All About Eve
Unrated; Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz; Starring Bette Davis, Ann Baxter, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe
It is a classic adored by film lovers everywhere. Witty and smart, it was nominated for an outstanding 14 Academy Awards, a record held for over 40 years until finally tied by “Titanic.” It’s also been called “the bitchiest film ever made.” 1950’s “All About Eve” stands above so many movies in film history. And yes, it is a delight of a bitchfest.
“All About Eve” centers on flamboyant, insecure, and aging actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis), she is loved by younger director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), is friends with playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and his sweet wife Karen (Celeste Holm), and is starring successfully on Broadway in one of Richards’ plays. All is right with her world. Then Eve Harrington (Ann Baxter) enters her life.
Writer and director Joseph Mankiewicz (“Letter to Three Wives”) creates a wonderful world of egos, sniping, humor, conniving, drama, and wit. It also has some of the smartest dialogue penned for a film delivered by some of the greatest actors. Theater critic Addison De Witt (George Sanders in his greatest role) introduces the sexy Miss Caswell (Marilyn Monroe) as “an actress, a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art” and the classic line Davis utters, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
The film is crowded with outstanding performances and all deliver their lines with glee. Mankiewicz knew how to write a script to make a cast happy. Even Marilyn Monroe, in one of her early roles, is allowed to steal attention from Davis and Baxter in her few scenes.
The Studio Classic DVD offers plenty of extras including two commentaries (author Sam Staggs is the person who labels “All About Eve” the bitchiest film), an AMC Backstory episode about the making of the movie, and more. Of course, you do not have to watch this movie on TV. You can watch this film with an audience. On Tuesday, March 6, “All About Eve” will screen as part of NAU’s Humanities, Arts, and Religion Film Series. Every week at 7:00 pm a classic movie is shown at Cline Library.
Other great movies scheduled this spring include “Roman Holiday” (March 13), “The Bad and the Beautiful” (March 27), “A Star is Born” (April 3), “A Face in the Crowd” (April 10), “North by Northwest” (April 17), “Day for Night” (April 24), “Purple Rose of Cairo” (May 1), and “The Player” (May 8). Look for me at these screenings – I’m the one in the third row.
I have seen “All About Eve” time and again and continue to enjoy its biting humor. You can count on me to see it again when it shows at NAU on March 6. After all, how could I miss an opportunity to share laughs with an audience as we watch the bitchiest film of all time?