Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1950: All About Eve

Margo Channing is an aging, moody star of the stage.  Eve Harrington is an admirer, introduced by Margo's best friend Karen, the wife of a playwright.  Eve tells a sob story, everyone takes pity on her, and she becomes Margo's assistant.  Eve is humble, artless, selfless, incredibly helpful, and completely devoted to Margo's well-being...or is she?  "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

The other day, my brother told me that this is his favorite black-and-white movie.  I wouldn't necessarily say the same for myself, but I agree that it is a remarkably well-put-together film.  The writing is witty, the story is intriguing, the camera work is brilliant.  The film is carried forward by three strong actresses giving fabulous performances: Bette Davis as Margo, Anne Baxter as Eve, and Celeste Holm as Karen.  But they're not alone.  Thelma Ritter, that wonderful character actress, plays Margo's original assistant, and Marilyn Monroe has a small role as well.  The only male actor who really gets to shine in this film is George Sanders; Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe are pretty important, too, but they don't get to do much except shout at each other and at Bette Davis.  Still, the performances are incredible, and so is pretty much everything else.

Although this film is a little on the long side (aren't they all?) it is absolutely never dull.  It's totally unpredictable, and viewers are always wondering what Eve and Margo are going to do next.  Sometimes I find Bette Davis hard to watch (blasphemy from a self-proclaimed old movie lover, I know), but there are some scenes in this film in which I can begin to appreciate why everyone raves about her.

All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards - a record that has never been surpassed and only matched once in 1997 (guess what film) - and won 6.  One could argue that it deserved more, and maybe if they had nominated Anne Baxter for supporting actress instead of Best Actress against Bette Davis they wouldn't have cancelled each other out, but who knows?  The fact is, this is a really good movie about the lengths to which some people will go to make it in show business.  It's disturbing if you think about it too long, but you can also just watch it for entertainment.

Coming up next: An American in Paris

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