Sunday, June 7, 2015

All About Eve

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

The title of this Oscar winner for best picture of 1950, directed by best director winner Joseph Mankiewicz, is an ironic one. We really don't get to know all about Eve until almost the end of the film. We get voice-over impressions from George Sanders (another Oscar winner for his performance) as cynical, satiric journalist Addison DeWitt, and Celeste Holm's Karen Richards (wife of Hugh Marlowe's playwright Lloyd) at the beginning of the film, which is told in retrospect after seeing Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter) ready to receive a prestigious theater acting award. But, she is an actress who, as opposed to the more genuine great performer, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), role-plays in real life to manipulate people into letting her into their artistic circle. 

Margo has been a success for quite a while in Lloyd's plays, which are directed by Margo's lover, Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill). She is a star, but realizes that she is an aging one, and has self-doubts about sustaining her success. Her best friend, Karen, encounters Eve, who says in sweet, humble, devotional adoration, that she has seen every performance of the play, and even saw Margo perform in San Francisco. Karen invites Eve into Margo's dressing room. Eve then tells her sad tale of her poor parents and husband who died in the war. She now occupies herself seeing Margo perform. The film says that great actors need to be loved, and so does Margo. Perhaps this characteristic is also a great flaw, and Margo is susceptible to it. She hires Eve as her business secretary.  She does a great job. But, Margo's wardrobe woman, Birdie (Thelma Ritter), doesn't trust her. She doesn't see unselfish loyalty in Eve, but rather someone who is studying Margo, artistically stealing from her, not admiring the great actress' attributes. I would have liked to have seen more of Birdie's candid humor in the film.

We start to see that Birdie is right about Eve wanting to replace Margo when she checks her hair in Margo's mirror, and holds up the star's dress in front of herself, taking a pretend bow on the empty stage of the theater. Eve first tries to undermine Margo by putting the moves on Bill. He dismisses her with a sports-romance metaphor by saying she made "an incomplete forward pass."  Eve's true envious nature is seen when she starts to tear at Margo's wig after the rejection. She then tries to drive a wedge between Karen and her husband Lloyd, who have been having marital problems. There is a scene where Eve gets someone to ask Lloyd to see about her because she is distraught. When Karen gets the call, the audience can note problems with the marriage because she and Lloyd are sleeping in separate beds. This action occurs after Karen delays Margo's return from a countryside trip so that Eve can act as Margo's understudy. To her acting credit, she makes the most of the opportunity. DeWitt makes sure that all the critics take notice that Eve now surpasses Margo. Margo, seeing how Eve has gone behind her back, tries to get her a job with the producer, but Eve has already staked her claim.

Eve threatens Karen with revealing how she gave her the chance at being the understudy unless she uses her influence with Lloyd to cast her in his new play whose main character is in her 20's.  But, Margo, happy with Bill's marriage proposal, her performance in the current play, and her friends, accepts that she is too old for the new part. In the end, although Eve's acting is rewarded, she has met her match in DeWitt, who does know all about Eve. He tells her that he found out about her lies: she was never in San Francisco, since the theater she mentioned doesn't exist; and she was never married. He says he found out that she slept with her previous boss and was paid to leave town. He tells her that they are the same – they are unable to love or be loved and share a dislike for humanity. All they have is their talent. He has the goods on her, and tells her that she belongs to him. In contrast, despite Eve's professional success, Margo's life is much richer.

The film falters with its inconsistent use of the voice-overs. But, the dialogue is great.  Some favorite lines:  "Peace and quite are for libraries."; "Actors are like infants. They scream at the top of their voices."; "Eve would ask Abbot for Costello." And, at the end, Margo tells Eve to put her award where her heart should be. Also, the film has a great supporting performance by Marilyn Monroe, who is trying to use DeWitt to get her acting career going. Despite the talent surrounding her, she steals the scene.

Next week’s film is Blade Runner.


  1. did Eve have an affair with Lloyd ?

  2. Good question. I don't think the audience really finds out, but it is definitely possible.


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