“What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin’ at her rear end.”*
I watched All About Eve (1950) on TCM the other night.
It won Best Picture in 1950 and it is a good movie. You remember–an ingenue (Eve, played by Ann Baxter) insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress (Davis) and her circle of theater friends–the director, the writer, the columnist.
Bette Davis gives an over-the-top (but enjoyable) performance playing a Bette Davis-like star who throws off lines like, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!” George Sanders has the role of his life playing Addison DeWitt. He is fabulous and won a much-deserved best supporting actor Oscar.
But everyone else is clearly acting and they really can’t keep up with Bette and George. Celeste Holm–playing the good girl who does a very bitchy thing (you know the type)–made me want to slap her continuously. Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe are just not quite good enough.
Marilyn Monroe steals her one scene and is surprisingly natural in comparison to the others. I guess she really understood her part playing “a graduate of the Copacabana School of the Dramatic Arts.”
What really impressed me was the screenplay written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the plot is clever and apparently very authentic. They don’t write ’em like this anymore!
Spoiler alert: Margo Channing, the Star played by Davis, is no feminist icon. Although she is brash and fearless, all she really wants is to settle down with the right man and get married…
Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you’re not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.
Zut alors! Well, it’s dated, but it (mostly) holds up.
So I’ll recommend All About Eve as my Friday movie pic. You could also watch Sunset Boulevard from the same year– another classic about an aging star, this time played by the over-the-top Gloria Swanson (who was also nominated for Best Actress, but lost as well.)
P.S. Bette Davis did not win the Best Actress Oscar, because Ann Baxter lobbied to be nominated as well for Best Actress (as opposed to Best Supporting Actress) and they split the vote. Sigh. C’est la vie dans Hollywood.
*Thelma Ritter (Birdie) in All About Eve