Happy New Year to all of you, this is my first post of 2017!
One of my favourite films ever made is the fourteen-time Academy Award nominee All About Eve. It holds the record for being the most Academy Award nominated film (tied with Titanic), and I thought this would be a great opportunity to write a recommendation of it. I hope I can inspire you to watch it, I know you’ll enjoy it if you do!
All About Eve was released in 1950 – the same year as another of my favourite films, Sunset Boulevard (my recommendation of which you can find here). It tells the story of Margo Channing, an established actress in the theatre, and Eve Harrington, who is supposedly Margo’s biggest fan. However it gradually becomes evident that Eve is scheming against Margo’s back. The career defining performance of Bette Davis paired with the wit and intelligence of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s script create an unforgettable film.
Eve Harrington appears to be a shy young girl with a huge admiration of Margo Channing. Karen Richards, the wife of playwright Lloyd Richards and the best friend of Margo, notices Eve standing outside the Broadway theatre Margo where is performing. Eve tells Karen that she has seen every performance of ‘Aged In Wood’, the play Margo is starring in, and Karen introduces Eve to Margo. Eve soon becomes an integral part of Margo’s life, moving into her house and becoming her personal assistant. However, Margo’s insecurities about her age and not being married cause her to become paranoid about Eve. It becomes increasingly clear that Eve is using her relationship with Margo to her advantage, manipulating her way into being hired as Margo’s understudy and viciously not telling her for over a week. Eve also schemes to win over Margo’s boyfriend, Bill Sampson, although he rejects her. She conspires with Karen in order to make Margo miss a performance of ‘Aged In Wood’, allowing Eve to give her performance. Eve uses this to blackmail Karen into giving her the lead role in Lloyd Richards’ new play ‘Footsteps on the Ceiling’, a role which had been written for Margo. Addison DeWitt, a theatre critic closely associated with Margo Channing and the other characters, uncovers Eve’s real reason for worming her way into Margo’s life. Despite her protests, he forces her to perform that night in ‘Footsteps on the Ceiling’, for which she wins an award from the Sarah Siddon’s Society. After the awards ceremony, Eve goes back to her apartment, rather than attending a party being held in honour of her award. She discovers a young girl, who calls herself Phoebe, has fallen asleep in her apartment. Phoebe’s adoration of Eve is notably similar to Eve’s supposed adoration of Margo, and instead of asking her to leave, Eve lets her stay. The film ends with Phoebe standing in front of the mirror with Eve’s award, pretending it is her own.
Despite there being very little action compared with a lot of the films we see today, the complexity of the storyline keeps the audience constantly on their feet. It also provides some of the most memorable lines ever spoken…
“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”
“Bill’s thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it twenty years from now. I hate men”
“We’re in a beehive pal. Didn’t you know? We are all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. Aren’t we honey?”
“I’ll admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about your heart. You can always put that award where your heart ought to be”
The film takes an interesting stance against Hollywood and much more in favour of the theatre, which is more than a little ironic considering All About Eve is, in itself, a product of Hollywood. There are several mentions of characters going to Hollywood in order to work, but the idea of this is met critically by the other characters. At the beginning of the film Eve quizzes Bill about his flying out to Hollywood to write a script, pleading with him to come back to the theatre. But by the end of the film, Eve is planning her own trip to Hollywood to make her name as an actress. This opposition to Hollywood sets out to expose the corruption of the industry, whilst constantly comparing it with the dedication it takes to make it in the theatre.
All About Eve won six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and still holds up as one of the best films ever made. Bette Davis and Anne Baxter (Eve) give the performances of their careers, creating characters who are, to this day, two of the most famous female characters ever written. I know anyone who has watched All About Eve would agree that it’s a film worth watching.
Thank you so much for reading!