11 April 2010

Review: "All About Eve"

There is something about labeling a film a classic that often makes me not want to watch it. The same goes for a lot of classic novels. I have never read Ernest Hemingway or J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. The major difference is that I have a love for certain old films, especially anything featuring Audrey Hepburn. With the great number of films available to watch online, I have decided to go back to the past and watch some of the classic films that are a part of cinema history. All About Eve is a 1950 drama written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who also directed Guys and Dolls (1955) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. All About Eve was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, and is still the only film to receive four female acting nominations (Best Actress for Davis and Baxter, and Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter). The film did win six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for George Sanders. With superb performances, All About Eve, a film about ruthless ambition, is a worthy classic because its themes of aging and career are timeless.

The film begins at an awards dinner honouring Broadway's newest star, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). All About Eve flashes back a year to when Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is Broadway's biggest star, though she is beginning to show her age. One evening the wife of the playwright, Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), meets the young Eve outside the theatre. Eve claims to have seen every performance. Karen brings her backstage to meet Margo, where she is also introduced to Karen's husband Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe), Margo's lover Bill (Gary Merrill) and Margo's maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter). Blinded by Eve's obsession, Margo befriends her and soon offers Eve a job as her personal assistant. It then becomes apparent that Eve has an agenda. She wants to become the queen of Broadway. Eve uses her close friendship with Margo and her small circle of friends to achieve her personal success. She schemes against Margo by playing against her insecurities, which include her relationship with Bill and her age. The only person who seems to understand Eve's tactics is Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). Eve, seemingly young and naive, is ambitious beyond her years and will stop at nothing to achieve fame.

It is almost embarrassing, but for the longest time my only knowledge of Bette Davis was the Kim Carnes song Bette Davis Eyes. Bette Davis was the first actor to ever be nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938). One of my favourite directors, Pedro Almodóvar, plays as an homage to All About Eve, where the characters are seen watching the film and a reference is made to Eve Harrington later in the film. All About Eve reminds me of Woody Allen's film Melinda and Melinda, where a young girl comes and alters the life of a unassuming couple, though it does not have the same themes of blind ambition. This theme becomes more and more obvious while watching All About Eve, and it seems to be quite a prevalent issue in Hollywood today. So many films are made about a young star's attempts to gain fame and fortune, and I believe that any of them would benefit from Eve's techniques!

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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