Jump to: Spoilers (3)
Bette Davis fell in love with her co-star Gary Merrill during the shoot of this movie, and the two married in July 1950, a few weeks after filming was completed. They adopted a baby girl, whom they named Margot.
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Upon learning that he had cast Bette Davis, one of her former directors, Edmund Goulding, rang up Joseph L. Mankiewicz and warned him that she would grind him down into a fine powder. This was a reference to her on-set behavior, not the least of which was rewriting her dialogue. The warning proved to be unnecessary, however, since Davis knew better than to mess with Mankiewicz's finely tuned screenplay. In fact, Mankiewicz found her to be one of the most professional and agreeable actresses he'd ever worked with.
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33 years later, life imitated art when Anne Baxter stepped into Bette Davis' shoes to replace her on the series Hotel (1983) after she fell ill. Ms. Davis never returned to the show.
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Holds the record for the most female acting Oscar nominations in a single film with four: Anne Baxter and Bette Davis' for Best Actress and Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter for Best Supporting Actress.
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Years later, Bette Davis said in an interview "Filming All About Eve (1950) was a very happy experience....the only bitch in the cast was Celeste Holm."
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Co-star Celeste Holm spoke about her experience with Bette Davis on the first day of shooting: "I walked onto the set . . . on the first day and said, 'Good morning,' and do you know her reply? She said, 'Oh shit, good manners.' I never spoke to her again - ever."
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During the scene in the out-of-gas car, Margo tells Karen that she loves Bill, but she's afraid that Bill is actually in love with "Margo Channing", the stage persona, instead of Margo Channing the woman: "Bill's in love with Margo Channing. He's fought with her, worked with her, loved her... but ten years from now -- Margo Channing will have ceased to exist. And what's left will be, what?" Bette Davis and Gary Merrill, who married after filming this movie together, did indeed divorce almost exactly ten years to the day after their wedding. Davis was quoted as saying that they had married their characters from the movie, rather than the actual people.
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Bette Davis admitted later on that Joseph L. Mankiewicz's casting her in this movie saved her career from oblivion after a series of unsuccessful movies. She said in a 1983 interview, "He resurrected me from the dead."
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Margo Channing's famous cocktail dress was an Edith Head creation. To Head's horror, just as they were about to go film the cocktail party, she found that the dress didn't quite fit Bette Davis in the shoulders. There was no time to fix the dress, but fortunately Davis hit on the bright idea of simply slipping the dress off her shoulders.
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Bette Davis' marriage to William Grant Sherry was in the throes of breaking up while she was making the film. Her raspy voice in the film is largely due to the fact that she burst a blood vessel in her throat from screaming at her soon-to-be-ex-husband during one of their many rows. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz liked the croaky quality so he didn't have Davis try to work around it.
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Zsa Zsa Gabor kept arriving on the set because she was jealous of her husband George Sanders in his scenes with the young blonde ingénue Marilyn Monroe.
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For the film's Hollywood premiere at the Grauman's Chinese Theater, the neighboring Hotel Roosevelt blanked out most of its neon letters to simply spell out EVE.
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Though most of the score is original music by Alfred Newman, the music during the car scene with Karen and Margo is an instrumental version of "Liebestraum" ("Love's Dream") by Franz Liszt, the same music the drunken, maudlin Margo had the pianist play over and over again during the party scene. The joke is that when she hears it again in the car (now sober, of course), she condemns it as "cheap sentiment" and quickly turns it off.
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A bit of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's direction that gave Bette Davis a huge handle on her character was that Margo treated "a mink coat like it was a poncho".
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Bette Davis's performance as Margo Channing is ranked #5 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
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The movie's line "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night" was voted as the #9 movie quote by the American Film Institute.
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Bette Davis said in her autobiography, "I can think of no project that from the outset was as rewarding from the first day to the last. It is easy to understand why. It was a great script, had a great director, and was a cast of professionals all with parts they liked. It was a charmed production from the word go."
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It was Darryl F. Zanuck who decided to change the working title "Best Performance" to "All About Eve" after reading one of Addison DeWitt's lines in the opening narration of the script.
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The character played by Marilyn Monroe is called Miss Casswell; Caswell was the middle name of Mary Orr, the uncredited author of the short story the movie was based on.
