All About Eve (1950)
The Circle of Stardom
What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end - Birdie
The minute we set are eyes upon Eve Harrington you can sense she is more than just a fan, she is too humble and prepared and as such you can sense immediately that this is a woman who has set her sights on the career and life of Margo and nothing will stop her. Now the irony is that this makes "All About Eve" very obvious as you know that it is going to be all about the manipulative Eve worming her way into various influential people's lives and creating opportunities for herself yet it is never boring. The tightness of the script, the perfectly paced direction and some wonderful performances makes it fascinating, leading you to wonder how far Eve will go to get what she wants.
Having waited patiently outside a theatre every night to get a glimpse of the plays star Margo Channing (Bette Davis), Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter - Fools' Parade) tentatively speaks to Karen Richards (Celeste Holm - 3 Men and a Baby), the wife of playwright Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe) and finds herself invited in to meet her idol. It all seems so innocent as Margo warms to the humble and nervous Eve inviting her to stay in her guestroom but the truth is that Eve is not who she seems and wants Margo's life, her career, her man and her fame and nothing is going to stop her from getting it.
As a movie critic I watch a lot of movies and whilst featuring a predictable story doesn't mean a movie is bad it often means it is ordinary yet "All About Eve" breaks the rule. You see the storyline to "All About Eve" is both simple and obvious, you can guess that Eve is not the nervous young thing she makes out to be and so we know that she is going to use and manipulate others to get what she wants. Yet whilst obvious what will happen it is still fascinating because her manipulative ways, her determined streak which borders on evil is captivating. Watching her politely ask Karen for help to get a step up is so coyly done that it makes you smile.
Now I say all of this is very obvious as we basically have this tale of industry ruthlessness which wasn't new in 1950 and has been done a few times since but there are twists. I won't say what they are but they are cunning yet are built on something we may already suspect about Eve. Not only that the ending completes the movie so perfectly, delivering what you could say is the circle of stardom.
Now "All About Eve" features some strong male performances but in truth it is all about the women the trio of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Celeste Holm. Each of these actresses bring so much to the movie, Davis delivers every aspect of an aging actress fearful of being usurped by the next young thing whilst Baxter delivers that simmering evil as she is determined to get what she wants. And playing the innocent is Holm as the manipulated Karen who finds her attempts to help Eve coming back to bite her in the butt. You just can't take your eyes off of this trio so whilst George Sanders is marvellous as Addison DeWitt and Hugh Marlowe is strong as Lloyd Richards they end up over shadowed. And although it is only a bit part even Marilyn Monroe fails to steal the limelight away from this trio of talented actresses.
The thing about "All About Eve" is that this is a movie over 60 years old yet it doesn't feel that old. So yes the look, which is fantastic, dates the movie but the story of ruthless young wannabes is eternal and it is the power of this story which keeps "All About Eve" interesting to newer audiences.
What this all boils down to is that "All About Eve" is technically not that original with its story of a ruthless young woman going after the career and life of an actress. But because of the great writing, great direction and a trio of great performances from Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Celeste Holm it is still both entertaining and fascinating.
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