All About Eve had all the buzz following its theatrical release in 1950. The film set an all-time record with 14 Academy Award nominations, an astonishing feat that still holds up to this very day. So, when I was lucky enough to be near a theater that happened to be showing this classic on the big screen again, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! *
*On a side note, big thanks to Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events for screening classics in theaters nationwide every month or so. Definitely check them out to see which classic is screening near you! *
So, what’s up with this “Eve” person that the film happens to be all about? Well, despite the suggesting title, the movie has much more to it than just Eve. In fact, for the first half of the movie the focus is firmly on Margo Channing (Bette Davis), a renowned Broadway actress approaching the twilight years of her stardom. Having recently turned 40, Margo starts to worry about her age, as the nature of the business has proven that it caters to the more young and fresh talent available on the market. In spite of this, the charming Margo is still the star amongst her close-knit circle of friends and colleagues. But after taking in a young and helpless fan named Eve Harrington (Ann Baxter) as her assistant, Margo’s anxieties of being replaced make their way to the surface, and what starts off as a heart-warming friendship slowly becomes a drama-filled tale full of paranoia, betrayal, and deceit!
I find it ironic that the title of this film is called “All About Eve”, when to me, it’s biggest strength is the amount of great characters that appear throughout the film. Bette Davis and Ann Baxter are certainly the stars in their respective roles as Margo and Eve, but what amazes me is how the supporting characters still remain an integral part of the plot moving forward. Writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz did a masterful job of giving each character a sense of purpose. The casting choice and direction felt like a play, fittingly enough. If any character were to be cut, the plot would probably fall apart. But at the same time the film never felt overcrowded. Each character seems to have their own chance to shine, adding something that further pushes the narrative or adds an unexpected twist that suddenly steers the story towards another direction. It’s safe to say that Celeste Holm’s role as Karen Richards offers just as much importance as Davis’s Margo, even though Margo receives much more screen time. And the same is the case for the majority of the characters. Heck, there are so many character arcs to tell in this drama that Eve herself doesn’t really come to the forefront until much later in the film!
But even so, Eve’s presence is felt throughout despite her prominence coming towards the latter half of the movie. Eve is such a jarring figure, as the character we initially meet comes off as sweet and innocent, but over time the mere mention of her name brings tension and distress for the other characters. I thought it was a clever decision to leave her mostly unseen for the better part of the film early on. Margo is paranoid and grows distrust for her new assistant, but we never really see for ourselves why she does so, which vilifies her in a way. Eve at that point had shown no signs of mischief towards her mentor, so we are led to believe that the situation is all in Margo’s head. And then, suddenly, the roles are reversed, and the outstanding performances of Davis and Baxter are on full display. Eve slowly becomes the person that Margo fears, which in turn makes a villain of Eve and gives room for sympathy for Margo. The role reversal also comes at the right time too, making the turn feel natural for both of the characters. It’s brilliant acting to be able to change our outlooks on certain characters in one viewing, as it demonstrates both character development and growth, and the range that these actresses have in order to deliver their roles with a believable duality.
I also found amusement with how witty and comedic the characters were at certain times. There are so many quotable one-liners that even the sassiest of viewers would be wise to take a pen to write some of the quips down. Margo is the wittiest of them all (as you would expect of a Broadway star), but the quirkiness falls down even to her spunky maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter). And for those who like a bit of film trivia, a young Marilyn Monroe makes a small appearance, and even drops a few memorable lines herself!
This movie is such a fun ride that has a little bit of everything. There’s compelling drama with shocking twists and turns, but there are also brief moments of relief to break the tension and give the audience some time to breathe. And the superb performances by all the actors and actresses will give you enough to glamour over, and by the end of the film I’m sure Eve won’t be the only thing that you remember about this timeless classic!
Where to Watch this Film: All About Eve (1950) is available for rent/purchase on Youtube, Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, iTunes, and Netflix DVD.