Netflixit!: "All About Eve" (1950)

2/05/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Movie Review

"All About Eve"

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 139 minutes, Unrated.

By our guest blogger, Lauren Bull

In 1998, “Titanic” tied the 1950 film “All About Eve” for most Oscar nominations ever, with a total of 14 nods. It’s an interesting historical pairing because everything about “Titanic” -- as the title suggests -- is large. And somehow, taking place on dry land with a few theater freaks, “Eve” still feels bigger.

Famed (and aging) Broadway actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) has just finished a performance of her latest play when her friend, Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), introduces her to the young Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a seemingly innocent and adoring fan whom Margo hires as an assistant.

For awhile, Eve is a dream intern--getting coffee, answering phones, being earnest. But this girl is a quiet killer, like asbestos in the walls, slowing taking over until everyone is infected. She goes after Karen’s husband, playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), and Margo’s boyfriend, director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill, Davis' real-life husband), but the two of them are merely gateway drugs for what she really wants, which is Margo’s stardom. To get at it, she forms a dangerous alliance with theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), a potent mix of Oscar Wilde and Truman Capote.

Now let’s talk about this screenplay. It was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (also the film’s director), and the language is addictive. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night” gets all the glory, but there are so many quotable moments in such rapid succession, that it becomes clear Mankiewicz not only made a film about fame, ambition, sex and scandal, but also a film where great writing is the momentum. Note how long the movie is, clocking in at close to two and a half hours. And that’s without a ship that’s hit an iceberg, interplanetary exploration, or a series of hard-fought war battles. It’s the story of a girl who can live without friends as long as she has an audience--and just look at how the time flies.

At the time, this was considered to be Davis’s comeback film, and she swings for the fences, spitting out the dialogue and trembling with fury. It is camp at its glorious best. As her devious counterpart, Baxter gives the kind of performance that is so overdone and silly at times it could be a spoof, if not for the genuine creepiness she lends to it. She can shift her shoulders in such a way to let you know she’s truly no good. Marilyn Monroe also makes one of her early film appearances. Watching her flit around as Miss Caswell, a wannabe star, there is comedy and tragedy in the fact that Monroe would eventually be among the biggest one in the room.

Sam Staggs (author of “All About ‘All About Eve’”) offers one of the DVD commentaries, and true fans will devour every ounce of trivia he offers--the cat fights, the clothing, the furniture. There are, however, moments where Staggs is speaking where all you hope is that he will pause for the amazing line that’s coming up. Addison is speaking to Eve when he purrs this particular one, but he could well be addressing the film itself: “There never was, and there never will be, another like you.”

Grade: A+

Watch "All About Eve" below. What are your thoughts?

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