Production: Darryl F. Zanuck for 20th Century Fox
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, (Based on the short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr)
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Music: Alfred Newman
Players: Bette Davis (Margo Channing), Anna Baxter (Eve Harrington), Celeste Holm (Karen Richards), George Sanders (Addison De Witt), Gary Merrill (Bill Sampson), Hugh Marlowe (Lloyd Richards), Thelma Ritter (Birdie Coonan), Barbara Bates (Phoebe), Marilyn Monroe (Miss Caswell), Gregory Ratoff (Max Fabian).
Drama. Black and White. 1950
The film may be called All About Eve but the core character is Margo Channing, the woman who at the age of four made her stage debut as an unexpectedly naked fairy, and from there became a great star of the theatre. Tallulah Bankhead assumed that director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz had based the role on her career, when it could of been any actress really. Claudette Colbert was the original choice for the part, contracts had been signed but not long before filming began she broke her back and I'm sure she would have given the role some credibility. But it's hard to imagine anyone but Bette Davis as Margo, the strength and central character of All About Eve. Bette delivered a performance for the ages. This role was a huge break for the movie star, it revived her own sinking career and she fell in love with her leading man Gary Merrill (She would later say she fell in love with the character he played in All About Eve and vice versa). Her last few films at Warner Bros didn't do very well, she was getting roles in second rate movies like Beyond the Forest (1949) (now a camp classic), June Bride and Winter Meeting (1948). So in 1949 she left the studio where she once reigned supreme. But it wasn't long before her struggling career was behind her when Joseph L. Mankiewicz offered her the role of her life time.
Margo Channing is the queen bee of the New York stage. Though her success is well cemented, she is 40 and playing 20 year old's and feels insecure about it. The fact she is aging torments her, making her paranoid and antsy. After one successful performance of "Aged in Wood" a mousy Eve Harrington is introduced to Margo Channing, her idol. Soft spoken, gentle Eve tells everybody in Margo's dressing room about her coming to see Margo in every single performance and of her obsession for the stage. Her life story charms the pants off everyone and brings them all to tears , that is except Birdie, Margo's faithful maid and friend who remarks "what a story! everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end". Margo is quick to apologize for Birdie. Margo takes a shine to Eve mistaking her for a - "Lamb loose in our big stone jungle". Margo's circle of friends feel the same, which include her lover Bill (director), Karen who is Margo's best friend and Karen's husband Lloyd (Playwright). Margo hires Eve as her secretary and in the beginning is happy with the arrangement. That is until Eve's behaviour gets under Margo's skin and she starts to suspect Eve has an ulterior motive. Margo's inkling is correct, Eve wants to be a star on the stage and is just as talented as she is ruthless enough to claw her way there.
Anne Baxter's performance was Oscar nominated in the same category as Bette Davis. With the people of 20th Century Fox's votes split between the two actresses, the general consensus is that this situation made it impossible for Bette to win. The award went to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday. 1950 was the year of Judy Holliday's best performance, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, so obviously it was tough competition all round, all actresses deserved it, and the years underdog won.
Throughout the movie Eve is gradually exposed, and the way we the audience view her changes. From her introduction as the innocent fangirl to the moment where Margo spots her posing in the mirror with her costume (that sort of thing in the movies is always a sign of a person being abit psychotic). It is Addison De Witt who vigorously confronts her web of lies. This moment is supposed to be where the gay undertones surface, Addison remarks how he and Eve are alike, they both have a "contempt for humanity and an inability to love or be loved". I never thought twice about there being gay undertones in All About Eve. The only scene where I thought made the slightest suggestion was when Eve gets her friend to call Lloyd Richards in the middle of the night to come to over and they both walk up the stairs in their robes linking arms, but even with that I thought I was clutching straws. But people have suggested it is obvious and I suppose if you look for it you will find sexual innuendo here and in more than a handful of classic movies.
Addison De Witt is played by George Sanders (Rebecca, The Ghost and Mrs Muir), he is excellent. His debonair qualities are perfect for the role of Addison De Witt, his performance here rightfully earned him the Oscar for best supporting actor. He was the only male actor of the cast to be nominated, while this film must hold the record for the most female actresses to be nominated from the same cast. Like George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz is said to be one of the great woman directors. He is known to have been quite the notorious womanizer, he even said, quite frankly something along the lines of - George befriended them, I f**ked them.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra, Letter to Three Wives, People Will Talk, Sleuth) loved the theatre and the people in it, but he never actually wrote a play or directed one. He had a huge dislike for movie people and it shows throughout All About Eve, we pick up on snide remarks about Hollywood people.
Lloyd: "A Hollywood movie star just arrived" -
Margo:"shucks, and I sent my autograph book to the cleaner"At the beginning of the end of the picture Eve gives a speech, she says how proud she is to be a part of the theatre, then she changes her tone and quickly announces the irony "although I'm leaving for Hollywood to make a film", like she has proved herself on the stage and now she's able to make the big bucks in the movies. The reason why Joseph made movies was he liked the control that came with being a director and writer. All About Eve especially feels like he filmed a faithful play adaptation, when of course it isn't. However the film did get adapted onto the stage in 1973 with Lauren Bacall playing Margo and when she left Anne Baxter (who played Eve here) took over the role of Margo for the stage, best of both worlds. It has been said that the only drawback for the film is the fact it's filmed too straight forward like a play. And it is straight forward, I love watching this film I think it's filmed beautifully, the character's personalities make up for anything that may be missing visually. The plot just glides along aided by the casual voice over performed by the venomous critic Addison De Witt, Karen and Margo.
Joseph Mankiewicz's older brother Herman helped his career flourish. Herman was known as the more talented brother, writing the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane, Joseph was bitterly jealous of the Oscar he won for it and wanted one for himself. Before Joseph wrote All About Eve, possibly the greatest script ever put to screen, he started out as a producer, producing the classic comedy The Philadelphia story in 1940. His debut as film director and writer was in 1946 when he took over from Ernst Lubitsch to direct Gene Tireney and Vincent Price in the gothic drama Dragonwyck. Then in 1949 and 1950 he got a double dosage of Oscar success when he won the Oscars for best director and screenplay two years in a row. Firstly in 1949 for the great drama Letter to Three Wives and in 1950 for All About Eve. The last film he worked on as director was the classic Sleuth (not the remake!) in 1972 starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest mysteries. His filmography is filled with films of varied genres, western, musical, comedy, mystery and drama. His best efforts in film are rich in theatrical performance and character. Predominately his best movies like All About Eve delve deep into making each character on the screen show as much depth and complications as most people have in real life, it may not be as entertaining in real life but it is a riot on film.
To quote Karen: "what's attractive on stage need not necessarily be attractive off".
If you call yourself a fan of movies and you haven't yet seen All About Eve you surely should.
Academy Awards Won (1950):
Best Picture (Darryl F. Zanuck)
Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders)
Best Costumes (Edith Head, Charles Le Maire)
Best Sound (20th Century Fox Sound Department)
It's an honour just to be Nominated:
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Anne Baxter)
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Davis) - - snub
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Thelma Ritter)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Celeste Holm)
Best Art Direction, Black and White (Lyle R Wheeler, George W. Davis, Thomas Little, Walter M. Scott)
Best Cinematography, Black and White (Milton Krasner)
Best Music: (Alfred Newman)
Best Editing: (Barbara McLean)