There are many things that make All About Eve stand out in cinematic history; having the most actresses nominated for an Academy Award (Davis, Baxter, Holm and Thelma Ritter were all nominated in both Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories). It is the first of only 2 films to ever be nominated for 14 Oscars including Best Picture (the other was Titanic in 1997), All About Eve won 6 Titanic won 11, both won Best Picture). It was a comeback role for the legendary Bette Davis and had some of the best-scripted dialogue in film history (Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!). It also happens to be one of the greatest stories about the entertainment industry in existence.
Anne Baxter in the performance of a lifetime plays Eve Harrington a young theatre fan who is so in awe of Margo Channing, the biggest star on Broadway that she sees every performance of her current play. One night Karen (Holm), the wife of Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), the plays author and good friend of Margo, sees Eve in the alleyway by the stage door and recognises her. After hearing she has seen every performance, she takes Eve backstage to meet Margo. In her dressing room, she meets the play’s director, also Margo’s current boyfriend Bill Sampson, (Gary Merrill, whom Davis actually fell in love with, they were married not long after production ended) Lloyd, Margo and her assistant Birdie (Thelma Ritter). The group are all stunned that she has seen every performance and asks her why. Eve tells a moving story about growing up in financial difficulty and losing her husband in the war, she followed Margo to New York after seeing a performance in San Francisco. Margo is moved by Eve’s tale and takes her into her home and social circle as an all-round assistant.
At first, Eve seems to be simply thrilled to be near Margo but there is something not quite right, no one can be that interested in a person with no apparent gain. Birdie, seemingly because she is being shut out, mentions her dislike of Eve to Margo, who shuts her down, but it turns out Birdie’s instincts are correct. Eve begins to show signs of scheming; she slyly becomes Margo’s understudy, sabotages the relationship between Margo and Bill and Margo and Lloyd. Margo eventually comes to resent Eve and the others think she is simply paranoid.
Eve then persuades Karen into helping her get Margo to miss a performance, knowing in advance that she will get to perform, she invites all of the press to the performance and gets rave reviews. With the help of a venomous reporter Addison DeWitt (Sanders) a scathing interview with Eve is released and in the wake of it Margo and Bill, Lloyd and Karen reunite, Eve seems alone now that the group are back together. However, she blackmails Karen into getting Lloyd to give her his next leading role as Margo is too old to play it. She threatens to tell Margo of Karen’s part in her missing the performance if she doesn’t agree.
Now that she has her own way she becomes a leading actress in the theatre, winning awards but losing every friend she has in the process, her only ally one that she does not care to have, Addison DeWitt who owns her due to finding out about a shady past and her back-story of lies and deceits. In the end, she has the reviews and the accolades and the adoration but it is Margo Channing who constantly worried about her age and her career that wins, with the friends and relationships as well as a career, being on top no longer mattered.
All About Eve is a spellbinding film with stunning performances (you will even spot an early cameo from Marilyn Monroe). It is no wonder the film was nominated for so many Academy Awards it is only a surprise it did not win more than the 6 it received. Perhaps showing just how great it truly is, it took another 47 years, (that is countless nominated films) before another could equal its nominations.
All About Eve is a triumph of acting, writing, and directing, everything comes together perfectly in this dark, perhaps cynical but gripping look at the inner workings of the entertainment industry; its process, its stars and the cut-throat competition involved in making it to the ‘big time’. It is a film always mentioned in the greatest classic movies lists and is a firm favourite of many, with good reason. If you haven’t yet seen this masterpiece of cinema I can’t recommend strongly enough viewing it as soon as you can.
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