Let’s Hear It For The Ladies: All About Eve

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE LADIES:   No one can make a bitch diva look more fabulous than Bette Davis in the Hollywood classic All about Eve

ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Saunders and Celeste Holm
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Released by 20th Century Fox
138 minutes

There’s no people
Like show people
They smile when they are low
Yesterday they told you would not go far
That night you opened
And there you are
Next day on your dressing room- they’ve hung a star!
Let’s go on with the show…

Everyone wants to be a star.   The classic All About Eve is all about people who want to make it big and all the manipulative things they will do to get there.   For if you want to make it in the business of show you’ll never survive on talent alone. You’ve got to learn how to play the game if you want to make it- and especially if you want to stay on top.

The film opens as the New York Theatre community is honouring its newest star, the young Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter).   While everyone smiles politely and claps for Ms. Harrington in the smoky banquet hall, it’s obvious there isn’t much love for the apparent ingénue.

For while the fans and critics all adore her, the people in this room: writers, producers, directors and other actors, all know the truth.   As the film flashes back to tell Eve’s rise to stardom, you learn that she’s no sweet and modest girl but rather a cold and manipulative temptress who’s had stardom on the brain for a very long time.

No one knows the extent of Eve’s deception more than Margo Channing (Bette Davis).   From the moment Margo steals a cigarette from her producer and lights it, you know that this is a woman who’s never doubted her fabulousness and always gotten what she wanted.

Unfortunately for Margo, one of the things she wanted and got was taking in the humble and destitute Eve Harrington.   While Eve hatches evil plots behind people’s backs, Margo will bitch a person out to their face and then invite them out for a drink.   Margo may be a diva, but she’s a diva with a heart.

Eve knew exactly how to play to Margo’s vanity and was quickly let in the inner circle.   It was only when it was too late that Margo realized that Eve was in fact using the veteran actress as a case study for stardom and blackmailing her closest friends like Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) to help her with her rise to fame.

All the actors in this film are strong (Marilyn Monroe even pops up in a small role as – what a shock! – a sexy but dumb wannabe actress) but no one compares to Bette Davis’ performance as Margo Channing.   Davis may not have been drop dead gorgeous like Monroe, but she knew exactly how use her star power to make her irresistible.

Davis’ absolute greatest power as an actress, though, was her line readings.   The dialogue of that era was very heavy handed, but Davis rose to the challenge and made every line she spoke absolute perfection.   And to this film critic there’s nothing more fabulous than that.

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