All About Eve (1950)
Written and Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Based on the short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr
Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter
Eve Harrington (Baxter) uses a chance meeting with Margo Channing’s (Davis) friend Karen (Holm) to become a part of Channing’s inner circle. Now Eve has inserted herself as Margo’s assistant and constant companion. As the relationship grows, Eve begins to connect with director Bill Simpson (Merrill) and playwright Lloyd Richards (Marlowe). With her growing connection to Simpson and Richards, the strain between Eve and Margot begins to show.
This film was one of the biggest successes of 1950. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Guys and Dolls) wrote and directed this film, winning Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Director. The story was based on the short story by Mary Orr. Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Anne Baxter (The Ten Commandments), and Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreement) are great parts of the cast. The stars of the film also include George Sanders (Rebecca), Gary Merrill (Twelve O’Clock High), Thelma Ritter (Call Northside 777), and Hugh Marlowe (The Day The Earth Stood Still).
This story is an interesting character drama that really plays on the relationships between people. The intrigue and contention go far beyond petty differences, but it also avoids anything overly dramatic. This balance becomes the perfect vehicle for a number of stunning performances by the stars of the film. The dialogue is sharp and witty, sometimes even biting. Part of this is the delivery, but it’s written with an intensity that is wonderful. The premise of the film is a great start for the story. The world of stage acting has enough possibilities that it makes everything seem reasonable. Had this occurred in any other setting, with the exception of a film studio, I don’t think there would be enough material to make this interesting. It’s easy to see what earned this film the Best Screenplay Oscar. It has nice twists, great moments of intensity, and a wonderful ending.
The acting in this movie is so great. George Sanders won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film. In addition, Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter were all nominated for their parts in the movie. Any of these actresses could have won for their great work. (Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) and Josephine Hull (Harvey) won for Best Leading Actress and Best Supporting Actress.) Just as her character is written, Bette Davis seems destined for the big moments. This time she does a wonderful job with her intense depiction of a woman bemoaning the passage of time. Anne Baxter is equally great playing the complicated and motivated title character. Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter also do a great job. This film seems to be built on the performances of the strong women characters, and it works perfectly.
This doesn’t mean that the men don’t hold their own in this one. George Sanders Oscar win was definitely deserved. Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe are also great in this one. In the end, this film has an ensemble cast that weaves an intricate story of lies, gossip, questionable motives, and shifting loyalties. While the story provides an excellent blueprint, the acting delivers the final product with great success.
The film is wonderful to look at. The costume design earned Edith Head (The Sting) an Oscar win. The movie also earned nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing. While the visuals aren’t doing anything new, they do all the little things nicely. The world of the main characters is a unique creation that works nicely with the story being told. In addition to the visual success, the film also won an Oscar for Best Sound Recording and was nominated for Best Score. The music was done by Alfred Newman (The King and I), and it is a perfect addition to the emotional tone of the story. Overall, all the right things seemed to happen with this movie.
It’s amazing to see the success this movie had. With 14 nominations this film received the most nominations for any film in the history of the Academy Awards. This wouldn’t be equaled until Titanic earned 14 nominations 47 years later. In addition, this movie beat out Sunset Blvd., one of my favorite movies, for Best Picture. The acting is wonderful, the writing giving these stars a great voice. The visuals are composed wonderfully, and everything sort of falls into place. The emotion of the story should appeal to anyone who loves good drama. I would also suggest this to fans of any of the stars. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
After reading so much good things about it I watched it about 2 years ago, but honestly I didn’t manage to enjoy it. Never understood why it got all that praise….
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That’s interesting and wonderful thing about the movies we watch. Something for everyone out there.