Play It Again: All About Eve

Play It Again – All About Eve. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

“Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

It’s hard to write about Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve without feeling giddy; the combination of sharp dialogue delivered by one of the strongest casts ever assembled – Bette Davis and Anne Baxter leading an ensemble that also included a very brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe – is enough to make any film lover weak at the knees.

Based on the short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr, Mankiewicz adapted the story of Margo Channing (Davis), an aging Broadway star, and Eve Harrington (Baxter), the up and comer after Margo’s career and life, to the screen in 1950. Margo takes pity on Eve when she turns up dishevelled at the theatre she is performing at, and appoints her as her personal assistant. However, Margo soon sees through Eve’s sweet exterior and discovers her motive to use her and those around her to climb to the top of the theatre world and become a star.

As elegant as it is bitchy, All About Eve went on to earn 14 Oscar nominations, winning 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture. It holds the record as the only film in Oscar history to have four female acting nominations – Davis and Baxter for Actress and Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter for Supporting Actress – though none won in their categories.

In a classic example of what might have been, Davis only took the role of Margo after It Happened One Night’s Claudette Colbert had to leave the film due to a back injury. While Colbert was just as fine an actress as Davis, the latter brought her reputed “reputation” to the screen, creating an unforgettable character that would go down in history.

More than just a cat fight between two women of the stage, the film offers food for thought on the eternal struggle faced by women to balance a career and a relationship, a line even more blurred at the time the film was made. When they say ‘they don’t make them like they used to’, they’re referring to All About Eve.

Discuss: All About Eve!

2 Responses to “Play It Again: All About Eve”

  1. This one was already in my queue, but it has now been bumped up from 105 to 4. Well done, Lomas.

  2. I was terrified of this movie for ages but by god, it was incredible when I finally worked up the nerve to watch it. That last scene! *faints*

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