SDMB Movie Club - week 16 - All About Eve

(Obligatory links to Star Wars from week 15 and week 1 for new people)

Backstage backstabbing at its best, and another movie with which I am woefully unfamiliar. I’ll cross my fingers and hope that there’s someone else out there who can offer a glimmer of insight into this and prevent this thread from disappearing into the oblivion of page 2 for a day or so. C’mon, someone has to have seen this movie . . .

Eve, I’m looking at you. You came back just in time.

There’ll be chili tonight, too, so it’s bound to be an enjoyable evening, no matter how the movie turns out.

As always, we’ve got movie sign.

Ino, you’re talking about my favorite movie of all time. Movie heads more educated than me will be checking in to give you all the background facts, but here’s my contribution:

This is a slick, sophisticated movie about the lives and politics of stage people in New York. The writing and the dialogue is impeccable; the casting is even better. I’m a big Bette Davis fan and I feel that this is her definitive film: she’s bitchy, intelligent and fascinating. I believe I read somewhere that she was doing a thinly-veiled impersonation of Tallulah Bankhead, her real-life rival in the stage world, and Ms. Bankhead was not pleased. I also seem to remember that the actor who portrayed her fiancee in this movie became her real-life husband, one of the many she chewed up and spit out along the way.

In addition to Bette’s scenes, pay attention to the scene between Addison DeWitt and Eve in the hotel. It just doesn’t get much better than that! Wish I was watching with you. Got any popcorn or milk duds in this place?

All About Eve is one of my all-time favorite movies! Not only is the casting and story impeccable, but what continually fascinates me is the interplay between characters, particularly Addison DeWitt and Eve’s major scene (if that isn’t a classic, I don’t know what is!) I’ve also read that somewhere that Tallulah Bankhead was the inspiration for the Margo Channing (Bette Davis) character…how accurate it actually is, though, I have no idea as I’ve never seen a Tallulah film.

A bit of trivia: The only surviving cast member is…oh, what’s her name??? (it’s on the tip of my tongue). She played the playwright’s wife…and I can’t remember his name either!

Only George Sanders(Addison DeWitt) posesses the stage presence to puff on that long cigarette holder without
looking like a dandy.

(I ALMOST said “gay”, but realize that is a no-no 'round here.)

Warning: The following post won’t make much sense, I think.

I adore this movie. There’s so many things to love. The main reason I love it is that it’s over the top and at the same time, not over the top. (I told you it wouldn’t make much sense). In the over the top arena, we have the absolute glamour, everyone is dressed to the nines, every scene includes cocktails, people look fabulous even when they are sleeping, exactly the right people are assembled in the right combinations for the maximum impact of Eve’s plotting.

On the other hand, the emotions are very believable. The various characters become enchanted and dismayed with Eve in a reasonable, convincing way. She doesn’t do anything particularly freaky – for example, you can understand why the scene of Eve primping in the mirror with Margo’s costume seems endearing to Margo. When the two couples go to dinner, you root for them. They’re happy, they’re a little catty about Eve, but overall, they’re normal. It’s not as if they’re plotting to kill Eve or anything.

My favorite tidbit from this film is always Marilyn Monroe. She’s a hoot.

More trivia: Do you remember the episode of Gilligan’s Island where a mousy girl is shipwrecked? Ginger and Maryann give her a makeover, and she returns to Hollywood and assumes Ginger’s identity. The girl’s name is Eva, and the title of the episode is “All About Eva.”

This is in my top 3 of all time.

What I love about this movie are the men in it. They are real. They are adult. The men in this movie are not portrayed as following their dicks whereever they lead.

They are attracted to Eve’s talent without being attracted to her. They are able to be in the presence of a beautiful woman without drooling all over themselves.

The men in this movie are treated with a respect you don’t often see in movies any more.

I love love love this movie!! It has the qualities that I hold to be the most important in a movie, in a friend, lover, or message board: it is intelligent, funny and wicked. The cast is spot on, especially Bette, Ann Baxter, and George Sanders. I could not love George Sanders any more, and Addison is not only his best role but one of the most cosmically perfect marriages of actor and character in the history of movies. Goddamn it, I’ll think I’ll go watch it now.

