Eve (Anne Baxter) is eagerly waiting behind the scenes to meet her idol, the Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). This girl seems innocent, but behind that soft beautiful face lies a different creature entirely. She has seen every one of Margo’s performances of her current production. Playwright and critics DeWitt (George Sanders) sees through Eve’s lies and her plan, a scheme that hatches to take Margo’s roles and her fiancé Bill Simposn (George Merill) as well. When Bill shows no interest, she goes for Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), another writer. After she accepts her trophies and awards, she goes back to her room to find a woman called Phoebe, asleep, a girl who would to Eve what she did to Margo.
If one film could have perfect dialogue, All About Eve would roll off my tongue. Bette Davis and Anne Baxter are perfect in the roles, as is George Sanders (Rebecca). Davis plays famous theatre actress Margo Channing, an egotistical and hard-faced woman who is chased-after by Eve Harrington, a seemingly innocent individual who loves Channing enough to become her understudy. But her devotion becomes suspicion, and Margo tells her peers. Yet, they think Margo is being selfish and unkind. This is an excellent picture about the cattiness and saltiness of Hollywood’s social climbers, and the fact that they will do absolutely anything to get to the top. Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood. It’s a real bitch of a place.
Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreement) is brilliant as Karen Richards, Margo’s best friend. Originally, she is all about Eve but soon changes her tune when she sees how cunning sweet little Eve is. “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” says Margo (Davis). She is cold and calculating, and everyone knows it. Eve is the same, but nobody suspects it because looks can be deceiving. She plays the babe in the woods act to perfection and takes everyone by surprise. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra), this film truly shows the awful nature of those in Hollywood and how they are willing to stack people to get what they want.
This is soap opera as it should be: refined, stripped back, well-acted and non-corny. Now all we have are Eastenders and Emmerdale Farm. How times have changed. Bette Davis is raw, seeping beneath the layers of our skin and taking a stroll in it for fun. Baxter is subtly good as Eve. Her performance is as sweet as the character herself, yet it also sends chills through rooms making them go cold. Perhaps she’s too nice, and too lovely. “We are nothing less than what we choose to reveal” says Frank Underwood in Netflix’s House Of Cards, and how right he is. Then we also have the Frank Underwood-esque stand-in with George Sanders, a critic with a tiger’s stripes.
Much alike to Casablanca, this is one of the few occasions I’d call a film perfect. Bette Davis (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane) was an incredible talent, both in this film and her others too. Margo Channing is the perfect part for her. Aside from Davis and Baxter, it’s George Sanders who steals the show. It’s not impossible to see why he walked away with the Oscar. The acting is the main factor that carries this film, but there are also many examples of excellent cinematography and set design, and well-executed costume and hair. What takes the cake, is the screenplay. Like Casablanca, it’s script is so quotable and quite frankly, it’s a divine piece of literary craftsmanship.
This is a sensational narrative of ambition, blackmail and betrayal in the arts industry. The direction is on point and the cast’s ability to deliver a flawless script is to be commended, much alike what Bergman, Bogart an company did with Casablanca. Unfortunately, we are witness to relatable characters of this ilk. We will all have met an Eve Harrington (Baxter) and a Margo Channing (Davis), or even a pompous culture vulture like Addison DeWitt (Sanders). All those things aside, the story is engaging, well-told and incredibly paced. It doesn’t stumble, and it chugs along in a fine fashion showing the blanket Bystander Effect that has occupied Hollywood since the 1930s.
From the cast, including an early-set Marilyn Monroe, to the direction to the writing to the aesthetic features like hair, costume and make-up, it has everything a great movie should. All About Eve is about the human heart. It just goes to show how easily emotions can betray you and in Hollywood, you’ll stand a better chance by having none at all.