All About Eve

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All About Eve (1950 poster).jpg

All About Eve is a 1950 American drama film written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. It was based on the 1946 short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr, although screen credit was not given for it.

Why It Rocks

  1. The film is a realistic, dramatic depiction of show business and backstage life of Broadway and the New York theater. Ironically enough, we never actually see anyone performing onstage during the film, probably to show that the actors' offstage life is just as dramatic as their actual stage roles.
  2. It also provides an insightful attack against crafty, mischievous actresses (female actors) who seek success and ambition at any cost without regard to others feelings, and it comments on the fear of aging and loss of power/fame with its two lead women (Margo and Eve). It also makes sense that most of the characters are women.
  3. Perfect acting all around which makes all the characters feel natural.
  4. Powerful direction from Joseph Mankiewicz.
  5. Like Sunset Boulevard and Rashomon (both of which also came out that same year) this film makes clever usage of the non-linear, fractured narrative structure.
  6. Speaking of Sunset Boulevard, this film has tons of similarities to the film like being harsh satires of the entertainment industry, beginning and ending in the present day and mostly taking place in flashbacks, voice-over narration, women protagonists stressed about their ages (Norma Desmond and Margo Channing), the women befriending a newcomer (Eve Harrington and Joe Gillis) and inviting them to move in, the newcomer taking advantage of the situation to improve their careers, down to being released on the very same year (1950). However, the still have are also quite a bit of differences as well that make them each their own thing.
    1. Sunset Boulevard is a film noir with gothic elements while with its drama relying on coincidence and strong exaggeration, All About Eve, meanwhile is more down-to-earth, with its more relatable and developed characters and subtlety.
    2. Sunset Boulevard mainly uses grand sets and rich camerawork to tell a story, All About Eve on the other hand is more of an intimate living room drama the uses simple set pieces to make the characters and their performances stand out.
    3. Sunset Boulevard is about Hollywood, while All About Eve is about the world of theater
  7. Nearly all of the characters are amazingly memorable, complex, and realistic.
    1. Addison DeWitt in particular -- a strict and harsh critic -- pretty much drives the film with his wit, cynic, and smarts to help the director represent his point of view and opinions about show business.
    2. Eve Harrington is an incredibly skillful manipulator who would stop at nothing to take over Margo's career and steal the love of her life. Also, Eve's reveal of her deceptions feels natural and not pushed in our faces.
    3. Margo Channing is a fierce and powerful diva who also happens to have to deal with being a woman aging in Hollywood, and her internal conflict that she struggles with throughout which fills a good chunk of a story-line.
    4. Margo's closest friend Karen Richards (wife of the playwright Lloyd Richards) is probably the most relatable person in the cast, even if she's also prone to corruption at times. She's also very well-meaning and caring.
    5. Even Margo's maid Birdie manages to have a couple of notable traits due to how snarky and observant she is, and the fact that she's the only person who initially saw through Eve's deceptions.
  8. Lots of razor-sharp wit and biting humor, that continues to be loved even to this day, including Margo's famous "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
  9. The film's ending was completely unpredictable as it features Eve getting held under Addison's control and getting stalked by a superfan teenage girl who calls herself Phoebe. The film subtlety informs the viewers that Phoebe would eventually become the new "Eve" and she would ruthlessly attempt to take over and ruin Eve's life, the same way Eve tried to do the same with Margo earlier. Plus there's the brilliant symbolism where Phoebe stands in front of a four-mirror cheval to reveal infinite reflections of Phoebe to represent the thousands of Eve Harrington (seemingly innocent, but ruthless and dangerous actresses). It's basically a never-ending cycle of trauma, and Phoebe's the newest entry.

The Only Bad Quality

  1. For some unexplained reason, Birdie disappears from the film midway and never even gets mentioned again by the other characters after she's gone.

Trivia

  • The film’s original title was Best Performance. Producer Darryl Zanuck was inspired to change it to All About Eve after reading Addison DeWitt’s opening monologue in the script.
  • The original story was inspired by the real-life experience of Polish-born actress Elisabeth Bergner, who had once befriended an unscrupulous young actress. Mary Orr, who wrote the short story “The Wisdom of Eve” on which the film is based, received no onscreen or official credit for her story.
  • Screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz disclosed that the archetype for the character Margo Channing was 18th-century English actress Peg Woffington. He added that she represented “every woman for whom acting was identical with existence.”
  • Claudette Colbert was originally cast in the role of Margo Channing but was forced to withdraw from the production when she injured her back. Bette Davis was then offered the role, which revitalized her career.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor was newly married to George Sanders (Addison DeWitt) and kept dropping by set because she was worried about the young blonde ingénue acting opposite him? It was none other than Marilyn Monroe.
  • Bette Davis and co-star Gary Merrill became romantically involved during filming. They married in July 1950 and adopted a baby girl, whom they aptly named Margot.
  • For the film’s Hollywood premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, publicist Julian Myers convinced the neighboring Roosevelt Hotel to blackout most of its neon letters to spell “Eve”.
  • All About Eve received 14 Academy Award nominations—a record that remained unbroken until 1998, when it was tied by Titanic (and later La La Land).
  • Bette Davis and Anne Baxter were both nominated for Best Actress, marking the first time two actresses were nominated for starring roles in the same film. They both lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday.
  • This is the only film ever to receive four female acting Academy Award nominations – Bette Davis and Anne Baxter were nominated for Best Actress, while Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter were nominated for Best Supporting Actress.