Released in 1950. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and George Sanders. Running time 2 hours 18 minutes.
The film begins with an awards banquet and voice-over naming the main players along with a bit of back story of each one. Fade into…
As Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) makes her way to the backstage entrance of the theatre, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) slinks out of the shadows and gushes to Karen about her adoration for the actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis). It’s her dream to meet her as she as seen every performance. Karen feels a bit sorry for Eve and takes her in to meet Margo. Margo, Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), and Margo’s director boyfriend Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill) become impressed with Eve’s self-degrading and gratitude for even being in the same room with Margo. They welcome Eve into their theatre circle. Margo has Eve move in with her and makes Eve her assistant.
Margo’s live in maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter) is suspicious of Eve, and over time, Margo comes to be annoyed by Eve’s constant innocent, excessively gracious attitude toward every menial task. Meanwhile, Eve has become friends with a famous theatre critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), who has a penchant for writing scathing columns about the theatre and those involved. Addison is suspicious of Eve and gets close to her to find the truth of who she really is.
Eve continues to be ever helpful and insinuates herself in Margo and Bill’s relationship trying to get Bill’s attention. Everyone seems to be enamored with Eve causing Margo to become insecure and verbally lash out about aging and becoming unloved.
At Bill’s birthday party, Margo gets drunk and takes it out on Bill, Lloyd, Karen, and producer Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff) for paying too much attention to Eve and not her. *At this party, Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe) attends on the arm of Addison as a new ingenue. The guests leave in a huff.
Margo agrees to read with Miss Casswell at an audition held at the theatre but shows up late. Addison tells Margo Eve read with Miss Casswell and Eve was like “fire and magic” and then of course full of humbleness and unworthiness…also that Eve was made Margo’s understudy. Margo gets angry and tries to feign innocence but then lets everyone have it in the auditorium.
Lloyd, Karen, and Bill think Margo is over-reacting so Karen sets it up that they run out of gas on the way back to the city. This gives Eve a chance to perform as Margo’s understudy. Addison witnesses Eve come onto and get rejected by Bill in her dressing room. Once Bill leaves, Addison interviews Eve, then prints a scathing account of Eve’s ambition making every one in town hate Eve. Eve tries to apologize to Karen but it becomes clear Eve just wants a part on Lloyd’s next play and will blackmail Karen to get it.
Before Karen can talk Lloyd into it, Margo decides she and Bill are getting married and she doesn’t want to play parts which are too young for her giving Eve the part without Karen having to blackmailed for it. Rehearsals begin with Eve in the lead role and Lloyd and Bill fighting over Eve.
Eve fakes nerves and gets Lloyd to come to her hotel room the night before the opening performance to make it look like they’re having an affair.
Just before the opening performance, Addison calls Eve’s bluff and exposes her and her lies. He tells her she belongs to him now and will have to do whatever he says. She does so and wins the award being given at the banquet in the opening scene. Margo, Karen, and the others brush off Eve at the awards banquet.
Eve decides not to go to the after party and goes home only to find a young woman sleeping her room. The young woman is Phoebe (Barbara Bates), one her biggest fans, who offers to help her pack and take care of things…uh oh…
What I Liked
The script is practically brilliant and the absolute perfect vehicle for Bette Davis. She has a razor sharp delivery and completely embodied the role of Margo Channing, so much so, it was almost like she was playing herself. Her eyes, her smoking, her flip of the hair…I could watch her all day. “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Anne Baxter was perfect as Eve with her self-deprecation and cunning manipulation. Her eyes were so expressive and her delivery so stalkery…
The dialogue and intensity of the actors make this one of the greatest movies of all time. The locations and sets, the costumes, the back biting between women, and the men just trying to keep up and keep it together.
I really liked how Eve basically says she has been stalking Margo for months and they find it so endearing they immediately welcome her into their homes and circle. So creepy and yet disarming.
Marilyn Monroe’s first film, she makes it into two scenes and manages to glimmer her way right through them. She doesn’t have many lines but you can tell she moves well on camera and seems natural. I feel like any young blond ingenue at the time could’ve played this role; however, it’s a decent start.
What I Wished Was Better
The long voice over in the beginning was tiring. I could’ve done without it. Speaking of voice-overs, there are other scenes with it which weren’t necessary like thinking while painting….
This film has some of the best moments in cinema history with many quotable lines; but interestingly, it centers around a seemingly innocent young woman who has sinister plans underneath it all. Since this film came out, many movie stars and celebrities have come to learn how dangerous letting such an intense admirer into their private sphere can actually be. In that regard, the story doesn’t age well as someone of Margo’s stature in this day and age of social media, stalkers, and the like wouldn’t dare let someone like Eve anywhere close to them. At least, I would hope they were smart enough not to.
As far as the script, the film itself, the costumes, the actors, the pacing, and overall finished product—well, this film is a classic and deserves all the accolades it has received over the years. Bette Davis is an actress in her supreme element with this film. Anne Baxter gives her a run for her money and holds her own.
I give All About Eve 5 out 5 🙂 Available to stream. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: Bette Davis and Gary Merrill fell in love while making this film and married shortly after filming was completed. They divorced ten years later. All four main female actors were nominated for awards for this film. Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for Best Actress and Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter for Best Supporting Actress.