All About Eve

Mankiewicz 1950

PLOTLINES SEASON: RAGS TO RICHES
SUNDAY 29 APRIL 2012
UPSTAIRS AT THE BROADFIELD S7

The room upstairs at The Broadfield was a classy setting for a classy film. Sorry to anybody who was turned away because we were full – a great space but a small one!

Film notes for this screening:

Directed and written for the screen by Joseph L Mankiewicz.
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for Twentieth-Century Fox.
Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George

Sanders, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter.

Eve Harrington: “If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights.”

Made in the Hollywood studio production era, this film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards (a feat unmatched until Titanic in 1997). It won six, including Best Picture, and is still the only film in Oscar history to receive four female acting nominations.

Joseph L Mankiewicz created his script from combining an idea he’d been developing about an actress who recalls her life when receiving an award with a short story by Mary Orr, The Wisdom of Eve, which appeared in Cosmopolitan in 1946 (Fox bought the rights for $3,500). Intelligently and wittily written, it is an archetypal tale of new usurping old, taking in themes of ageing, jealousy, betrayal and ambition.

Mankiewicz also wrote and directed The Barefoot Contessa (1954, with Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner) and Cleopatra (1963, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton). He directed The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) and Guys and Dolls (1955).

However, it could be argued that All About Eve belongs to Bette Davis. At the age of 42, she commands the role of successful theatre actress Margo Channing, now clinging on to her declining stardom. It resurrected Davis’s own fading career, but she wasn’t first choice for the part. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck wanted Marlene Dietrich to play Margo. Mankiewicz cast Claudette Colbert, but she pulled out with an injury. Ingrid Bergman was even considered.

Thankfully, Bette Davis it was, who was in the process of divorcing her husband at the time of filming. The story goes that her voice in the film is so gravelly because of their many arguments. It is hard to imagine anyone else delivering her lines with such arch dryness.

Margo Channing: “I’ll admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.”

It was producer Zanuck who changed the title from Best Performance to All About Eve, after a line in the opening scenes from theatre critic Addison DeWitt: “more of Eve … all about Eve, in fact.”

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