All About Eve (1950) – Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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The next drama title that was recommended following my screening of Les Enfants du Paradis from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, All About Eve is a tale of ambition and betrayal, with a stellar script and direction by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Bette Davis stars as an aging theater actress, Margo Channing, while Anne Baxter stars as the titular Eve, a young aspiring ingénue who finds her way into Channing’s inner circle. She takes on what would be a personal assistant position today in Channing’s life, and begins to work her own connections. She even begins to make overtures to Channing’s lover, director Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill), though this doesn’t occur until later in the film. Up to that point, there is the possibility that perhaps, Margo is misreading everything, that Eve is just a delightful, young starstruck woman she’s helping.

When Eve begins to spread her wings, becoming Channing’s understudy in the current stage production she’s working on, and is gaining notoriety and popularity, everyone begins to see the manipulations and machinations that are really occurring behind the scenes.

The dialogue is filled with priceless gems, wickedly delivered, and Davis shines in this role, alternately jealous, self-pitying, toying, and vicious.

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The film has great dialogue and great performances, Marilyn Monroe has a small part as Addison DeWitt’s (George Sanders) latest dalliance, Miss Casswell, whom he directs towards producers and directors in the hopes of scoring her roles on the stage.

In the second half of the film when Eve starts to cement her power, and exhibiting her skills both off and on stage. Through it all, is the through line of ambition, and love of fame, from a few quiet moments, like Margo catching Eve with her costume, bowing to an imaginary crowd to the final shot of the film. Every one of the characters has given up something for their little shining moment, but these are tales we don’t always get to see, and her desires, manipulations and ambitions lead Eve to be used, hated, and vilified, though that’s all below the surface. In public, where everyone interacts with everyone else, she seems to be loved and adored. Only those closest to her, friends, if she has any, and her enemies, know the truth.

I quite enjoyed the way this one was put together, watching how Eve insinuated herself into Margo’s life, becoming invaluable and irreplaceable, until she was within striking distance of her own dreams. But the price she pays for them may have been too much.

This is a great film, dark, occasionally melodramatic, with fantastic dialogue. If you haven’t seen it, you rather owe yourself, so find a copy and settle in for it. All of the performances are top-notch, and it’s a great story.

Have you seen it?

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