Thursday, December 31, 2009

All About Eve (1950)

Here we are kids, All About Eve, possibly the greatest movie ever made with one of the greatest scripts ever written, and containing one of the greatest performances ever. That's a lot of "greatest"s.

Bette Davis plays Margot Channing, a stage star that is rapidly approaching the age in which actress are put out to pasture. It doesn't help that she has a younger lover Bill (Gary Merril, who would become the 4th Mr. Davis). She also has her best friend Karen, whose husband writes a great deal of Margo's plays, one of which is beginning to go into rehearsals with Margo as the lead.

Enter Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a young fan of Margo who watches performance after performance. One night, after seeing her standing in the rain, Karen takes her to see Margo and Margo takes pity on her, eventually hiring her as a personal assistant. But it becomes obvious that Eve isn't the poor downtrodden creature that she pretends to be, and she's nosing her way into Margo's inner circle to steal the limelight away from the aging actress, eventually making a deal with the devil by siding with acid tongued theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders).

The real star of the film is Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's brilliant script. It crackles with wit and intelligence. It's not natural human speech at all, but it's so smart and such a joy to watch and the actors do such a great job with it that it becomes one of the defining and best characteristics of the film.

Needless to say, the performances are all brilliant. Bette Davis essentially plays herself and allows to show the insecurities of an aging woman of the stage, offering depth, warmth and humor to the role. Anne Baxter is cold, calculating and ruthless as Eve, and Celeste Holm is warm, caring and slightly naive in the role of Karen. Also, George Sanders is brilliant in his Oscar winning performance of the witty and snide Addison DeWitt.

The film really is one of the finest ever crafted, the acting and writing is pitch perfect and the story is one of the best looks at the pressures of someone in show business, the pressure to stay young, to continue playing teenagers on stage when you're almost 40 year old. It's a wonderful movie, one that should be watched by anyone who enjoys classic films, because it's easily one of the best.

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