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All About Eve
IMDB rating:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis as Margo
George Sanders as Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm as Karen
Gary Merrill as Bill Simpson
Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff as Max Fabian
Barbara Bates as Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe as Miss Casswell
Thelma Ritter as Birdie
Walter Hampden as Aged Actor
Randy Stuart as Eve's Pal on Telephone
Craig Hill as Leading Man in 'Footsteps on the Ceiling'
Leland Harris as Doorman
Storyline: Aspiring actress Eve Harrington maneuvers her way into the lives of Broadway star Margo Channing, playwright Lloyd Richards and director Bill Sampson. This classic story of ambition and betrayal has become part of American folklore. Bette Davis claims to have based her character on the persona of film actress Talullah Bankhead. Davis' line "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" is legendary, but, in fact, all of the film's dialog sparkles with equal brilliance.
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Tremendously witty trap for post-war women, with Lavender Scare underpinnings
Friedan spoke of the "problem that has no name" — the demand of society that women give up the agency they had been demanded to accumulate to lubricate the wheels of the war machine with their factory work. No longer required as servants of warfare, they were supposed to be content with reclassification as unpaid and dependent family worker, because enough of "their men" had returned from abroad. As Smedley Butler so cuttingly detailed, war is a racket. When a racket moves an entire society then the sexes are going to get caught up. Hollywood, the propaganda vehicle in those days, needed to dress up the shabby role of "happy little housewife". And so, one sees slickly corrupted presentations of Friedan's problem.

You see, feminists like Friedan also were part of the trap. Instead of being able to fully comprehend that egalitarian gay relationships are not a threat to the foundation of society (e.g. its war profiteering and other machinations), even those who recognized the problems inherent in withdrawing the newly-found agency of women had to decry them in order to put a nice sheen on the "institution" of heterosexual marriage. Why? Because they didn't understand that only a small percentage of people are gay enough to want serious gay relationships in the first place. Think I'm joking? The former PM of Australia stated with a straight face that same-sex marriages, if legal, threatened the extinction of humanity! The "logic" was that same-sex relationships, presumably because they're more egalitarian, were so attractive to most people that they would abandon heterosexual relationships that are about reproduction (for taxes and other resources). There are several failures of logic and examples of ignorance in the Howard claim but the bottom line is that All About Eve uses that very viewpoint as its foundation for dramatic conflict.

The fight against the dreaded gayness causes all things to take place in this film. Eve's relentless hollow pursuance of stardom is due to her vapid lesbianism. She has no heart and seeks to put an award there. She and the gay man (critic) who she conspires with are "killers". In fact, she's not even fully human. She has a "feverish little brain" like a rat. She studies people, mechanically, like a serial killer — rather than a natural and warm woman who is interested in true love, what Margot transforms into. Lesbianism is just trickery, as when she and her lover conspired.

Margot, the quintessential harpy of Greek myth, is tamed by a younger man. This flip in the gender roles is part of the cleverness of the trickery happening. The common assumption, that younger women belong with older men, is reversed, a seeming improvement for female agency that comes at greater cost — her career. That loss of career, not accidentally, comes with her affirming that older women should leave the business because they're not beautiful enough anymore. Gone is the Margot who doesn't care how young the woman in the part is because of her talent and ferocity. Replacing her is Grandma Channing, who will somehow remain enchanting to the younger man once she has given up all the feminine wiles that made her enchanting – like her fantastic acting and her grande dame exaggeration. Bill sees into her true heart, though — the soft warm fuzzy one that stays in the kitchen to bake muffins.

Heterosexism has the word sexism in it for a reason. Almost no one uses the word for reasons, too. In this film, it is the tool for the promotion of sexism. The film's poster said it is about "women and their men". It's about the role of women now that their men are back from the abroad. That role is definitely not to be "strong women" who will be corrupted by lesbianism and the resulting feminist demands. It won't be to leave men floundering, bereft of female companionship, forced into the arms of other men — seeking art rather than child rearing. Make no mistake. The gay male character is purposefully put right next to Marilyn Monroe to make a point. His sophistication is shallow and self-defeating. Leads to a blind alley. By contrast, a virile red-blooded heterosexual man knows just how to treat a lady. The film is so slick that even Ebert was oblivious vis-à-vis that entire narrative is based on repudiating homosexuality (female agency being one of its symptoms) in favor of patriarchal heterosexual marriage. He gabbed about Channing as being a "universal type" and merely focused on mechanical aspects of filmmaking. People have been conditioned in the modes of seeing the world according to heterosexual patriarchal imperative. Also willful blindness? How any thinking viewer can miss obvious bits like Eve and another woman conspiring together and holding each other's bodies while doing it... Of course she was a lesbian! And, of course it's amusing to her for a gay man to claim that she's his property. It's amusing for a gay man to try to possess a woman in a patriarchal way. The perversion of the scene is obvious and intentional. Film cleverly lays out the Friedan problem in pretending that it's only a problem if one is gay. Reaffirms inferiority of feminine brain, when it comes to the Machivellian requirements of running the world; also shows gay man trying, and failing, to live up to duty as a man (woman under his control).