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Despite their characters' tense relationship on screen, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter got along very well during filming. "The studio tried to play that up all during the filming," recalled Baxter, "but I liked Bette very much. She'd come on the set and go 'Sssssss' at me, but it was just a joke between us." Davis liked Baxter, too, which was quite a compliment as Davis reportedly didn't often like her female co-stars. She felt that Baxter did an excellent job with her part as Eve, and publicly praised her for it.
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Bette Davis had just turned 42 as she undertook the role of Margo Channing, and Anne Baxter, still an up-and-comer, not only wowed audiences with her performance, but successfully pressured the powers that be for an Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category, rather than Best Supporting Actress. This is thought to have split the vote between herself and Davis. The winner for the 1950 Best Actress was Judy Holliday for her noticeable turn in Born Yesterday (1950), so Baxter's actions in effect blocked Davis' chances for the win.
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George Sanders' favourite film of his own - "The critics and the trades loved it. It was a film of distinction: witty, sophisticated, and brilliantly written and directed."
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Shortly after this film, Marilyn Monroe started assuming a different personality, rather emulating that of the actress playing Phoebe, complete with her mannerisms, as well as a breathless voice.
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The "Sarah Siddons Award" which Eve receives was invented by writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. In 1952 a small group of eminent Chicago theater-goers, including Mrs. Loyal Davis, mother of future First Lady Nancy Reagan, began to give an award of that name which is also physically modeled on the one in the film. The 1967-1968 Actor of the Year award recipient was Celeste Holm. In 1973, during the Sarah Siddons Society Anniversary Gala, an honorary Sarah Siddons award was presented to Bette Davis, even though she never appeared in a play in Chicago. Around 1960 Davis did appear in the Tennessee Williams play "The Night of the Iguana" at the Blackstone in Chicago.
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In an introduction to the film on Turner Classic Movies in November 2008, Robert Osborne said that everyone assumed that Bette Davis had based her characterization on Tallulah Bankhead, even Tallulah herself. In fact, Bankhead even considered suing Twentieth-Century Fox, but decided not to, because Bette Davis "did such a good job. I've just been witched out of $1,000,000 by Bette being as good as me." But in 1952, Tallulah Bankhead starred in a radio adaptation of "All About Eve" which featured in the supporting cast Mary Orr, author of the original story "The Wisdom of Eve". According to Robert Osborne, during a rehearsal Tallulah asked Mary Orr: "I was the prototype for Margo Channing, wasn't I?" and Orr set the record straight and said "no". Tallulah reportedly never spoke to Mary Orr again.
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In 1970 the story was adapted into a Broadway musical called "Applause" and in 1973 a made-for-TV movie (Applause (1973)). Lauren Bacall played Margo Channing. When Bacall left the show, the actress who took over the role was Anne Baxter, who had played the role of Eve in the film.
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Contrary to popular belief, the character of Margo Channing is not based on Tallulah Bankhead. The film was adapted from an original story published in Cosmopolitan, "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr (uncredited in this film). It was based on an actual incident involving Austrian actress Elisabeth Bergner during her run in the hit stage thriller "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" in 1943-44. The story's main character was, like Bergner, a foreign actress named Margola Cranston, before it was changed to Margo Channing. However, the story about its being based on Bankhead persisted, and when Bankhead heard it, she reportedly told a live radio audience that the next time she saw Bette Davis, she would "tear every hair out of her mustache".
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Oscar winner George Sanders spent his time between scenes napping in his dressing room. Anne Baxter later remarked that the sometimes still sleepy actor took about seven takes before he got it right, which worked well for his characterization.
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The original story "The Wisdom of Eve" appeared in "Cosmopolitan" magazine in 1946, and was produced as a radio drama for NBC - but every studio rejected it as a film project. Eventually Fox bought the rights for $3500 with no credit stipulations. Joseph L. Mankiewicz combined "The Wisdom of Eve" with a story he had been developing about an actress who recalls her life when receiving an award.
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Ingrid Bergman was another actress considered for the part of Margo Channing, but she had just fallen in love with Italian director Roberto Rossellini and didn't want to leave Italy.
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As a special surprise, when Bette Davis was awarded the Sarah Siddons Award, the organizers secretly asked Anne Baxter to attend her presentation. According to a member of Chicago's Siddons Society, far from being pleased, Davis was furious about having to share her spotlight with another actress.
