Friday, August 23, 2013

228. All About Eve (1950)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, from the story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr
Main Cast: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill
Click here to view the trailer


With the watching of "All About Eve", I get to check another unseen Best Picture winner off of my list of Best Picture winners I've never seen. For the curious, there are still twenty-six films on that list, but hopefully someday (soon) I'll be able to say I've seen 'em all. Anyway, the movie is "All About Eve" and so should be the review.

The film stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing (I wonder how many people went into this movie SURE that Davis played Eve?), a forty-year-old, semi-talented, very popular actress who is used to being at the center of the spotlight. The film begins at an awards ceremony where Eve Harrington (Baxter) is being honored for her exceptional acting talents. We hear a narration from theater critic Addison DeWitt (Sanders), who begins to fill us in on the essential details. We see the characters that we'll soon know very well: playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), his wife (Holm), director Bill Sampson (Merrill) and of course, Margo. We then flashback and get the story from Karen Richards' point of view (the playwright's wife). The story picks up several months prior when Karen met Eve Harrington hiding in the shadows, outside the theater where Margo had just given a performance. Eve goes to see every Margo Channing performance and practically worships her. Karen invites Eve up to meet Margo and long story short, Margo eventually hires eve as her personal assistant. As it says in the film, Eve does virtually everything for Margo; she's her mother, her sister, her friend, her admirer, her assistant and her maid. After a while, Margo becomes less and less thrilled with the presence of Eve and really begins to get annoyed by her when she feels that Eve is stepping on her toes and moving in on her man & her friends. The caca really hits the fan when Eve is positioned to be Margo's understudy, at a time when Margo thought she'd conjured up a plan to unload Eve. One evening, when Margo doesn't make her performance, Eve is forced to go on and is a huge success.

I liked "All About Eve" well enough, but I didn't like it as much as I'd expected to. I think it's another case of hype building me up and reality letting me down. I'd always heard great things about "All About Eve", as you normally do about any film that wins the coveted Best Picture Oscar and for some reason, I was really expecting to take to it. However, the film left me a little flat and once and for all made me realize that I am not a fan of Bette Davis. I just don't like her, to be blunt and can't really understand why she's so praised. In my view, she's overacts most of her performance and doesn't become her part, but rather, makes it blatantly obvious that she's an actress, playing a part and nothing more. In the great debate/battle of who's better: Crawford or Davis, I choose Joan Crawford any 'ol day of the week...twice on Sunday. Crawford was a much classier actress, who seemed to hold more in during her performances and let it seep out like cigarette smoke through tight lips, when needed. Davis, on the other hand, lets it all hang out from the get go and almost annoys me. THE BOOK ends it's write-up on "All About Eve" by stating that the film's only flaw is Anne Baxter. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed Baxter a lot more than Davis here. I know, I know, I'll accept the hate mail graciously and read every piece. Seriously though, that scene on the bed, near the end of the film with George Sanders yelling at her was just great and Baxter crossed a fine line between overreacting and just reacting and stayed on the right side of said line. Speaking of Sanders, what a freakin' actor he is! This is my fourth film with him, but I really only noticed him for the first time in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Man, did that guy bring the acting chops to the table or what. In fact, there really wasn't a bad supporting actor in the bunch here as I enjoyed Holm, Marlowe and Merrill too.

It's just that I kind of expected the script to take a different path. I expected the film to get a little darker, and expected Eve to have a more evil streak, doing whatever it took to ensure she was the next toast of the town. As it is, it just sort of happened and yes, Eve was a bitch, but she was talented so what of it? They never really went into WHY Margo didn't like Eve. Eve waited on her hand and foot, did whatever she asked and one day Margo wakes up and just decides she wants Eve to get lost and never look back. The film was a little on the long side as it is, yet there were still some things that needed a little more embellishment. Don't get me wrong, I would've trimmed the fat elsewhere and kept the film at a nice, solid two hours. The overrun was just unwelcome to the viewer and I was ready to call it a picture, raise the lights and wipe the gum off my shoe about twenty minutes beforehand. In conclusion, call it a mixed review. Brilliantly acted, yet a script that wasn't as succinct as it could've been. Details left out that should've been included and a little bit more of an evil edge in Eve would've done wonders, I think.

RATING: 6.5/10  Lingering in the dead zone of not great/not bad movies. I wish it would've delivered more, but after the disaster that was "Rio Grande" it was a breath of fresh air.


August 23, 2013  6:39pm


  1. After yesterdays agreements, we will have to beg o differ on this one, but only mildly as you seemed to get something from this, and ended up giving it 6.5.. so we are only about 3 points adrift.
    I real, really like this one.. and as a measure, I had forgotten it was so long.. it must have flown past for me.
    The interplay, the sharp dialog.. the characters.. and George Sanders, again. Wow.

    I have to argue about your acceptance of Eve and that (you seem to be saying) her bitchyness is excused by her talent. I think she is much worse that just a bitch (plus I don't like using that word).. she is calculating, manipulative, totally selfish and has a nasty case of raw, crude self ambition.
    Well, perhaps to some that is a positive, but the way she is happy to trample on, destroy, use, cast aside anyone to get what SHE wants, is, to me deeply unpleasant. Just have a look at the still you chose.. and tell me there is not evil self satisfied smugness seeping off the screen. I don't see any more room on the evil scale for her to be given some more - short of being a cartoonish psycho axe murderer!
    (good grief, this spell check even wants me to spell 'axe' without the 'e'!)
    Sorry, side tracked..
    Why did Margo become to dislike Eve? She was picking up on the deeply creepy constant shadowing, and realised what was behind it that Eve was seriously moving in on all she (Margo) held dear. Sure, Margo is far from perfection - she is also egotistical, self centered and given to ignoring and/or using those close to her.. but is a total novice compared to Eve. Now, if Joan Crawford had been playing Margo.. Eve would have never got through the door.. but that would not be this film.
    But.. as ever, despite disagreeing, another well written and thoughtful review. Good one Andrew

    1. It seemed to me that Margo becomes suspicious of Eve before she's ever given proper evidence to be suspicious. I don't know. The more I think about it, the more I realize that every single character in the film is, to some degree, quite cunning, dishonest and skeevy. Even Karen Richards when she drains the gas tank to get Eve her performance. I don't know...I think I just expected more of a Hitchcock style approach to this one, more a thriller than a drama. I did like it though, not bad at all.

  2. I agree with you on Davis vs Crawford, but in this case Bette Davis is just perfect as the spoiled and eventually miffed prima donna. It is almost as she is playing herself. Baxter was also better than the book gives her credit for. 1950 was a good year for women's roles.

    1. Thanks for stopping by again TSorensen and adding more depth to the conversation. I always appreciate people who go back and read the old posts, as well as the new ones!


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