#86: All About Eve [1950]


I feel I owe you all an apology. In my very first post, I promised you that I wouldn’t write essays, and yet in my last few reviews I’ve gone on about ‘thematics’. Consider my face slapped. I deserve it. Consider this me chowing down on humble pie. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, then you have the internet, or the comment box below. This blog is about giving you a brief intro so you can choose whether or not to watch the films, and ultimately it’s about my thoughts, so that’s what I’ll give you. Let’s start again, yes?
Repeatedly, I find myself shamefacedly researching a classic film that I’ve never heard of, discovering from Wikipedia that it’s actually a pretty big deal. The All About Eve instalment is a perfect example of this. My only claim to prior knowledge of the film was my ability to identify various Simpsons references in the dialogue and plot as I watched it through. So yet again, I was ashamed of my ignorance (and reminded of my great debt to Matt Groening’s genius). Hence why this challenge is so important to me now. I’ve come to realise how vital it is to “explode my ignorance”, as aforementioned in my first ever post.
Right then, All About Eve is a 1950 American drama, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewics. Various first-person narrators take over from one another to fill in the gaps on the story about Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a poor, pretty and ambitious young girl who desperately wants to make it in Broadway. She manipulates aging stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) in order to construct her own big break, all the while infiltrating all areas of her benefactress’ personal and professional life. It’s pretty creepy actually, and reminded me of some impressively evil characters I met at secondary school.
My challenge assistant Helen and I found this film a little too long for our tastes. Sure, there are loads of really interesting ideas flying about and the dialogue is razor sharp, legendary even. It’s just that with our modern palates being more accustomed to Mean Girls/Die Hard (respectively) and the like, it can be hard to hang on for so long, waiting for the main thrust of the plot to begin. I guess this is all part of my education though; I have learn to sit back, relax, and just let it unfold. While we thought it could have been a good half an hour shorter, Mankiewics does in fact keep a firm hold on the pace of All About Eve. He hasn’t let it drag, but rather he holds onto his cards, making each play decisively, as and when it’s necessary. Even though the blurb is very open about Eve’s scheming, it takes a while for us to believe it as Baxter does an incredible job playing the schemer. But, the real star of the show is Davis, who gets most of the screen time and around whom Mankiewics centres his cultural commentary. Her Margo is simply captivating in her psychological turmoil and is the main reason I’d watch this film again.
There are many ideas to follow up on in this film, if you’re interested. There’s a lot being said here about women’s identity and independence, the mortality vs. immortality of performers, and the relationship between Hollywood and Broadway. As it is, I’ve run out of space and I’m not writing any more essays, so if you want to open up a dialogue on any of these, comment below.
Thanks for staying with me so far. I’d like this to be as much your blog as mine, so feel free to be demanding and have your say.

Helen's summary: "Moral: Lie and cheat your way through life". She seemed personally offended by Eve's eventual success.

Comments

  1. 'Margo is a great star, a true star. She never was or will be anything less or anything else'.

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  2. Cam, I just want to apologise for my unreliable and at times unapparent support for your blog, especially after my involvement in it's early development. All I can say is I really enjoyed this post and I love your writing style. I hope the world gets the opportunity to love it too someday.

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