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Bette Davis has denied that she had based her Margo character on husky-voiced star Tallulah Bankhead. To put an end to long-standing rumors. Davis set the record straight in a later interview, "Tallulah herself, more than anyone else, accused me of imitating her as Margo Channing. The problem was that I had no voice at all when I started filming All About Eve due to emotional stress as a result of [bitter divorce]....This gave me the famous husky Bankhead voice. "
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Celeste Holm had only recently left 20th Century Fox after a bitter contract dispute with Darryl F. Zanuck, who then had to rehire her at Joseph L. Mankiewicz's insistence.
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The movie's line "You won't bore him, honey. You won't even get a chance to talk." was voted as the #25 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
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After the first week of filming, the cast and crew gathered to view the rushes in San Francisco. From what everyone saw on screen, it was clear that there was something special. People got excited, and that excitement fueled what already seemed to be a charmed production into an even better picture. "None of us could wait to get to work," recalled Anne Baxter.
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Bette Davis, who had recently separated from husband number three, William Sherry, arrived in San Francisco with her infant daughter B.D., a nanny, a secretary and a bodyguard just in case there was any trouble from her estranged husband.
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Marilyn Monroe's presence caused the most trouble for George Sanders. He was newly married to Zsa Zsa Gabor at the time, and she was none too pleased to have her husband away on location with the breathy blonde bombshell.
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The night before shooting was to commence at the Curran Theatre, Gary Merrill invited everyone on the production to have drinks at the elegant Fairmont Hotel. Bette Davis agreed to attend. "Everybody was showing off," recalled Celeste Holm about that night in Ed Sikov's 2007 book Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis. "Bette had taken one look at Gary and Gary had taken one look at Bette, and something had happened. And from then on she didn't care whether the rest of us lived or died."
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Gary Merrill described the experience of working with Marilyn Monroe in his autobiography as occasionally frustrating. He describes a dinner party that Bette Davis hosted the night before she and Monroe were to shoot a scene together. "The party went on quite late," he recalls, "but Marilyn excused herself early because she had to work the next morning. We all knew the scene Marilyn had to work on the next morning was really Bette's scene and that Marilyn had only a few lines...Bette had more, but she was an experienced actress and accomplished the scene with little bother. It had to be done in ten takes, however-Marilyn kept forgetting her lines."
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Darryl F. Zanuck was so confident that the film would be a smash that no advance audience screenings were held -- only press screenings to generate positive word of mouth for the film. In a confident move, the studio even financed the production of four separate trailers to advertise the film.
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The theatre scenes in the film were shot at San Francisco's Curran Theatre at 445 Geary Street a couple of blocks from Union Square.
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In April of 1950 the cast and crew travelled to San Francisco to begin filming. Bette Davis travelled by train, while Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe and Celeste Holm all flew together on Darryl F. Zanuck's private seaplane. "I wonder what it's going to be like working with the Queen Bee," said Holm to Merrill during the flight, referring to Davis. "I know one thing," replied Merrill, "it'll all be over in eight weeks."
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Darryl F. Zanuck originally wanted Jeanne Crain as Eve Harrington. When Crain became pregnant, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's final choice for the Eve Harrington part was Anne Baxter because she displayed a "bitch virtuosity" that he believed Crain could not provide.
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Claudette Colbert was originally cast as Margo Channing, but suffered a ruptured disc during filming on Three Came Home (1950) and had to withdraw. Bette Davis stepped into the role, even though 20th Century-Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck and Davis couldn't stand each other, going back to when Davis walked out from her post as president of the Motion Picture Academy in 1941.
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz based the character of Addison DeWitt on noted drama critic George Jean Nathan.
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According to the casting director's list, future White House occupants Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan were considered for the roles of Bill Sampson and Eve Harrington.
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In the theatre scene, Bette Davis mentions playwright Arthur Miller. Marilyn Monroe, who had one of her first roles in this film, later married Miller.
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Was voted the 21st Greatest Movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
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Bette Davis's voice was strained from her recent divorce, and she had to re-record all her dialogue from the theater scene.
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In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #28 Greatest Movie of All Time.
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This is one of only five films to receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. In this instance, Anne Baxter and Bette Davis were so nominated. The other four films were Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) for which Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor were nominated, Terms of Endearment (1983) for which Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger were nominated, Thelma & Louise (1991) for which Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were nominated and The Turning Point (1977) for which Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine were nominated. Of the actresses in question, MacLaine is the only one to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performance in Terms of Endearment (1983).
