Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is waiting backstage to meet her idol, talented but aging Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). It seems innocent enough as Eve explains that she has seen Margo in EVERY performance of her current play. Margo and her friends take Eve under their wing but only theatre critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) sees through Eve's evil plan, which is to take Margo's parts and her fiancé, Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill) too.
Actor Eddie Fisher is NOT the well known singer (Eddie Fisher), but a local actor, who just happened to be the stage manager of the Curran Theatre, where filming took place, and so was hired to play the stage manager in the film as well. This has caused a lot of confusion in documentation ever since, with unaware observers looking for the wrong "Eddie Fisher" and not finding him. See more »
When Eve tells her life story in the dressing room, she says "then the war came, and we got married. Eddie was in the air force - and they sent him to the South Pacific." The "Air Force" wasn't formed until after the war in 1947. During the war it was called the Army Air Corps. See more »
[Margo is getting drunk at the party]
Many of your guests have been wondering when they may be permitted to view the body. Where has it been laid out?
It hasn't been laid out, we haven't finished with the embalming. As a matter of fact, you're looking at it - the remains of Margo Channing, sitting up. It is my last wish to be buried sitting up.
See more »
The film opens straightaway with its own theme, without the ubiquitous "Fox Fanfare". See more »
A masterpiece of old-style theatre back-stabbing with a cherished, hand-picked cast.
THE definitive saga of backstage brouhaha ever dished out by Hollywood. A triumph of screen-writing, never will one see such ripe, acrid dialogue spewed out like this again -- every indelible scene gloriously stained with classic one-liners. An actress wanna-be looking for her big break carefully worms her way into the glamorous life of a legendary Broadway star, then tries to supplant her privately and professionally.
A sterling, incandescent cast provides the fire and music to this concerto of theatre attitude. Bette Davis knew she was handed a dream role when she was cast as Margo Channing, the indomitable diva caught up in the throes of mid-life crisis both on- and off-stage. Not willing at all to deal with it tactfully, she makes life a living hell for anyone within knife-throwing distance. This juicy, once-in-a-lifetime part turned Davis' own flagging middle-aged career back on its feet, especially coming on the heels of one of her biggest "dumps" ever, "Beyond the Forest." Remarkable as it may seem, Bette was not the first choice here, replacing an injured Claudette Colbert. With all due respect to Colbert, Bette Davis was BORN to play Margo Channing. A mauling lioness one minute, a coy, declawed pussycat the next, Davis relishes every wickedly bitchy scene she gets to tear into. Yet in her more introspective moments, she evokes real sympathy for Margo (as only a true star can) especially when her character missteps. It's a resounding victory for the Queen Bee in every way, shape and form.
Her "supporting cast" also manage to create a buzz of excitement. Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe, known for their relative blandness, are splendid here in their respective roles as queen bee's lover and playwright. While Merrill's Bill Sampson tames Margo the woman with gutsy directness and virile passion, Marlowe's Lloyd Richards appeases Margo the star with flattery, great dialogue and a calm resolve. Worth watching, then, are their fireworks scenes with Margo when intelligence and restraint no longer work. Debonair George Sanders gives customary snob appeal and dry cynicism to his waspish, ultimately loathsome columnist Addison DeWitt, who swarms around Broadway's elite knowledgeable in the fact his lack of heart and poison pen yield exclusive rights and power. The most sensitive and sensible one in the collective bunch, the one lacking a true stinger, is Karen Richards (played wonderfully by Celeste Holm), Margo's best friend and confidante, who finds herself caught between the queen and a hard place when she accidentally makes a pact with the devil. Thelma Ritter couldn't be overlooked if she tried. An inveterate scene-stealer, she weathers strong competition this time in a movie crammed with clever conversation and pungent zingers. As coarse but well-meaning Birdie Coonan, a brash ex-vaudevillian now the queen's ever-loyal "drone", Ritter's character properly handles her boss's antics with amusing grit and backbone. On the periphery of this Broadway beehive is mop-faced Gregory Ratoff as an edgy, gullible, thick-accented producer, Marilyn Monroe as a hopelessly vacuous starlet, and Barbara Bates, as a novice schemer with a very bright future, all making their few scenes count -- especially Bates, who is forever enshrined in the film's stunning final shot.
The chief thorn in Margo's (and everybody's) side, and the other real star of this picture, is the queen's titular lady-in-waiting, Eve Harrington. As played by Anne Baxter, this role is probably the most delicate and difficult of all for the weight and believability of this drama falls squarely on her shoulders. Unfairly overlooked all these years by the flashier posturings of Davis, Baxter does a beautiful job of drawing initial pathos then panic as she slowly unveils her own lethal stinger. By film's end, Baxter is directly on par with her scenery-chewing co-star. Killer to killer. Champion to champion.
Six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay (also Mankiewicz) and Supporting Actor (George Sanders) went to this cinematic bon mot. Had Bette Davis and Anne Baxter not competed as Best Actress (Baxter refused to place herself in the Supporting Actress category), it would have drummed up two more awards to be sure.
Developing a faithful cult following over the years, this film deserves to be on everybody's "top ten" list.
103 of 127 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this