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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Classic Film Review: All About Eve (1950)

Occasionally a film is so universally praised that you think it can't possibly live up to expectation: All About Eve is one of those films and it certainly lived up to the hype. It tells the story of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), an aspiring actress who worms her way into the life of popular actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and her friends. Although she is welcomed as a fan and becomes Margo's assistant, it soon becomes apparent that she has her own agenda and is willing to do anything to achieve her goals.

The cast for this one is absolutely perfect. Apart from Baxter and Davis, you've got George Sanders as theatre critic Addison DeWitt, Celeste Holm as Karen Richards, wife to Hugh Marlowe's playwright Lloyd Richards and Gary Merrill as Margo's lover Bill. On the periphery you've got the wonderful Thelma Ritter as Margo's employee Birdie and a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe as Miss Casswell. None of them put a foot wrong and there are some terrifically tense senses. There are three worthy of particular note. Firstly, there is Margo's meltdown in the theatre when she finds out that Eve has been appointed as her understudy is very emotional, as she manages to alienate everyone and is left sobbing on the set of a bedroom. Secondly, Karen's confrontation with Eve in the bathroom of a restaurant where the former realises just what lengths Eve will go to for her own way. Finally, the scene between Eve and Addison where he explains that he knows all about her brims with tension. Those are perhaps my three favourite scenes but they don't stand out from what is a very coherent and consistent whole.

Assisting an excellent cast is a fantastic script which never feels laboured. In addition, the use of music in the background of specific scenes is wonderfully effective without pummelling you with the subtext. For instance, after Karen and Eve's confrontation at the restaurant 'That Old Black Magic' plays in the background and 'Stormy Weather' is used at Bill's birthday party when Margo disappears upstairs. All instances of music are subtle enough to be accidental but they add to the atmosphere of the film as a whole.

It's difficult to find anything bad to say about this one. If I was to nitpick I'd say that the introductory voice-over by George Sanders perhaps lingers too long but every word of it is useful and adds to what comes after. There are no extraneous scenes or dialogue and no deviations from character. All About Eve deserved every Oscar nomination and win it received, although I can't help wishing that Celeste Holm had picked up the gong in the 'Best Supporting Actress' category. 

Truly a classic and, although long, one which seems to end too soon. 

1 comment:

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

Your top scenes are all stellar choices. What a fantastic film. Eve's evil ways are so subtle. Beware wolves disguised as sheep.