All About Eve (1950)
Reviewed on 2007 February 4
I have a few movies in my collection that hold my full attention, no matter how many times I watch them. This is one.
Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, a fiery stage actress whose exterior covers a pretty soft heart. She’s a gifted actress, but she’s forty, a fact which troubles her immensely. Her boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) and best friends Karen and Lloyd Richards (Celeste Holm and Hugh Marlowe) see her soft side and her foibles and love her anyway. To the rest of the world she’s just Margo . If performers had been using single names at that time, she’d have earned that accolade.
Margo’s success attracts a fan named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Eve insinuates herself into Margo’s life, acting as a gopher to the actress and downplaying her own talents with a stream of self-deprecating comments. The only person not smitten with Eve is Margo’s assistant Birdie (the wonderful Thelma Ritter). Birdie’s suspicions are shrugged off and the quartet welcome Eve. Who wouldn’t? She’s very devoted to Margo…
All About Eve is based on Mary Orr’s short story “The Widsom of Eve” and it doesn’t surprise me that it’s based something Orr actually witnessed. With Joseph Mankiewicz writing and directing, and with this amazing cast, I can imagine how anxious audiences were to see this when it was released. I think this set the gold standard for dialogue in movies. It runs over two hours and seems to fly by. Davis and Baxter are remarkable, but my favorite character is Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), a hyena of a man who works as a critic. Apart from Bette’s seatbelt line, he has some of the best dialogue in the movie, and film buffs will note the early appearance of Marilyn Monroe on his arm at a party. The method of introducing the players at the award banquet, as well as the ending, are perfect too.
Four chocolate morsels, and a glass of champagne. And a hemlock boilermaker for anyone who even thinks of remaking it!