Movie Project #11: All About Eve [1950]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

All About Eve [1950]

All About Eve [1950]
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Genre: Drama
Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders
Runtime: 138 minutes

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

A popular debate amongst cinephiles is what film should have won Best Picture in 1950. Two similarly themed movies were competing that year — Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve — with both showcasing the cruel side of show business. Both features are now considered absolute classics, and after watching Sunset Boulevard in last year’s project, I just had to check out its chief competitor this time around.

All About Eve stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing, an extremely popular Broadway diva who is desperately trying to maintain her top star billing despite her increasing age. One night after a performance, her good friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) notices a young fan standing in the rain outside the theater. After a brief chat, Karen invites the fan, who we come to know as Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), backstage to meet her idol. After some initial reservations, Margo warms up to her starstruck follower and invites her into her home. Eve becomes something of a personal assistant for the actress, but it doesn’t take long for Margo to suspect that she has some ulterior motives at hand. It turns out that Margo is right — Eve is using the star for her own personal gain, with her ultimate goal being to become an even bigger name.

All About Eve [1950]

The plot opens itself up to all sorts of backhanded actions and sneaky powerplay tactics as Eve tries to undercut her idol. She puts the moves on both Margo’s lover and Karen’s husband, and attempts to manipulate the theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). This doesn’t go so well, as DeWitt knows what games Eve is playing, and he uses it to his advantage.

Essentially, the movie is a brazen tale of backstage politics that essentially lifts the curtain for all to see. The women are the ones very much in power here, and in fact, the writer DeWitt is the only male with any substance in this film. This gives way to classic dialogue delivered by the Broadway divas, as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s screenplay oozes with sarcasm and catty banter. This is regarded as one of the greatest screenplays of all time, and it is the snarky backbone to what is a straightforward film, heavy on dialogue.

All About Eve [1950]

When critics discuss All About Eve, they are glowing in their remarks about Bette Davis. This has come to be her most renowned performance, and she really is on top of her game here. I wouldn’t doubt that Davis was able to channel some of her real life experiences into this role. Both her and Anne Baxter were nominated for Best Actress that year, though neither won. The common belief is that both of them ruined their chances by going up for the same award.

George Sanders was the only Oscar winner from the film, as he took home the gold for Best Supporting Actor. His role as the take-no-shit DeWitt is a good one indeed, as he is the only one able to best Eve at her own game. Special mention must also be made of a young Marilyn Monroe, who has a small role as a young up-and-coming actress (just like reality at the time). She is stunning in every scene she is in, and it’s hard not to focus on her, even when she is in the background.

All About Eve won Best Picture in 1950, as well as five other Oscars (including best screenplay). While I prefer Sunset Boulevard myself, I can see why so many were smitten with All About Eve during that time. Bette Davis is in prime form here, and the movie has the snarkiest screenplay I have ever seen. I’m not sure the film holds up as well today since the on screen antics are no longer as shocking, but there’s no denying this is a well-crafted film.


22 thoughts on “Movie Project #11: All About Eve [1950]

  1. PostCollegiate says:

    This is one of the first “classic” films I watched and I still consider it a standard-bearer, especially for female performances. I love the snark of the script as well but concur with the general consensus that Sunset Boulevard is the better film and holds up a little bit better over time. Still, if you want to introduce anyone to Bette Davis, show them this!

    • Eric says:

      Hi PostCollegiate, thanks for commenting! I apologize for the delay in getting back to you — somehow your comments got buried in my spam folder. It sounds like we agree on this movie. It really is great to see such a female-centric film from back then, and this certainly has an amazing performance from Bette Davis. I really need to see more of her work.

  2. yaykisspurr says:

    It’s all about the performances to me. I’m not really into cattiness but I did really enjoy All about Eve when I saw it. Though Sunset Boulevard is good too. I really loved George Saunders in this one! Cheers. (Kind of rambling thoughts sorry. 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Haha no worries — thanks for taking the time to comment! George Saunders really was great in this movie. I’ll have to keep an eye out for some of his other performances. I think this was the only film I have seen him in.

  3. le0pard13 says:

    No matter what film was chosen, it had a worthy rival with either of these two. Both are extraordinary films with the combo cast, script and direction in the peerless level. Fine review.

  4. maroon5gurl88 says:

    Sunset Blvd is better no doubt. I reviewed this movie when I did My Month with Marilyn and loved it. It definitely shows how women are willing to backstab each other for fame, something that hasn’t changed in Hollywood.

    • Eric says:

      It has turned into more of a debate than anything over the years, although I don’t think anyone is really complaining about All About Eve’s Best Picture win. Both are great movies, and well worth seeing. Hope you’re able to seek them out soon.

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