Classic Movie Review: All About Eve (1950)

Title: All About Eve
Release Date: October 13, 1950
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Told as a flashback, bookended by a ceremony presenting a prestigious award for theater, All About Eve details that rise of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) to Broadway stardom. When we first see Eve, she appears to be a meek but dedicated fan of celebrated actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), wife of the play’s author Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) spots her outside of the theater and invites Eve to meet her hero.

Margo takes a liking to Eve and ends up taking her into her home and having her work as an assistant.  Eve is fastidious in her duty to Margo to the point of obsession.  If you watch all those stalker horror movies from the 80s and 90s, you might think you have an idea of where this is going, but no one had seen those movies in 1950s.  Eve does want to take Margo’s role on the stage – worming her way into becoming understudy without Margo knowing – and she even makes the move on Margo’s boyfriend, the director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill).

The theme of the movie beyond Eve’s many manipulations is the injustice of how women performers are treated as they get older.  Margo has to feel paranoid about Eve taking her place, while also realizing the parts she has to play are written for younger women.  Speaking of younger actresses the movie also features an early performance by Marilyn Monroe in a bit part, although she gets some funny lines.

The script for this film is excellent, and the acting divine, with several meaningful monologues and deep conversations (and arguments!).  I’m not quite sure I buy into the end of the movie.  On one hand it may be Eve getting her just desserts, but on the other it seems to shift the theme of the movie away from wrongness of how aging actress are treated to an idea that women are just vindictive against one another.  Nevertheless, All About Eve is worthy of its reputation as one of the all-time great films.

Rating: ****