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The original Mary Orr story "The Wisdom of Eve" ran about only three and a half pages in the May 1946 issue of "Cosmopolitan." Sources vary as to what Fox paid for the screen rights: $3500 or $5000.
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In the opening banquet scene, the first time Margo appears is when her hand comes into the shot in front of the sleeping Max Fabian and steals a cigarette from his open case.
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The movie's line "All of a sudden she's playing Hamlet's mother." was voted as the #53 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
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Marlene Dietrich was considered for the role of Margo Channing. It was decided that she was 'too German' for the part.
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When Bette Davis utters the film's most famous line, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night", she is not referring to cars, as seat belts in automobiles virtually didn't exist in 1950. She was alluding to buckling up during a bumpy flight on an airplane.
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When Margo is arguing with Lloyd, she asks him "when you listen as if someone else has written your play whom do you have in mind? Arthur Miller, Sherwood, Beaumont and Fletcher?" She is referring to Arthur Miller, whose seminal work "Death of a Salesman" opened in 1949; Robert E. Sherwood, of the Algonquin Round Table; and English playwrights Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, who collaborated in the early to mid-1600s.
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In a 1991 interview for "Films in Review", Joseph L. Mankiewicz displayed very little respect for the talent of actor Hugh Marlowe, calling him "a grunt" and stating, "He was a stick."
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George Sanders's Oscar winning performance in this film is his only Academy Award nomination.
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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.
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"Applause" (the Broadway musical version starring Lauren Bacall) opened at the Palace Theater on March 30, 1970 and ran for 896 performances.
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In the dialogue, there are references to four stars who were also currently working at 20th Century Fox: Betty Grable , Susan Hayward, Gregory Peck, and Tyrone Power.
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The first of four films in four successive years that Thelma Ritter was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. This film was followed by nominations for The Mating Season (1951), With a Song in My Heart (1952) and Pickup on South Street (1953).
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In the scene in which Bette Davis arrives "late" for Miss Caswell's audition, a theatre marquee displaying the title "The Devil's Disciple" can be seen. A production of George Bernard Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" with Maurice Evans was playing on Broadway in early 1950, when the scene was filmed.
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The movie's line "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" was voted as the #12 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
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Angela Lansbury and Zsa Zsa Gabor were considered for the role of Miss Caswell. Gabor's then-husband, George Sanders, did get the role of Miss Caswell's mentor, Addison DeWitt.
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The movie's poster was voted as #24 of "The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever" by Premiere.
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This film was selected into the National Film Registry in 1990 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
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Tallulah Bankhead, Marion Davies, Joan Bennett, Joan Fontaine, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Ginger Rogers, Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, Sylvia Sidney, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson and Loretta Young were all considered for the role of Margo Channing.
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz offered Gertrude Lawrence the role of Margo Channing and sent her a copy of the script. She was enthusiastic, but she insisted on making two changes. She wanted all of Margo's drinking scenes taken out, and instead of Liebestraum at the party scene, he would play Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Bill", which she would sing. After all this, she turned the part down.
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"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 1, 1951 with Bette Davis and Gary Merrill reprising their film roles.
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Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck's casting notes revealed he had wanted John Garfield for Bill Sampson and Barbara Stanwyck for Margo Channing. Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe and Thelma Ritter were the first choices for their roles.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Marilyn Monroe, who was just starting out in pictures when she made All About Eve (1950) was very insecure working among such great established talent and struggled to hold her own. Bette Davis and some of the other actors could get impatient with her inexperience, but Monroe worked hard and tried to put forth her best efforts.
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Marilyn Monroe spent her lifetime imitating Barbara Bates as Phoebe. Monroe looked and sounded ostentatious and very uncouth in her bit part here, and spoke with her normal, rough voice. Shortly after this film, Monroe started assuming Barbara Bates's personality and demeanor; she changed her voice and mannerisms, her way of moving breathing and speaking to emulate Barbara's and Monroe made her entire career out of channeling Barbara's persona in this film. Little known yet true fact about the bottle blonde.
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"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 8, 1951 with Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders reprising their film roles.
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20th-Century Fox paid Mary Orr $5,000 for all rights to "The Wisdom of Eve".
