An all around great introduction to classic cinema
“All About Eve” is the first film I recommend to begin your journey into classic cinema. It is a masterpiece in cinema, with what I feel has one of the best scripts ever written. It is filled with great dialogue, incredible performances, huge stars, and was written and directed by a top Hollywood writer/director.
I’m not going to describe the plot of the films on this blog, since hopefully you will watch them. I’m just going to provide what I feel is interesting or informative information related to each film in some way, in order to broaden your knowledge of the film, noteworthy cast and crew, and how it relates to classic cinema.
This film was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. He won an Oscar each for both writing and directing two years in a row (for 1949's “A Letter to Three Wives”, and 1950's “All About Eve”). He received 5 additional nominations in his career. I think “All About Eve” is his crowning achievement. He is also the granduncle of Ben Mankiewicz, host of Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
"All About Eve" was nominated for a then record 14 Academy Awards, winning 6 Oscars, including “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and “Best Original Screenplay”. It was the first time two actresses were nominated for “Best Actress” for the same film (Bette Davis and Anne Baxter). The true star of the film is Bette Davis (who plays Margo Channing), one of the biggest names in classic films.
Bette Davis is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history (and is a favorite of mine as well). There are great actors and actresses, and there are also great stars, which are two completely different things. Bette Davis is one of the very few who fell into both categories. She has an over the top personality, onscreen and off, with a realness you just can't take your eyes off of. Not looking like the typical actresses of the early 1930s, she had trouble getting parts early in her career, and had to fight to get good roles. Something she would do for the rest of her career. She acted in many types of films, but mostly romantic dramas and melodramas, and late in her career, horror. While she was in some great films, and a few classics, I always felt that for the most part, she was better than the films she was in. "All About Eve" is definitely one of the exceptions, and I feel it is her best film, and perhaps her best performance. Some of her other great films include "Dark Victory", "Now Voyager", "Of Human Bondage", "The Little Foxes", "The Corn Is Green", "The Petrified Forest", and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" She was known for often playing unsympathetic tough characters, and was not afraid to look plain or even unattractive if the part called for it. This was daring in the Hollywood glamour era. She was voted number 2 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years...100 Stars” women's list of the "50 Greatest American Screen Legends”. Her film career began in 1931 and lasted until her death in 1989. She won 2 Academy Awards (one in 1935, and the second in 1938) with 11 nominations in total. It is rumored that she is the one that came up with the nickname “Oscar” for the Academy statuette, named after her first husband. She was a major star, cutting edge actress, and the “Queen of Warner Brothers Studio” for most of her early career, famously fighting studio head Jack Warner to get good parts. By 1950, she had made a string of flops and was not in demand. Then came “All About Eve”. Her performance is one of the great screen performances ever. She once said of the film and its director, “As I told Mankiewicz, he resurrected me from the dead.” She was an aging actress in real life, playing an aging actress on screen, and that part fit like a glove. Astonishingly she did not win an Oscar for this role, as she was up against another legendary film performance (Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Blvd”, which will be on this blog soon), and her costar in “All About Eve”, Anne Baxter (who insisted she be nominated for "Best Actress" not “Best Supporting Actress”). The surprising winner that year was Judy Holliday who also gave a mind blowing performance in the comedy, “Born Yesterday”, which you will also eventually see if you watch the films recommended here. Bette Davis is a screen legend and icon, also known for her large expressive eyes, which were the subject of the song "Bette Davis Eyes", by Kim Carnes in 1981, which was a huge hit in the US, where it was #1 for nine weeks.
An interesting sideline is that Bette was going through a divorce at the time of “All About Eve”. She and costar Gary Merrill, who plays “Bill Simpson” in the film, met for the first time on the set and instantly became a couple. They later married. She was 42 and he was 35. Their marriage lasted 10 years (the longest of Bette Davis’ four marriages).
Also in the cast:
Celeste Holm who plays "Karen Richards" in the film, was a fantastic actress. She had a long career in film, stage, and TV, from 1946 until her death in 2012. She won an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress” in 1947 for “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (which will also be on this list), and was nominated two other times, including one for “All About Eve” and for "Come to the Stable". Other notable films in which she appeared include "The Snake Pit", and "High Society".
Ann Baxter, who plays “Eve Harrington”, was a very popular actress who often played the second lead, and occasionally the female lead, in such films as "The Razor's Edge", "The Magnificent Ambersons", "I Confess", and "The Ten Commandments". She won a “Best Supporting Academy Award” in 1946 for “The Razor’s Edge”, and was also nominated for this film. She was the granddaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
George Sanders, a very talented actor, plays “Addison DeWitt” in the film. He won a “Best Supporting Actor” Academy Award for this film. He appeared well over one hundred films and TV shows in his career, which began in 1934, and lasted until his suicide in 1972. He appeared in many classics including "Rebecca", "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "A Shot in the Dark", and "The Picture of Dorian Gray", and you will definitely be seeing him again in other films if you stay updated with this blog. He is one of my favorite supporting actors.
Thelma Ritter, (one of my very favorite character actresses), plays “Birdie Coonan” in the film. Her film career spanned from 1947 until 1968, and she appeared in many classics, including "Rear Window", "Pickup on South Street", "Pillow Talk", "The Misfits", and "Daddy Long Legs". Some of her films will definitely be recommended in upcoming blog entries. She was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, sadly never winning one. She is one of the most nominated actors who never won an Oscar. It is always a treat watching her!
Last but not least, there is a small appearance by Marilyn Monroe. She plays “Miss Casswell”, a graduate of the "Copacabana School of Dramatic Arts.” This film is early in her career, and she appears briefly in just 2 scenes. She would soon become of on the biggest stars of all time, an icon, and a true legend. I will write more about her when we see one of her trademark films.
This film is filled with famous lines, big stars, a great story, and memorable performances. I hope you enjoy it!
On each blog entry you will find links to stream, rent, or buy each film (whatever I can find available) as seen below. Amazon and Ebay just approved my site for monetization which means should you click on the Amazon or Ebay links provided and purchase (stream, rent, or buy) any of the films through my links I will receive a very small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I hope to get approval from other sites in the future. Again there is no mark up and no cost to the consumer. Any money I receive will be used towards keeping this blog going. Thanks so much!
YOU CAN STREAM OR BUY THE FILM ON AMAZON:
OTHER SITES WHERE YOU CAN BUY THE FILM: Ebay Deep Discount
TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):
Although there were no problems on the set of "All About Eve", evidently Bette Davis was very cold to Celeste Holm. But Celeste got the last laugh (literally and figuratively) in a story I heard her tell. It is regarding the filming of the scene where she is laughing at the restaurant table, when “Margo” says she doesn’t want the part of Cora. Evidently, referring to laughing on cue, Bette Davis said to her, “I can’t do that”. Celeste replied, “It’s easy”, to which Bette repeated, “I can’t do that”. Celeste then said, “I’m sure you could… if you tried”. The director, who heard this (and knew how Bette was treating Celeste), said to Celeste, “Do you want to do it again?”. To which she exclaimed, “Yes”, and did another flawless take.
When the film came out, the "Sarah Siddons Award for Distinguished Achievement" depicted in the opening and closing scenes was purely a fictitious award invented by writer/director Joseph Mankiewicz. However, in 1952, a small group of distinguished Chicago theatergoers formed the Sarah Siddons Society, and it became a real, prestigious award, presented annually in Chicago, with a trophy similar to the statuette of Siddons awarded in the film. Interestingly, both Bette Davis and Celeste Holm were eventually recipients.