All About Eve (film)

All About Eve (film) Study Guide

All About Eve was a critically acclaimed film in 1950 when it came out, and brought huge accolades for its cast as well as its director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz adapted the witty and sophisticated script from a short story called "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr, based on a real story (related by actress Elisabeth Bergnier) about an assistant manipulating her employer to improve her own acting career. Mankiewicz took many liberties with the story and created a singular movie that perfectly satirizes the world of the American theater and the brutal competitiveness of show business. Its portrayal of the dark edges of Broadway competition and the chase for theatrical glory and immortality is still powerful today.

All About Eve won both Best Screenplay and Best Director at the Academy Awards. The film was praised for its wit, its treatment of exceedingly subtle and sophisticated repartee, as well as its thematic depth and the sense of underlying darkness that it evoked. Additionally, the cast, including a passionate Anne Baxter, a knowing George Sanders, and the positively irreplaceable star Bette Davis, still stands as one of the brightest and most talented of all time. Even though Bette Davis was not Mankiewicz's first choice to play Margo Channing (he had wanted Claudette Colbert), the film became the first ever to get four female acting nominations, honoring the work of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter. In fact, it was nominated for 14 Academy Awards total, a record that would not be met until 1997 with the release of Titanic.

The film is still cited as one of the greatest of all time. In his review of the film in The New York Times in 1950, Bosley Crowther wrote, "As a matter of fact, Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Hart might even find themselves outclassed by the dazzling and devastating mockery that is brilliantly packed into this film. For obviously Mr. Mankiewicz, who wrote and directed it, had been sharpening his wits and his talents a long, long time for just this go. Obviously, he had been observing the theatre and its charming folks for years with something less than an idolater's rosy illusions and zeal. And now, with the excellent assistance of Bette Davis and a truly sterling cast, he is wading into the theatre's middle with all claws slashing and settling a lot of scores." The film has claws, and it isn't afraid to use them. As Margo Channing warns her circle of friends, "Buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy night!"