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USA 1950
Directed by
Joseph L Mankiewicz
138 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

All About Eve

Although today the world of theatre has much less prestige than when this film was made, thus dating it somewhat, this acerbic satire and allegory of the hollowness of fame, written and directed by Mankiewicz is a justified classic for its literate, at times wordy and somewhat histrionic script, and fine performances.

Bette Davis, who at the last minute replaced an injured Claudette Colbert in the lead, is in exemplary form as Margo Channing, a jaded stage diva who can see all too clearly that her star-power is waning. Opposite her Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington is equally impressive, albeit in a more subdued way, as a predatory ingénue who wheedles herself into the older woman's favour in order to cannibalize her magic

The film picked up Best Film, Best Director and best Screenplay Oscars (Mankiewicz had also won Best Director and Best Screenplay the previous year for the less memorable A Letter To Three Wives), whilst a meticulously urbane and sardonic George Sanders in a role that recalls Waldo Lydecker in Otto Preminger's Laura (1944) won Best Supporting Actor. Marilyn Monroe makes her first significant screen appearance playing the breathy bimbo that became her signature screen persona.

Life imitates art? Perhaps so. Not long after the completion of shooting Davis married Gary Merrill who played her boyfriend/husband in the film whilst Anne Baxter's lobbying to have herself nominated for the Best Actress, rather than Best Supporting Actress, is generally regarded as having prevented Davis from winning it. (Whilst Baxter had a long career, largely in television after this she never appeared in as high profile a film again). Of course, the fate of Monroe in real life provides a more tragic parallel.

FYI: Film buffs will want to compare this to another 1950 film about fading stars, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard whose star, Gloria Swanson, was up against Davis for the Oscar. In the end it went to newcomer, Judy Holliday, for her role in Born Yesterday, a vastly inferior film.

The film's record 14 Oscar nominations was unbeaten until tied by James Cameron's 1997.




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