almost better, in part due to the more manic character of Margo. Supported by a good cast of Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe and, in my opinion (he did get an Oscar for it), especially George Sanders who plays the devious, equally manipulating, Addison DeWitt.
Not to mention Marilyn Monroe. She got a small role, really not very important to this story. She could have been excluded and not be missed. But with her looks, and her delivering her few lines it is apparent, at least in hindsight, that she would be a future star.
And everything just fits together. This is a true classic, a gem that is one of those you should see.
More and more classic Hollywood films are being forgotten by all but
the film buffs - sadly I fear the next generation of casual movie fans
may see very few pre-1960s films except Casablanca, Wizard of Oz,
Wonderful Life and perhaps Gone With the Wind.
If a fifth movie could be added to that list, it should be (but probably won't be) All About Eve. While much can and has been said about the superb acting, what makes this film so memorable for me is the writing. The story of Eve's diabolical ascent is simply so compelling and perfectly done that it's one of those rare perfect stories of fiction, the kind writers will be ripping off and using as inspiration for centuries. On top of a delightful story, the dialogue is crisp, intelligent, and in combination with the acting, almost realistic (of course, no one really talks like these people, but it would be a lot of fun if they did).
All About Eve is essential viewing. The opening narration is a bit boring and dated, and much of the ending is all too predictable from about halfway through, but other than that, anyone who likes an intelligent movie should be on the edge of their seat.
All About Eve is my idea of a perfect film,(and I am 17) beautiful and brooding at the same time. People consider this as one of the finest films ever made, and I cannot disagree. This and Shawshank Redemption are actually films that deserve to be in the top 250. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous, and the script is sharp and focused with great lines such as "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night". The direction is excellent, and this is further advantaged by a terrific cast, a very good subject matter and sumptuous costumes. I couldn't help being captivated by Bette Davis's performance as Margo Channing, her presence in the film is actually the film's main merit. Davis was an incredible actress, and while not exactly pretty compared to Maaureen O'Hara and Rita Hayworth and not very easy to work with at times, she always brought a sense of command to all her roles, especially in this film. I still think that All About Eve is her best film, I honestly do, and she is well supported by a terrific supporting cast with the likes of the idealistic Anne Baxter and the suave George Sanders. All in all, a beautiful film, that is a must-see, if you haven't seen it already. It is quite long, but it is well worth watching for Davis's performance. 10/10 Bethany Cox
Humdinger of a "backstage" movie, featuring writing, acting and
directing of the highest order. Made in 1950, this is a new type of
movie for a new decade...if that sounds fanciful, well, perhaps, but
certainly the biting realism and surgical-like exposure of the needs
and greeds of the theatrical fraternity (and sorority) transcends
anything I remember coming from Hollywood before this.
Like the very best page-turning novel, this movie compels you to watch, no make that witness, so caught up does the viewer get, scene succeeding scene as you absolutely can't wait to see just where the plot goes next, how the characters end up and even just for the next great line - they come in waves, breakers at that! Davis is magnificent, now fuller of figure, her looks fading - the 50's were not a great time for her as fashions changed in favour of "method acting", but she gives a fabulous multi-layered, almost valedictory performance, starting out as the caustic queen of all she surveys who's checkmated by the machinations of on-the-make not-so-innocent waif Anne Baxter in a career-defining role.
In truth it's all about Margo and Eve, but there's great support too from the whole ensemble, particularly George Sanders as the lewd, vile critic, who brings Eve to heel and Celeste Holm as Margo's devoted friend who fails to see the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing until said wolf has come between not only her and Margo, but even her and her husband. You could cut yourself on some of the barbed remarks delivered here, so sharp is the dialogue, every word a weapon, fitting for a movie about the theatre-world.
The only thing that didn't work for me in this otherwise brilliant piece was the tacked-on ending when Eve learns that turnabout is fair play as her own little "Eve" appears on the scene, much as she did her own "girl from nowhere" entrance herself with Margo - this despite the technically superb closing image where mirrors imitate art literally! The scene itself though is such an artificial comedown after the climactic showdown between Sanders and Baxter, where they act their socks off as they sock it to one another.
On reflection, if only one of the three Oscar-nominated main players (Davis, Baxter and Sanders) was to get the award, (Thelma Ritter deserved hers too in support - shame she disappears about half-way through the film), it's right that it was Sanders who won. Perfect practice for his later vocal outing as "Shere Khan" in Disney's "Jungle Book", he is the sleazy, easy serpent who destroys Eve's self-made Eden as he snakes his insidious presence into every nook and cranny.
