All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve
Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz based on the 1946 short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr
(number 353)

I came into this knowing nothing but that it’s one of those famous movies that gets referenced a lot. Once the credits started and I saw that Celeste Holm was in it I got excited. I love her in High Society, and then Thelma Ritter appeared and I love her from rear Window. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Bette Davis movie before so all round it was pretty magic from the start. Unsure if I’ve seen anything with Anne Baxter in it before but she is both beautiful and compelling to watch, she has a real charmisma… oh yes, I must have seen her on the ’60s Batman series as a villain! Should probably seek out some more of her.

It’s always interesting watching movies about movies, or theatre, or acting. I enjoy seeing the stereotypes and the beliefs about Hollywood and Broadway and how over the decades not that much has really changed.

I did enjoy seeing how airport security has changed though. Eve and Margo walk Bill almost up the stairs to the plane, no screening, no security telling them to stay back. He just had to stop smoking before heading onto the tarmac and they wave him onto the plane. Magic. I suppose back then it was a very elite group who could afford to fly but still.

Marilyn Monroe appears as a very stereotypical Marilyn character, a gorgeous bimbo social climber who wishes to be an actress. I didn’t recognise her immediately but I did recognise her voice and thought ‘wow, it’s like a Marilyn clone’. Silly Jenni. 1950, it is her. And goodness she’s beautiful in it. Luminous, and funny.

Does it make me love the people? I had the unconscious bias to love Karen played by Celeste Holm right off. But actually I do love the characters in it. I was firmly on Margo’s side by the end of the film, even if she is a bit of a monster. The dedication she shows to Bill is lovely, and him to her. I was so proud of him for turning down Eve when she tried it on with him.

The characters in this are gorgeously human, flawed and ambitious and ruthless but also tender and vulnerable. For all the ‘bitchiness’ this movie is touted to be about I think it’s a wonder. Women being women and everything that entails in the theatre industry.

Bechdel test: Yes, and very early. Karen and Eve talk about Margo, have a long conversation about how she would always watch the plays. Then inside Margo is talking to Birdie about the interview she gave about the play. We have four incredibly important main women characters, and they talk to each other all the time. How refreshing for a movie from 1950.

Best line:

Bill: Have you no human consideration?
Margo: Show me a human and I might have!

Karen: The cynicism you refer to, I acquired the day I discovered I was different from little boys!

State of Mind: very impressed, I loved the ending and the way it all seemed to be cycling around again. The twists in the plot of this movie are clever and not at all predictable. The performances are all masterpieces and therefore compelling to watch. How lovely to have a film in this list which is about women as well, and although there is conniving and bitchiness there’s also loyalty, communication and women friends who hash out their issues and forgive each other. Stereotypes avoided all round. Even when conniving Eve gets everything she wants and realises it’s not all its cracked up to be when you don’t have friends any more, she just kind of accepts the appearance of Phoebe with a tired resignation. Will watch this again for sure.

There are a lot of annoying things about this top movies of all times list and one of them seems to be that movies like this, which are about women and women’s relationships with each other, seem to only make it onto the list of important stuff if they’re past a certain vintage. I wonder how old a movie has to be to be classed as a cinematic classic rather than just a chick flick?

Watched movie count


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