An Attempt at an Intelligent Discourse on Two Classic Films (Part Two)

All right, so a few days ago I promised an “All About Eve” review to bookend my “Mr. Smith” review so: here it ’tis… (because I’m stalling bed and avoiding homework. ;P)

Plot Summary from IMDB: An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. (Ed. And the bitchery ensues!)

So, Mankiewicz, the screenwriter, he does some good dialogue. He’s the same guy who wrote the Liz Taylor Cleopatra (which I actually QUITE enjoy and…) which gave us such wonderfully lovely lines like, “Rome made a city out of the world.”

AND

“Antony: Queens. Queens. Strip them naked as any other woman, they are no longer queens.
Rufio: It is also difficult to tell the rank of a naked general. And a general without an army is naked indeed.”

But, I digress, I was talking about Eve. All About Eve, in fact… (sorry, couldn’t resist).

I can understand why Bette Davis lobbied so hard to play Margo Channing when they handed her the script. I won’t quote the “bumpy night” line, everyone quotes that and, really, she has much better lines than that.

Like: “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.”

The scheming young actress plot felt a bit stale for me I must admit, but that’s because this is the movie that spawned all those imitations. This is the original, and if you’ve got to have the scheming young actress you couldn’t do worse– or better or– something than Eve Harrington. Anne Baxter plays her as the epitome of cool and serene… up until the moment she flips and you see the conniving little bitch that was hiding there the whole time. And then the ending where her whole plot crumbles and she gets everything she wanted but at such a horrible cost. Delicious.

Another real stand out is George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, a sort of Oscar Wilde-esque theater critic who pulls strings just to watch things fall apart. He’s charming. He’s an even bigger schemer than Eve, and he’s a treat to watch as he struts and drawls and delivers fabulous lines like: “You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent!”

What really made this movie for me, though, was the romance between Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill). Margo is the aging older star and Bill is the up and coming young director, and he’s just nuts about Margo, but she’s so hung up on the age difference she can’t see it. Davis and Merrill got married in real life after this movie and that doesn’t surprise me one bit the way their chemistry just zings onscreen. They had a rough ride as a couple onscreen and off, but you can see why they both thought it was worth it. (Serious zing, I’m tellin’ ya.)

At one point they’re fighting and he throws her on a prop bed and holds her down while he pours out his frustration over her doubting their relationship and pushing him away. The scene was probably pretty risque in 1950, and the tension between them so wonderfully treads the line between passion and violence. (If this movie was made today they probably would have had hot angry sex on the prop bed.) But underneath the frustration and the fighting and the regret their romance is just so freaking sweet.

So, to sum up. Brilliant cast. Excellent writing. And a pretty tight story for all that it’s a scheming younger actress plot. Watch it for Addison DeWitt alone.

And now here’s a clip of the famous “bumpy night” scene. Because if I won’t quote it the least I can do is give you Bette delivering her famous quote:

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