An epochal film then, with endings (Davis' career) and beginnings (Baxter and Marilyn Monroe in a telling early role). Say goodbye to Hollywood indeed - things got a lot bumpier in TinselTown after this mould-breaking feature.
"All About Eve" is like a theater stage drama. The film does not rely
on cool camera techniques or editing, glamorous costumes and
set-decoration, or a thunderous/dramatic score; it is made by the
I loved all the performances in the film, ranging from George Sanders Oscar-winning performance as the cunning Addison DeWitt to the captivating works of Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as Margo and Eve.
The cast, particularly these three thespians, turns a typical Hollywood story of gold digging, betrayal, paranoia, and lust for fame into something worthwhile. At times, the movie gets slow, but overall it is a feast for the eyes on superb acting. "Fasten your seat belts, for it is a bumpy ride." 9/10
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it should be noted with All About Eve, shows how
good a screenwriter he is. He's very good, almost too good if that's
possible. It's such a richly textured script with its dialog and plot
turns, its evolving and revealing characters that reveal through their
distinct personalities, that it almost becomes too much of a good
thing. In a way the script reminds me of the main star character of All
About Eve, Margo played by Bette Davis, who knows she's good and is
almost arrogant in its flamboyance (if not quite as insecure in
comparison). This isn't as a put-down per-say; the film overall is one
of those smashingly entertaining mainstream Hollywood classics, a less
weird and noirish take on somewhat similar material as Sunset Blvd. If
I won't immediately want to re-watch All About Eve as much as I would
Sunset Blvd, it would still remain something I'd recommend in a heart
beat to an aspiring movie buff.
Especially if one wants to see Bette Davis movies. This is possibly her quintessential performance, full of fire and bravado and put-ons and tears and slight little motions with her eyes that tell more than other actors can do in an entire scene as usual. She embodies this character while still coming off as a real star herself, and giving a great performance. On top of her (appropriately) stealing the show in every scene she's in- even that quiet scene between her and Celeste Holm- Anne Baxter shows her up in a more subtle turn as the title character (the only one of the principles without some narration), since she does has a transformation that we can guess will happen but comes around somewhat unexpectedly. It would've been poetic irony had she won the Oscar, considering how her character winds up, but on its own it's one of her most incredibly touching and dangerous characters.
The beauty as well with All About Eve is that it transcends what could have been just a (in quotes) "chick flick". It has backstabbing and double-crossing, second guessing and secrets withheld, high and tense emotions, and just the real full-on presence of mature and tough female actors. It could fall in to the traps of convention, but even when it feels familiar it's never boring, it's never too contrived where it distracts from the flow of the story or character dynamics, the supporting performances from female and male performers (notably Thelma Ritter and George Sanders) surprise and hold up their own with the stars, and it's cool for just about anybody (it's not like, for example, certain other Bette Davis pictures that seem much more skewed for female audiences). It's both terrific theatre and finely staged film-making, without pretension but delivering one of those final shots that is right up there with Sunset Blvd.
Bottom line, I won't put All About Eve in my top ten favorites of all time, but most scenes are unforgettable as far as classic Golden-age Hollywood goes.
All About Eve tells the story of maturing Broadway diva Margo Channing
(Better Davis) and the plot to usurp her crown by the seemingly adoring
stage-door Jane, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Eve first gets herself
hired as Margo's PA, then understudy, and is soon after Margo's
director-boyfriend and her circle of theater friends. A short story,
"The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr that ran in Cosmopolitan magazine was
the source of the script. Orr based the character of Margo Channing on
German/Austrian actress Elisabeth Bergner (The Rise of Catherine the
Great) who once had a would-be Eve in her life; a young actress named
Martina Lawrence who (according to Orr) "
lied to her, deceived her,
did things behind her back, and even went after her husband."
In a rare Academy occurrence, both Davis and Baxter were Oscar nominated in the same category (Best Actress), which is generally believed to have canceled each other out. (Judy Holliday took home the award for BORN YESTERDAY.) The film garnered a record 14 nominations and seven wins including Best Picture in 1950. Look for ravishing Marilyn Monroe, typecast as an aspiring starlet in the party scene.
