It is a remarkable film, engrossing and entertaining, with a witty, biting script, full of quality performances and it is generally regarded as a cinematic classic, often described as one of the best movies ever made.
When it was released in October, 1950, critical acclaim for the movie was overwhelming and it received an amazing fourteen Academy Award nominations, a record which stood until broken by the movie 'Titanic' 47 years later. It won six of its classes, including Best Picture and Best Director, as well as Best Supporting Actor (for George Sanders), and Best Screenplay awards (for Mankiewicz). The two nominations for Best Actress for both Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, and the two for Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter gave the movie the record for most female nominations for the same film.
In 1970 'All About Eve' was adapted into a successful Broadway musical, 'Applause', with Lauren Bacall in the role of Margo Channing. She was later replaced - ironically by Anne Baxter. In 1997 it was selected at number 16 in the American Film Institute's list of 100 Best Movies, slipping to number 28 in the 2007 selection. It was amongst the first movies to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
ProductionAfter finishing his Oscar-winning movie 'A Letter to Three Wives', Joseph L. Mankiewicz had the idea of fashioning his next movie around an aging actress. He successfully sold the idea to Darryl F. Zanuck, chief of 20th Century Fox who bought the film rights to Mary Orr's story for $5,000. Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay, making several important alterations including changing the main character's name from Margola Cranston to Margo Channing and adding the pivotal characters of Addison deWitt and Birdie Coonan.
The role of Margo was offered to Claudette Colbert but she suffered a ruptured disc and had to withdraw. Bette Davis realised what a dream role it was and jumped at the chance after one reading of the script. Shooting began in April, 1950 in San Francisco.
PlotThe movie is a realistic account of backstage life in the New York Theater. Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, a 40-year old Broadway actress fighting the inevitable passage of time. Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, is a seemingly innocuous fan of Margo's and is befriended by Margo and her best friend Karen Richards, played by Celeste Holm.
Everyone is taken in by the naive and humble act which Eve puts on, except the cynical, acid-tongued theater critic, Addison DeWitt, played by George Sanders and Margo's perceptive maid, Birdie, played by Thelma Ritter. Eve turns out to be a cynical and ambitious manipulator and she coldly uses Margo and her friends to achieve her goal of theater stardom, leaving a trail of betrayal, cold-hearted deceitfulness and unhappiness behind her.
Main CastThe characters are a fascinating collection of distinctive personalities who interract with each other in a very interesting way. The dialogue is cleverly written and the lines are natural and perfect for the performers who say them. It is a wonderful cast, cleverly chosen, and perfect for the characters they play.
Bette Davis ... Margo Channing
Anne Baxter ... Eve Harrington
George Sanders ... Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm ... Karen Richards
Gary Merrill ... Bill Simpson
Hugh Marlowe ... Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff ... Max Fabian
Barbara Bates ... Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe ... Miss Caswell
Thelma Ritter ... Birdie
Anne Baxter (1923-1985) was the granddaughter of architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and first made a name for herself as a teenager on the Broadway stage. She soon graduated to Hollywood and became famous for her performances in such films such as 'The Magnificent Ambersons', 'The Razor's Edge', 'All About Eve' and 'The Ten Commandments'.
Both Anne Baxter and Bette Davis were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar because Anne refused to be considered in the Best Supporting Actress category. It is generally thought that they cancelled each other out and so both lost the chance of the Oscar, losing to Judy Holliday in 'Born Yesterday'.
George Sanders (1906-1972) Born in Russia to English parents, Sanders had a hugely successful acting career. His deep voice and upper class English accent made him a popular choice in Hollywood movies.
Celeste Holm (1917-2012) was an acclaimed stage and movie actress and singer. She performed "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" with Frank Sinatra, in 'High Society'.
CreditsDirector ... Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer ... Darryl F. Zanuck
Production Company ... 20th Century-Fox Film Corp.
Story by ... Based on the short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr
Screenplay ... Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematography ... Milton Krasner
Format ... B & W
Initial Release ... 13 October, 1950
Running Time ... 138 minutes
Academy Awards6 Wins:
Best Picture ... 20th Century-Fox
Best Director ... Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Best Supporting Actor ... George Sanders
Writing (Screenplay) ... Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Costume Design ... Edith Head, Charles LeMaire
Sound Recording ... 20th Century-Fox Sound Dept., Thomas T. Moulton, Director
8 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actress ... Anne Baxter
Best Actress ... Bette Davis
Best Supporting Actress ... Celeste Holm
Best Supporting Actress ... Thelma Ritter
Art Direction/Set Direction ... Lyle Wheeler, George W. Davis/Thomas Little, Walter M. Scott
Cinematography ... Milton Krasner
Film Editing ... Barbara McLean
Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) ... Alfred Newman