Davis is wonderful, despite these themes. She was in love with "Bill" then. The writing is cute with cutting sophistication. I can't escape from all the clichés, stereotyping, and backward beliefs it promotes. Example: Plain folks have common sense to see through nonsense artsy types are tricked by. Although he wrote that Hollywood "needed to drop its vendetta against them", the best Mankiewicz manages to do in this film is not have gays kill themselves (i.e. the Children's Hour). It just shows that all that their "hearts"' desire is folly.
All About Baxter.
All About Eve (1950): Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz / Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill: Fascinating drama about confrontation when Eve Harrington appears backstage to meet Broadway actress Margo Channing. Eventually Eve replaces Channing thus receiving praise once reserved for her. Brilliantly written, and directed with insight by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who touches greatly upon the glam and vanity of being a star. It opens at an award ceremony where facial reactions play the key as to what follows through flashbacks. Bette Davis is remarkable as Channing who is growing older and feels her starlight fading away. Eve is played with great innocence by Anne Baxter whose transformation seems alarmingly true in the business but these decisions also bear consequences as she learns when her hunger for fame runs rabid. Great supporting work by George Sanders as a theatre critic used by Eve for success but perhaps he already knows this drill. Celeste Holm plays the wife of an author who specializes in plays. She discovers Eve thus opening an introduction to Channing. Gary Merrill plays a film director who is also Davis's much younger boyfriend, which also plays into delusional show business relationships. Easily one of the best and most inspiring films of the year. It has terrific art direction and a message about age, entertainment and infinity. Score: 10 / 10
When art imitates life, where does reality end?
Maybe, stretching a point, this movie could have been called 'All About Actors'?

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...
let's hear it for Ann Baxter
I like this movie,it's full of stinging wit and dialogs,although it's written by a male chauvinist,Joe Mankiewitz. The notion seems absurd nowadays that women can't have a career and marriage,too,but it has to be taken in the context of the times. The only problem I have is Eve is so transparently phony that I'm surprised the supposedly hip theater crowd doesn't see right through her. Anyway,I love the comeuppance scene where Addison tells Eve about all her lies and how she belongs to him. Ann's voice drops from sweetly phony to guttural scowling with panache. It's almost a shocking transition. Everyone in the cast is good but I like Ann Baxter. Incidentally,Claudette Colbert was supposed to be Margo but she dropped out because of a back injury. The idea was there was supposed to be a similarity between Margo and Eve.
Ambition & Deceit
An amazing cast and script work together to achieve magic in 'All About Eve'. This is one of the film legends that show what Hollywood film-making is truly all about.

Davis gives one of her best performances ever as the ageing stage actress Margo Channing. Margot is pretty cosy in her nest with her circle of friends until an ambitious young woman, Eve, comes along. One might say that as Margo, Davis was simply playing herself. There is a lot of truth in that, as Margo's barbed sense of humour, neuroticism, warmth and professionalism are typical Davis qualities. Davis is simply brilliant in this role, as is Anne Baxter. A sorely underrated performer, Baxter definitely tops Davis for sweet cunning and measure as Eve.

And the supporting fabulous are they? We have the great George Sanders as Addison de Witt, the cynical theater critic. Addison's the only one not fooled by Eve's plans, and delivers most of the sharpest lines in the film. Sanders oozes both charm and venom in a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Celeste Holm is much better here than in Gentlemen's Agreement, as Margo's best friend Karen. Her warmth and understated performance works well with Davis' paranoid theatrics. Delightful Thelma Ritter is just priceless as Birdie, and Gary Merrill is fine too, as Davis' beau (they were married in real-life at the time of making the film). Maybe the only downer is Hugh Marlowe, who has about as much screen presence as a cardboard box.

Check out a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role as a would-be starlet who has been taken under Addison's wings. She gets some good lines as the dumb blonde she would be destined to play over and over again later years. Is it pure coincidence that Monroe gets the lines that parody Gable? Marilyn, as Norma Mortensen in younger years, idolised Gable as the perfect father figure. There's plenty of other occasion for name dropping in this film, with Fox stars Tyrone Power and Gregory Peck getting a mention, too. Smart marketing ploy, actually.

There is a never a dull moment or spare scene in this film. It is rather long for a comedy-drama, but that just means more wit and humour can be added. Perfectly directed, this is one of the best satires of the acting industry you'll ever see. It also deals with universal themes ; ageing, ambition, deceit, the abuse of trust etc.

