best films: #28: ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
It’s a rare feat when you find a movie pre-1970 in which the on-screen female characters are not only the center of the entire picture, but are also as formidable as any male character you’re likely to find this side of a John Wayne movie. Yet, in a twist of fate, All About Eve fits the role splendidly. It’s the now standard tale of an “Eve,” as it’s now commonly called, who begins as a rabid fan of the older, more established female lead (in this case Margo, the sassy and brassy aging actress with the most biting tongue possibly in all cinema) only to eventually become the lead’s competition. For a great modern example of this see Being Julia. (No, seriously see it right now.) Bette Davis, as Margo, is a revelation in this movie. No other female performance modern or otherwise has truly been so delicious and so frightening all at once, I truly believe. And though I could spend post after post going gaga over Margo and her iconic one-liners (who doesn’t get the urge to do the “fasten your seatbelts” gag on occasion?), the story, as the tagline says, really is all about women. Who could forget Eve, the shy innocent nobody who went to meet Margo after a performance? Only to later find herself attempting to usurp the famed actress’ throne as queen of the stage. Anne Baxter is sneakily dastardly and diabolical (I think this role really prepped her for that over-the-top uber-bitch role in The Ten Commandments), and somehow this demure-looking wilting flower is just the right nemesis for the towering Davis. But of course, there are too many to mention thoroughly – there’s the always-wonderful Thelma Ritter as Margo’s assistant and companion, the even-keeled and well-meaning Celeste Holm as Margo’s best friend, and the hysterical Marilyn Monroe in cameo form as a piece of arm candy at a cocktail party. Seeing All About Eve today, it completely stands the test of time as a plotting and sneaky comedy full of memorable characters.