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All About Eve (1950)   rating

Review: written 2007

Fasten Your Seatbelts

All About Eve (1950)

Far more eloquent people than I have extolled the virtues of this classic - not least, the Academy themselves who nominated it for an unbeaten 14 Oscar nominations (it won 6).

It's not often one can say a movie is perfect, especially one over half a century old - and yet this movie seems to manage just that. It is a perfect fusion of cast, director, and above all, script. And what a genius screenplay it is - literate, without ever being elitist. Scathing and caustic yet never lacking warmth, it is perhaps remarkable that such an insightful movie about women was made by a man - Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

The story revolves around Eve Harrington, a young woman who appears as an adoring fan at the theatre back door, waiting for Margo Channing, played by Bette Davis. At first doting and adoring, then insinuating into her affairs, and then showing her ultimate goal - to take her place, Anne Baxter plays Eve with great restraint - allowing her eyes to shine bright with a sincerity we soon come to realize is hollow. While Eve represents all the young ingénues that wait in the wings, Margo as played by Bette Davis is a unique and uniquely well rounded and believable character - not least because it mirrored her own character so much. Scathing, brassy, and yet increasingly vulnerable as her 40th birthday passes, it is the sort of role that even today Hollywood actresses complain there is not enough of, and brilliantly portrayed through an almost permanent haze of cigarette smoke, as much a part of her character as the script. That 40th birthday party, incidentally, contains the well known line - `fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night..'. Then there is Celeste Holm and a small first screen role for Marilyn Monroe, who, as is often said, appeared to draw all the light on herself when she was on the screen.

Let's not forget the men though - Gary Merrill, later to become Bette Davis’ real life husband, plays the object of Bette Davis attentions, and is no push-over. When Eve turns her attention on him, he rebuffs her with the harsh "What I go after, I want to go after. I don't want it to come after me.". And then most of all, George Sanders, his mellifluous speech purring out bemusement and cynicism in equal measure, and who turns out to have teeth to go with the purr.

Every character and every line deserves a mention, but instead of reading this review- go watch the movie! It's no screwball comedy, but rather a superb character study and ensemble piece, which glitters with wit and talent.

All in all, great movie, highly recommended.

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