So folks, fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!
Named to the National Film Registry in 1990.
"All About Eve" is still a record holder today with 14 academy award
nominations and 6 Oscar wins, including best picture and best director
for Hollywood veteran Joseph Mankiewicz, who also won an Oscar for his
literate and witty script! A favorite of the critics, "Eve" is
considered by many to be screen legend Bette Davis's greatest film,
confirming her title as the "First Lady" of Hollywood.
Among Hollywood celebrities of the Golden Age, no actress is better remembered than the beautiful, sophisticated and talented Bette Davis, who was nominated for the Oscar in this backstage drama of the Broadway theater for her performance as the aging prima donna, Margo Channing, target of her two-faced understudy, Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter in another academy award nominated performance.
This black comedy of the backstage world of the theater charts the rapid rise to the pinnacle of Broadway success by an unknown young actress, Eve Harrington, who is ruthless in taking advantage of anyone who is willing to help her, including her bitchy patroness, Margo Channing. Actress Anne Baxter puts in a stunning performance as the two-faced Eve, by turns sweetly innocent or wickedly scheming, depending only on which is more likely to advance her career. Baxter and Davis were both nominated for the best actress Oscar, while the all-star supporting cast garnered three more nominations, with George Sanders winning the best supporting actor award for his darkly comic turn as snobbish critic Addison DeWitt.
Having starred numerous times on the Broadway stage, Bette Davis was a natural choice to be paired with "All About Eve" writer and director Joseph Mankiewicz, who just a year earlier had won a pair of Oscars for "Letter to Three Wives," an outstanding drama on the theme of marital infidelity. It wasn't only Mankiewicz's phenomenal success that made him the ideal director for Davis, but also the interest he shared with his star in presenting women as independent and strong-minded tough as any man.
No discussion of "All About Eve" would be complete without a mention of the Oscar winning costume designs of Edith Head, who is responsible for the supremely tasteful high fashion costumes in "Eve." Edith Head won more Oscars than any other woman in the history of the academy awards. Her gorgeous gowns have adorned Hollywood's best loved leading ladies, including Mae West, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Haviland, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and countless others.
Ironically, "All About Eve" was remade in the 1970's, not as a movie, but as a stage play on Broadway and the aging actress chosen to play the role made famous by Bette Davis was instantly recognizable to all fans of the film as Miss Davis's original co-star, Anne Baxter making it seem as if Eve Harrington had finally succeeded in transforming herself completely into Margo Channing.
I love this movie... it's a great film to dive into when you just want to relax after a long week. After repeated viewings, subtle character traits emerge: Karen wants to be liked by everyone at any cost: "Eve, I've just heard the most wonderful things about your performance," which is said so that Addison can see how kind Karen is, even though Karen herself was responsible for "arranging" that particular performance... Margo is so vulnerable yet none of her friends really want to see that side of her... and the men are idiots. Even after Eve is exposed for what she is-- a lying bitch-- they STILL rally to have her star in their play, just because she's a fine actress and will make money for them: Lloyd, Bill, Max-- they all succumb! Margo is the least cynical person in this movie, because her character is colored with lots of shadings. She's not just "playing Bette Davis." Margo Channing is kind, clever, tough, compassionate, and the earlier-mentioned vulnerable. Watch this movie to see some wonderful characterizations, a fabulous script, and a truly over-the-top ending!
Joseph L. Mankiewicz made his masterpiece here with All About Eve, a
smart, sassy and completely captivating film about the life behind the
curtain of the theater world that may in some instances mirror the
world behind the film industry. Bette Davis resurrected her career with
a tour- de force performance that is nothing short of exemplary. Anne
Baxter is perfect as the sneaky, conniving Eve trying to do all she can
to get ahead. Gary Merril, Hugh Marlowe, and Celeste Holm also give
fine performances to complete the ensemble. Nevertheless, George
Sanders gives the finest performance as the smart and sinister Addison
DeWitt, an influential critic who has a major role to play in this
Above all, the script is what makes this a classic film in its own right. Mankiewicz, just like he did in his previous film A Letter to Three Wives, perfectly balances the transitions between all the main characters. There isn't a dull moment here and by the end, it is a surprise as well as a satisfying look at backstabbing and deceit. This is a near-perfect movie that gets better and better with each viewing. Great acting, solid direction and perfect writing make this a true classic of the Golden Age.
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