An inside look at theater and the people who constitute the business!
Written By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Directed By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
It’s interesting that in 1950 two films were released that covered much of the same territory. This may not seem like a big deal because every year scores of movies cover the same territory. But, the subject matter of the two films was not common, the lampooning of the entertainment industry. Sunset Blvd. tackled the movies, while All About Eve took on the theater. People have their preferences between the two, I have mine as well, but no matter which you prefer both are genuinely excellent films.
The narrative in All About Eve isn’t all that complicated, but it is played out rather well. The twist was an actual twist to me because I didn’t see it coming, I began to think something was up with Eve, but not something quite so dastardly. The narrative isn’t the focus in All About Eve, emotion and a backstage look at the theater life is. We are taken in by what is happening because of the emotion the story requires from us. This isn’t the type of story that would work with a cold look from an outside perspective. We need to be a part of the world, to feel the paranoia of Margo and the machinations of Eve. We do feel all the emotions the film is going for, thanks in large part to one performance.
Bette Davis immediately takes a different track with Margo than Gloria Swanson did with Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd.. Swanson was completely over the top and lacking in any true humanity. Davis is over the top, she is every bit the actress, but she is also very human. She is paranoid not because of delusions, but because of very real fears that do come true. Even in the small moments she can’t turn off the acting, that is her entire person, but in those small moments you see bits and pieces of the real live person beneath the actress.
The rest of the cast of All About Eve ranges from competent to really good. George Sanders, Anne Baxter and Thelma Ritter fall into the very good category. The rest of the primary cast is competent, but unremarkable. An interesting aspect of the film was the arrival of Marilyn Monroe. She doesn’t have much of a part, but in her few moments on screen she takes over the picture, shoving everyone else to the side through sex appeal and some clever dialogue supplied by Mankiewicz.
The dialogue in All About Eve is stellar for the most part. There were a few times when I thought it was a little too clever, but those moments were less than a handful. The rest of the film was filled with one liners, zingers flying back and forth, witty sequences and speeches dripping with sarcasm and intelligence.
The only area where All About Eve was disappointing was in a few technical gaffes. You can see a camera in the final Phoebe mirror shot, but that is easily forgivable. However, the Eve and Addison walking from the Shubert scene took me out of the film due to the bad way in which the two actors were cropped into a different background. It may be a small scene, but it was done so badly that instead of listening to what they were saying I spent the entire time being bugged by how badly done the effect was.
In the matter of preference I would take Sunset Blvd. over All About Eve, but as I said, both are excellent films. Bette Davis gives a tremendous performance, the story is intriguing with a neat twist near the end and at the very end. As far as satires go All About Eve is one of the best and it does feature some of the best dialogue put to paper, needless to say it is a film worth checking out.