All About Eve
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#237 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Writer/director Mankiewicz had a special gift for creating memorable women. His actresses’ performances take his characters up another notch.
The film is bookended with scenes at an awards banquet honoring Eve Harrington for her acting. The opening is narrated in voice over by critic Addison De Witt (George Sanders) who informs us that the story will tell us all about Eve and how she got to this point.
Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is a big Broadway star. She will soon turn 40. She is currently playing the role of a much younger woman in a play written by Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlow) and directed by her lover Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill) who is eight years her junior. These circumstances cause her to have a gigantic chip on her shoulder with regard to her age. This and Margo’s outsized personality mean she is not the easiest person in the world to get along with. This can be attested to by her best friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) and her dresser and old friend Birdie (Thelma Ritter).
As the story starts, Karen stops to chat with the bedraggled Eve (Anne Baxter) whom she has seen standing by the stage door after every night’s performance. Karen admires Eve’s devotion and takes her back stage. All our characters are gathered in Margo’s dressing room. They are moved by Eve’s tale of woe and flattered by her starstruck adoration of Margo and the theater in general. Margo is so touched that she takes Eve in as a sort of second companion and dog’s body.
Eve proves to be quite an efficient and devoted worker. Before long, she seems too efficient, setting up romantic surprises for Bill before Margo can think to do these things herself. Things come to a head at the birthday party Eve has arranged for Bill. Margo gets drunk and acts like a haridan. Everyone’s sympathy is with Eve.
It turns out Eve as a special knack at bringing out the worst in other women in order to garner sympathy for herself. Before long she has wangled a job as Margo’s understudy. Then, with help from Addison, she aims for higher things.
This is a superbly written look at the peccadillos of the theatrical crowd. The only minor complaint that could be made would be the dated sexual politics behind the resolution of Margo’s character arc. The film is a great classic and earned all those Oscars for a good reason. It is truly a must-see.
All About Eve won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Saunders); Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White; and Best Sound, Recording. It was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Davis); Best Actress (Baxter); Best Supporting Actress (Holm); Best Supporting Actress (Ritter); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White; Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
It was the first of only two films to ever be nominated for so many awards. The only other film with 14 nominations is Titanic (1997). It also holds the record for the number of female acting nominations in one film.