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Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) ventures back stage to meet and greet ageing Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Eve seems harmless enough, a typically star-struck young fan, but she worms her way into Margo's home and into her confidence, charming her friends and angling to secure her own big break as Margo's understudy. Too late, Margo realises that Eve not only covets her career but also her director Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill), who happens to be the man that Margo loves.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Nominated for an unsurpassed 14 Academy Awards, this bold and brutal backstage melodrama is a solid gold Hollywood classic which, unlike Gone With The Wind and Casablanca, has never lost its sheen. One of the masthead movies released by Fox as part of its "36 Greatest Movies Ever Made" package, Eve's themes are eternal, for they deal with the more regrettable traits of human nature - lust, betrayal, jealousy and ruthless ambition.

The role of Margo Channing was written for British star Gertrude Lawrence, but Bette Davis lucked into the triumph of her 60 year career when Lawrence walked out on Mankiewicz who talked producer Darryl F. Zanuck out of Marlene Dietrich and into Claudette Colbert, who then cracked her back in a skiing accident! Davis leapt at the chance to play the complex character variously described in the script as "beautiful, intelligent, talented," and "childish," who could lapse in an instant into a "hysterical, screaming harpy." "Margo," Mankiewicz had told her, was the kind of woman "who would treat her mink coat like a poncho."

Davis immediately thought of Tallulah Bankhead and modelled Margo on the flamboyant star. Tallulah was not pleased and sniped "when I get my hands on her (Davis), I'll rip every hair out of her moustache!" It was venom worthy of the Oscar -winning Mankiewicz and Davis revelled in the swag of scintillating one-liners, some which still pepper the language to this day. Davis, who met Gary Merrill on the set and married him after filming her last scene, was Oscar nominated, as was Baxter as the cool and cunning young fan who is all sugar and strychnine in the title role.

No-one minds the thin plot and the persistent talk when the satire is as witty and as withering as this. When Eve wins an Award, her bitter rival is there, hissing: "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." Tumbling wide-eyed and innocent into this nest of vipers is Marilyn Monroe as a vacuous starlet with air between her ears. Marilyn had made five films before Eve without generating much heat, but her star was born when she was tagged here as "a graduate of the Copacabana school of Dramatic Art" by George Sanders whose effortless performance as the corrosive critic Addison De Witt won him an Oscar.

All About Eve is all about the theatre...the in-fighting and the back-biting, those who covet the fame of others and those who concede the treachery it takes to trample on them. The starlet Phoebe, who worms her way into Eve's apartment at the end, is played by Barbara Bates. After her career failed in 1958, she made several suicide attempts and eventually succeeded when she turned on the gas for the last time in 1969. Kenneth Anger, who chronicled the darker side of Hollywood in his mid-80s Babylon books, described Eve as a "triple suicide movie" (Monroe, Sanders and Bates all killed themselves).

That's an unfortunate footnote, but the film is best remembered for its audacity and its daring; as one of the best Best Pictures of all time and for Margo's celebrated epigram as she shapes up for a battle of the bitches: "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night."

Published August 11, 2005

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(US, 1950)

CAST: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders

DIRECTOR: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

SCRIPT: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (based on the story The Wisdom Of Eve by Mary Orr)

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes

PRESENTATION: 4:3 original; DD 2.0 Stereo & 2.0 Mono; Disc 2 English 2.0 Stereo.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Celeste Holm, Christopher Mankiewicz and Kenneth Geist; Audio Commentary by Sam Staggs

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: July 2005

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