23. All About Eve (1951)

Title: All About Eve

Release Date: 13 October, 1950

Oscar Ceremony: 29 March, 1951

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders


Nominees: Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Sunset Boulevard


“That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman.” – Margo Channing, All About Eve

If you ask me, every man, woman and child needs to watch this movie, regardless of what generation they’re from. It’s an incredibly frustrating, yet satisfying portrayal of human nature and its repercussions. Do you like Mean Girls?  Of course you do, because who doesn’t? Well this is kind of like a grown-up, sophisticated version of it.

The movie starts at a dinner ceremony, where an actress named Eve Harrington is about to receive a prestigious award. If you have trouble following old movies, you’ll like this one because viewers are immediately introduced to the situation and a few of the characters with the help of a voiceover from one of the attendees, theatre critic Addison DeWitt (don’t be fooled by the name; he’s a guy). Here are some key sketches for you:

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Margo Channing: I know the movie is called All About Eve, but Margo is pretty much the star of the show in every possible way. She’s a theatre legend worshipped by all, but the thing is, she’s no longer as young as she once was. When Eve comes into the picture, Margo risks becoming what Hilary Duff famously calls “So Yesterday.” Will she be able to maintain her status and dignity through it all? I have faith in her.

anne-baxter-eveEve Harrington: While you can’t deduce this from the introduction, it won’t take you very long to figure out that Eve is pretty much the spawn of Satan. She’s the fresh up-and-comer who conveniently happens to be young, gorgeous and talented. She skillfully manages to manipulate everyone around her in an attempt to take Margo’s place and rise to the top. Don’t be fooled by her doe-eyed act; she knows exactly what she’s doing.

12021628_galKaren Richards: She’s earned her place in the theatre world by being the wife of a famous playwright, Lloyd Richardson. Karen is Margo’s best friend, but is also responsible for introducing her to Eve. As any normal human, she makes a few mistakes along the way, but we like to believe she’s still okay in the end. She’s probably the most relatable character because of her role as somewhat of an average Joe getting mixed up in all this.

2442262Bill Simpson: He’s a theatre director, but let’s just call him Margo’s boyfriend. Men need to take notes from this guy because he’s amazing. He is dating a strong, independent woman who is 8 years his senior and much more famous too. Sadly, Margo starts doubting his loyalty when Eve comes along, but Bill remains extremely devoted to her. He’s a sweetheart and you can tell he loves her very much.

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Lloyd Richards: Unlike Bill, Karen’s husband Lloyd has an ego. He takes his work very seriously and wants everything to be done exactly how he imagines it. He can’t deal with Margo’s diva attitude (or her creative freedom as an actress) and begins to think that Eve would be a much better alternative, especially considering her age. I mean, God forbid he could just write a role for an older woman.

Once Addison gives us some basic information about our main players, the frame freezes and the tape rewinds as we dive into the story of how Eve goes from an unknown groupie to a star and how everyone got to this night. In Margo’s words, I urge you to “fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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Part of why this movie is so genius is Anne Baxter’s ability to portray Eve. She succeeds in making us hate her profoundly, all the while showing us why her act works perfectly on a lot of people. I can’t speak for everyone, but I assume most of us have stumbled upon an Eve at least once in our lives. If you have, you’ll be able to see right through the character immediately. I don’t care how attractive she is, or how innocent and good-willed she acts; she’s bad news. There were times when I was this close to just throwing something at the TV because of how annoyed she made me. It was even more disgusting to watch those who were beguiled by her, especially the men. Come on, guys! It’s time to show everyone that you’re not as naïve as you’re stereotyped to be. Hopefully this movie will teach you a lesson or two.

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However, my top honours have to go to Bette Davis as Margo. She is fantastic. She is an absolute queen. She is the embodiment of perfection. She’s the ultimate victim in this situation, yet she is somehow the only one who manages to stay true to herself and persist through it all. If I were in her situation, I would probably just take my anger out on everyone and cry, but she’s just so ridiculously cool. Even better, she comes up with the best lines and comebacks I’ve ever seen. Bette Davis is a champion at showing us the art of, pardon my French, “not giving a fuck.” I think we all need to take a moment and bow down to this woman. Here are a few of her best moments and most witty remarks:

1. When referring to her husband:

“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.”

2. When she has a request for her next play:

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3. When congratulating Eve after her award:

[Segment of Eve’s speech for context: “Although I am going to Hollywood next week to make a film – do not think for a moment that I am leaving you. How could I? For my heart is here in the Theater – and three thousand miles are too far to be away from one’s heart. I’ll be back to claim it – and soon. That is, if you want me back.”]

“Nice speech, Eve. But I wouldn’t worry too much about your heart. You can always put that award where your heart ought to be.”

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4. When Lloyd completely insults her and she has the perfect response:

Lloyd: I shall never understand the weird process by which a body with a voice suddenly fancies itself as a mind. Just when exactly does an actress decide they’re HER words she’s speaking and HER thoughts she’s expressing?

Margo: Usually at the point where she has to rewrite and rethink them, to keep the audience from leaving the theatre!

5. When Addison greets her from across the room and she returns the gesture like so:

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6. Just this:

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The movie is on Netflix, so do yourself a favour, press a few buttons, and make an evening of it. You’ll even be treated with a little Marilyn Monroe cameo. If you can be in the same movie as the one and only blonde bombshell and still somehow manage to outshine her, that says something about you. If men need to see this movie to watch out for the Eves of the world, women need to see it to be more like the Margos of the world. Then again, I’m pretty sure there can only be one.

 

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