Very entertaining 10/10.
All about Eve and others
I always enjoy seeing a movie about actors, it's very interesting to think that they are acting like actors when they are actors. This movie particularity the actors, did a great job playing actors. It's was witty, sassy, fun to watch and really well made and shot. The drama that unfolded in All About Eve was realistic but also had that dramatic flair that we love in these movies and imagine is what's happening behind the curtains in a theater. Romance, fights, betrayal, etc. This movie had most of it and portrayed it really well, so that the audience (me) was caught up in the story lie into the end and not regretting that she had watched it.
About EveryMan, About EveryWoman, About EveryLife
You will see yourself in every character in this very intelligent, entrancing movie. Though set in "the theatre," the story could just as easily have been told in a small town, a corporation – even a religious organization. Being set in the "glamorous" world of entertainment – its seems all the more timely in these days of fame, fortune and the insufficiency (almost shame) of being ordinary. The theatre setting also underscores the reality that the world is a stage, and all its people, players.

So much to study in this movie: the genuine, trusting (and romantic) human; the streetwise, good, hardworking human, who's seen it all and doesn't embrace it; the jaded, heart-hardened, deceitful loser with power, who admires the same and disdains human goodness; the ambitious sociopath who fools so many; the unsuspecting onlookers who see only the façade of success; the inescapable fact that supreme achievement has been had by very low characters; the painful passage of an aging woman into the light of knowing she's loved for being beautiful beyond her appearance, for being HER; the touching portrayal of her lover who remembers his love for her as he passes on a much younger, beautiful, talented actress; the sorrow of a (betraying) friend who discovers the frightened and lonely heart of her successful friend … The dialogue is sharp and clever, barked and growled, smarmy and tender… A truly human movie about being human. Go – find yourself in everyone!
Blood-chillingly brilliant
I do not know of any movie that plumbs the depths of the human heart - or the empty cavity where one should be - to paint a blacker picture of it. Addison de Witt is repeatedly described as a snake, but even he, as he recognizes, is not as ruthless as Eve Harrington. Eve would truly kill her own mother for a good role - and remember the experience so she could play it convincingly on stage. She gives you the willies.

Critics have raved about Bette Davis' performance as Margo Channing, and she is certainly wonderful in the part. As, of course, is George Sanders as the evil Addison de Witt.

But what makes the movie so captivating through to the end is Anne Baxter. You desperately try to figure out when her Eve Harrington is acting and when she is being sincere. You want to know. But Baxter always leaves you wondering. Is she overacting just a LITTLE too much? Is she sincere? It's an astounding performance.

And, of course, the script, which oozes venom, is brilliant. But we only appreciate it because it is delivered by great actors/actresses at the top of their form directed by the author of that script, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

This is a riveting movie. It is brilliantly made. You will enjoy every perfect minute of it.

But you will have a hard time trusting even your best friend after you finish watching it.
Miss Caswell has a first name!
I have watched this movie a hundred times and never get tired of it. I wish there were more movies today with the kind of witty dialog and classy actors and actresses that pepper this film. Bette Davis is superb. She IS Margo Channing. It's one of those movies that somehow brought together the perfect ensemble cast. I always see or hear something new every time I watch it. I just watched it the other night and heard Addison DeWitt call "Miss Caswell" (Marilyn Monroe) by her first name: it's Claudia! It's easy to miss and I don't believe many people catch that. It's at Bill Samson's party when people are gathering, right before he sends her over to meet Max Fabian.
Broadway legend Margo Channing (starring Bette Davis), is aging but not gracefully, has everything: a successful career, close friends, a man who loves her.
After watching the film, I came up with the conclusion that the theme is female sexuality. Eve has no problem befriending women, and then stabbing them in the back by trying to sleep with their men. She pretends that she is innocent, but she uses her sexuality to get anything she wants. Flush with success, Eve reveals her true colors. First, she propositions Bill, but he turns her down. Next she blackmails Karen into arranging more starring roles for her. Then she seduces Karen's husband. This repression of sexuality is what gives her the ability to manipulate successfully. If you like the 1957 movie "A Face in the Crowd", you should like this movie too. Both are studies of fame and celebrity. Eve shows how a person will corrupt themselves in order to attain it, whereas A Face's premise is that fame corrupts those who find themselves in the spotlight.

All About Eve maximized the use of lighting effect in order to reveal the audience the entirety of what was happening. The movie depicted Eve Harrington's cunning exploits in the light enabling the audience to take a full view of how the seemingly harmless Ms. Eve reveal her true self in the course of the movie. The lighting seemed to have illuminated Eve's motives, revealing key facial expressions and body languages which may have been missed inappropriately by the audience where the setting may have been effected using low-key lighting.

Mankiewicz also demonstrates how to effectively use the "single take" technique. As Karen hatches her scheme to strand Margo on the side of the road, she sits down in front of a fireplace with her back turned to the camera. Voice-over narration reveals her inner thoughts, but instead of cutting around to a front close-up of Karen's face, Mankiewicz holds the shot from across the room behind her, showing her head in front of the crackling fireplace. The fire becomes a hint to her mischief in this scene, an anomaly to her otherwise kind character.

This is a good film. It's all because of Eve that we too can look at this film and realize that success at any cost is not success for us or for Eve.
See Also
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