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The popular English gothic rock band All About Eve took their name from the film. They enjoyed chart success in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s with several hit singles such as "Martha's Harbour" and "What Kind of Fool".
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Joan Crawford was considered for Margo Channing, but she was already working on The Damned Don't Cry (1950).
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The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, Anne Baxter and George Sanders; and one Oscar nominee: Thelma Ritter.
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José Ferrer, Charles Laughton, Adolphe Menjou, Vincent Price, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone and Clifton Webb were all considered for the role of Addison DeWitt.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #1003.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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June Allyson, Ann Blyth, Olivia de Havilland, Mona Freeman, Donna Reed and Elizabeth Taylor were all considered for the role of Eve Harrington.
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This film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 66 critic reviews.
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Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe also appeared together the previous year, 1949, in the movie "Twelve O'Clock High (1949)," which starred Gregory Peck. In "All About Eve (1950)" in the airport scene when Gary Merrill is flying off to California to direct a movie, he says to Bette Davis, "We can't all be Gregory Peck."
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The first Best Picture Oscar winner to also win Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Mixing.
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Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Susan Hayward for Margo Channing. Joseph L. Mankiewicz disagreed, saying she was too young to play the aging star.
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Numerous movie stars are referenced through the film, including Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Barbara Stanwyck and Susan Hayward.
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Montgomery Clift, Robert Cummings, Glenn Ford, William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, Zachary Scott and Robert Young were all considered for the role of Bill Sampson.
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This film is in the Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films on Letterboxd.
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William Lundigan was considered for the role of Lloyd Richards.
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According to the theater marquee, the play in which Margo Channing was starring was called "Aged in Wood." The play that Eve Harrington starred in, as Cora, was "Footsteps on the Ceiling."
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Barbara Bel Geddes, Shirley Booth, Arlene Dahl, Joan Fontaine, Patricia Neal, Nancy Reagan, Alexis Smith, Ann Sothern, Margaret Sullavan, Jessica Tandy and Ruth Warrick were all considered for the role of Karen Richards.
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Lois Andrews, Karin Booth, Barbara Britton, Leslie Brooks, Myrna Dell, Angela Greene, Adele Jergens, Pat Knight, Joi Lansing, Ellye Mravak, Marilyn Maxwell, Marie McDonald, Mary Meade, Cleo Moore, Dolores Moran, Joyce Reynolds, Marjorie Reynolds, Gale Robbins, Rowena Rollins, Randy Stuart, Virginia Toland and Arleen Whelan were all considered for the role of Claudia Caswell.
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Fred Clark, George Jessel, Zero Mostel, Walter Slezak and Everett Sloane were considered for the role of Max Fabian.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #1003
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In the Italian post-synchronized version, the actors are dubbed by: Lydia Simoneschi (Bette Davis); Dhia Cristiani (Anne Baxter); Emilio Cigoli (George Sanders); Rosetta Calavetta (Celeste Holm); Gualtiero De Angelis (Gary Merrill); Adolfo Geri (Hugh Marlowe); Maria Saccenti (Thelma Ritter); Zoe Incrocci (Marilyn Monroe); Mario Besesti (Gregory Ratoff); Miranda Bonansea (Barbara Bates) and Amilcare Pettinelli (Walter Hampden).
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Throughout the 1950-1952 run of NBC radio's "The Big Show," All About Eve was something of a running gag. The 90-minute radio "spectacular" was trying to keep the American public listening to radio as more and more people were turning to television, so they often poked fun at television and film. Since the emcee was Tallulah Bankhead, who by all accounts believed Bette Davis had copied her public persona, the jokes were easy to incorporate into the banter. For example, if a guest star mentioned Davis, Bankhead would feign outrage or snark "all about me, you mean.
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After the film's release, Bette Davis implored Joseph L. Mankiewicz to write a sequel that would focus on the characters of Margo and Bill (played by her lover on-and-off screen, Gary Merrill). Many years later, after she and Merrill had married and divorced, Davis ran into Mankiewicz at a party and said to him, "Joe, you can forget that sequel. I've played it and it doesn't work."
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The $500 Eve Harrington received to leave Milwaukee and go to New York with would be worth $5,322.78 in 2019 money.
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Near the end of the film Margot and Bill make their wedding announcement to Karen and Lloyd in the Cub Room -- the private VIP backroom of the Stork Club, 3 E 53rd Street.
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