December 23, 2011

All About Eve

All About Eve (1950) is just about the bitchiest movie ever made. It's chock full of delicious dialogue (including the famous "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.") and features Bette Davis in top form. She plays an aging Broadway star named Margo Channing. Anne Baxter plays Eve Herrington, an adoring young fan who cons her way into Margo's inner-circle in order to foster her own acting ambitions. She wants to be the new Margo. It's smashing good fun: overdramatic to the point of self-parody, but also a clever critique of Hollywood culture and the double-edged sword that is Fame.

Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve's impact on pop culture cannot be underestimated. Countless movies and television shows have borrowed its theme of the star being manipulated by a young and devious imposter, but none of these has ever come close to equaling it. 

Bette Davis had been the Queen of Warner Bros. in the 30s and early 40s, but in the years following Now Voyager (1942) her career sagged, and she had just about been written off as a performer. Her performance as the volatile, vicious and vulnerable Margo is perfection, and it briefly revitalized her career. And it's the performance you think of when you think of Bette Davis (unless it's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, but that role moves beyond self-parody into something positively uncanny and even undignified).

With George Sanders, who won an Oscar for his performance as a witty, acerbic drama critic, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, and, in a small role, Marilyn Monroe. Based on the short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr.

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