If a singular aspect alone can propel a film to greatness, than perhaps writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1950 black and white Oscar winning best film, All About Eve, is that film and Bette Davis performance as Margo Channing is its launcher.
All About Eve is blessed with dialogue that still sparkles with wit nearly six decades on, and, even more so than the films of Billy Wilder (whose Sunset Boulevard, released in the same year, is often compared to All About Eve) there simply was no Hollywood screenwriter that came as close to the great stage comedies of Oscar Wilde than Mankiewicz.
Wilde tends to have characters that are not as smart as Mankiewicz’s, but usually more obviously comic. Granted, there is a dopey harlot-cum-starlet, Miss Caswell, played by Marilyn Monroe (in the most ‘realistic’ performance of Monroe’s career- itself a testament to great writing), but even there she is used to set up peerless wittiness..
All about Eve won six Academy Awards® and received the most nominations in film history but the legend of All About Eve didn’t end with the Oscars®. Not only did it remain popular in theatrical re-issues and later on television, but it eventually became a cult film, particularly among gay fans who identified with Davis’ Margo Channing’s larger-than-life personality. Her warning “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” became the most quoted of the film’s many famous lines in history.
The story of an understudy scheming to replace the star has been referenced in everything from the hilariously excessive Showgirls (1995) to Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar®-winner All About My Mother (1999), while the entire plot was recycled, with an all-male cast, for the 1995 gay porn video All About Steve. The script itself was set to music for the hit 1970 Broadway musical Applause, starring Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing. Eve finally got to take over for Margo when Anne Baxter who played Eve in the original movie stepped into the leading role after Bacall left the show.
Starring: Bette Davis (Margo Channing), Anne Baxter (Eve Harrington), George Sanders (Addison De Witt), Celeste Holm (Karen Richards), Gary Merrill (Bill Sampson), Hugh Marlowe (Lloyd Richards), Thelma Ritter (Birdie Coonan), Marilyn Monroe (Miss Caswell) and Gregory Ratoff (Max Fabian)
All About Eve Trivia:
*Co-star Celeste Holm spoke about her experience with Bette Davis on the first day of shooting: “I walked onto the set . . . on the first day and said, ‘Good morning,’ and do you know her reply? She said, ‘Oh shit, good manners.’ I never spoke to her again – ever.”
*Years later, Bette Davis said in an interview “Filming All About Eve was a very happy experience….the only bitch in the cast was Celeste Holm.”
*Zsa Zsa Gabor kept arriving on the set because she was jealous of her husband George Sanders in his scenes with the young blonde ingénue Marilyn Monroe.
*Donna Reed was also considered for the part of Eve Harrington.