All About Eve (1950)

You Can Always Put That Award Where Your Heart Ought to Be

My roommate Richard must’ve immediately realized his mistake when he made me watch a movie from last year.  In a hurried rush, he ran and grabbed a 62-year-old movie so that he could keep up with his ancient movie watching reputation.  The movie he grabbed is a very famous and well-regarded movie that I had never really heard of, and one that stars an actress I still do not know the appeal of.  This actress is a well-known staple in cinema’s history, but not one I ever really found that appealing physically like a Marilyn Monroe, and since I’d never seen one of her movies I don’t know from any other appeal she may have.  But now I’ve seen one, so let’s see if I’ve figured it out as I review All About Eve, written and directed by Joseph L. Makiewicz, and starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Thelma Ritter, Barbara Bates, and Marilyn Monroe.

Told mostly in a flashback, we go to a time even older than the movie.  In this time, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is the bee’s knees on Broadway, but she’s getting on in the years and knows what that will eventually mean for her career.  Margo’s friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), wife of the play’s author Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), meets a huge fan of Margo’s named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), and pretty quickly realizes that it’s all about her.  Karen takes Eve to meet Margo, Margo’s boyfriend and director of the play Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) and Margo’s maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter).  Margo is taken with Eve’s adoration of her and she quickly becomes Margo’s assistant.  Birdie is the first to think there’s something off with Eve, and soon Margo begins to feel as if Eve is more conniving than she lets on.  Everyone else just thinks Margo is being paranoid and they start getting annoyed with Margo’s attitude.  Eventually, Eve becomes Margo’s understudy and stands in for Margo at an audition that Margo was 2 hours late for, giving a performance that everyone finds far superior to Margo’s own.  The real question of this movie is whether Eve is as innocent as she seems, or is she was conniving as Margo believes.

I personally wouldn’t give this movie the perfect 100% that it received on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is a pretty good movie.  Without the same affection for older movies that my roommate has, I found the pacing of this movie to be flawed, but it does have a pretty great conclusion.  The biggest issue I had with the movie is that it was almost two and a half hours and I didn’t get that interested until probably the last half hour of the movie.  It’s a bit of a chore to get through, but I’d say it’s worth the wait.  Though it’s perhaps drawn out a little too much, it’s all set up to the conclusion.  I honestly couldn’t tell throughout the entire movie whether Eve was conniving or was just being innocently dragged along through these situations that made Margo suspicious because she was a crazy old coot.  I began to get my suspicions when she was being interviewed by Addison De Witt, and then the moment it was revealed ending up being a pretty big “Damn” moment.  It was also a thought provoking movie, but it kind of needs a ::SPOILER ALERT:: Do I really need a spoiler alert on a 62-year-old movie?  I guess…  Anyway, in the end it’s revealed that Eve is actually manipulating the entire situation in order to get to play Margo’s part and then get noticed and then get a new part that was promised to Margo.  The thought provoking thing happened after the movie, when my roommate and I were discussing it.  His take on the movie was that Eve was a dirty bitch, the same assumption I feel would be made back when the movie was made.  I had a different take.  Though I wouldn’t have supported the decisions Eve was making, I respect her ambition.  What she did was what seemed to be the only option she had to get ahead.  Margo wasn’t going anywhere on her own, so Eve had to do something.  Granted, what she did was the totally bitchy way to go about it, but it worked out for her.  ::END SPOILERS::

I think the performance in this movie that deserves the most credit is the role of cigarettes.  This movie made me believe that people in the 50’s were under the assumption that they could not breathe unless they did so through a cigarette.  Almost everyone in this movie had a cigarette blazing at all times.  They even wake up and immediately light a cigarette!  After that, Anne Baxter was also very good.  Part of the reason Eve was able to keep her intentions a secret is because of the way it was written, but a good deal of the credit belongs to Baxter.  She acted sweet and innocent throughout the bulk of the movie, but was able to make that turn when it was necessary.  After watching the movie, I can’t honestly say that I really understand the appeal of Bette Davis.  She’s nothing special to look at.  She is a pretty good actress, but I don’t really see anything that blows me away and makes me think she should remain a cultural icon.  Speaking of which, Marilyn Monroe is in this movie!  She’s only in the movie for a hot minute, but she is definitely what makes that minute so hot.  I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings towards Marilyn.  She’s always pretty, and she’s always a star and always draws your eye when she’s on camera, but her weight has fluctuated for a couple of her movies.  She’s about as good as I’ve ever seen her look in this movie.

You have to really invest something into this movie to make it worth your while, but if you can make it to the end it ends up being a pretty interesting movie.  Well written, interesting premise, and some pretty great performances.  It just doesn’t really make an impact until almost two hours in.  But it did make an impact on the lungs of everyone involved in this movie since they all smoked like chimneys.  And Marilyn Monroe is hot.  I guess I could say I recommend this movie, especially since you’ve already been warned about how long you have to wait for the good stuff.  I didn’t get that same warning.  All About Eve gets “If nothing else, there’s applause” out of “Slow curtain, the end.”

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