01 May 2008

All About Eve

All About Eve
All About Eve, starring Anne Baxter and Bette Davis, was directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz. Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a seemingly devoted fan of the actress Margo Channing (played by Davis, who smokes throughout the entire film). Margo takes Eve under her wing, initially taken in by Eve's faux humility and innocence. It later transpires that Eve is calculating and ambitious, exploiting Margo's insecurities about impending middle-age.

Baxter has the title role, but the film is largely a study of Davis's Margo, who is far more realistic than Eve. Davis is sensational: alternately cynical, compassionate, warm, and bitter. By contrast, Baxter simply goes from too-good-to-be-true to scheming bitch. The greatest scene, showcasing Davis's impressively unglamorous performance, is the party sequence, in which a drunk Margo warns her guests: "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night!". The party also features a scene-stealing cameo from Marilyn Monroe, in the same year as her bit-part in The Asphalt Jungle.

The two leading men, especially Hugh Marlowe, are rather bland, though George Sanders, as an oily gossip columnist, is more interesting. The ending (in which the cycle begins again, with a young girl ready to do to Eve what Eve did to Margo) is disappointing, considering the otherwise sophisticated, witty script.

While the film is set on Broadway, the script includes regular industry in-jokes and barbs about Hollywood. Rather than a backstage theatre story, it might be more accurate to call it a behind-the-scenes film, and it's one of the very best of its kind.