Anybody who doesn’t like All About Eve, I don;t want to know them.

Great book on AAE was published in 2000, called “All About ‘All About Eve’” by Sam Staggs. Lots of backstage stuff about the movie and the source material.

Brilliant. They could WRITE in those days. The screenplay is almost literature. What’s gone wrong since then?

Miss (please, NOT Ms.!) Bankhead frequently raged about Bette Davis “stealing” Bankhead’s signature parts from Dark Victory and The Little Foxes in the movie versions. Legend has it that Miss Bankhead once cornered Miss Davis at a party and said “You’ve played every part I’ve played, and I played them so much better.” to which Miss Davis replied “I agree with you, Miss Bankhead,” thus defusing what could most assuredly have been the evilest catfight in the history of show business. Tallulah did get a small measure of revenge, though. She played Margo Channing in the radio production of AAE, and she had many of the other characters’ best lines reassigned to her.

Some people involved in the production of AAE swear that any resemblance between Margo and Tallulah was coincidence. Others (for example, Edith Head and everyone who ever reviewed the picture) say the homage is obvious. Tallulah herself joked about it frequently on her radio show but privately was livid. One of the biggest resembalnces is supposedly the voice. I don’t hear it myself, but others do. Bette Davis burst a blood vessel in her throat shortly before filming started and that’s hy she has the voice she does in the picture. When it healed, she kept doing the voice for continuity’s sake.

Gary Merrill, in the role of Bill Sampson. Probably the only one of her four husbands who could hold his ground with her.

Except it has THE most mistimed slap ever to grace the screen. Eve starts laughing at Addison and he smacks her face. We see the impact, hear the slap and see the hand move away from her face, and there’s almost a full two-count before Anne Baxter snaps her head.

Ah, what more can I add? Except no one yet has praised the work of the great Thelma Ritter as Birdie (“What a story . . . All that’s missin’ is the bloodhounds nippin’ at her rear end . . .”). What a shame she vanished from the film so early—she should have had some lines in the party sequence.

—Eve (“Little Miss Evil”)

Wasn’t Addison DeWitt modeld on Oscar Levant? There was an interesting piece on him (Levant) in Vanity Fair about six months ago.

I always feel so sorry for Celeste Holm in that movie.

Wonderful film. Did I mention that I wouldn’t have seen this film were it not for our own Eve?

Thanks again, mein froind.

You’re quite welcome, Sofa, dear.

Plnnr, I’d be hugely surprised if Addison was based on Oscar Levant. Addison was a (subtly gay) viper of a drama critic; Oscar Levant was a loony but well-liked pianist, with no “pull” in the industry. Addison was probably based on some long-forgotten NY critic of the 1940s. There’s supposed to be all KINDS of veiled gay subtext in “All About Eve” (as there is, come to think of it, in my own life . . . ).

Oh, my New Year’s card for 1999/2000 was a photo of Bette Davis on the stairs, with a word balloon saying, “Fasten your seatbelts—it’s going to be a bumpy century!” As, indeed, it has been thus far . . .

I’m almost certain I recently read who George Sanders patterned Addison DeWitt after…perhaps it wasn’t Oscar Levant (who said of Doris Day, “I knew her before she was a virgin”).

Sanders committed suicide in Barcelona by taking five vials of barbituates, saying goodby to the world and giving his reason for suicide as boredom.

Wait! I heard he drowned in the toilet!
(ducking and running)

You’re confusing George Sanders with his sister, Lupe Sanders, and I’m confusing Oscar Levant with James Wolcott, theater critic for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair (and who both had articles recently published about them in Vanity Fair). Still, Levant’s crack about Doris Day certainly does sound like something Addison DeWitt would have said.

Another tidbit - George Sanders was married to two of the three Gabor sisters: Magda and either Zsa Zsa or Eva (as if there was any difference). That’s almost enough to make you eat five vials of Seconal.

George Sanders was married to Zsa Zsa. Who apparently did not learn anything from AAE on how to time a slap.

Eve, absolutely, I join your chorus in singing the praises of Thelma Ritter. She is my favorite character actress, and every line she speaks in the film crackles. “We now have everything a dressing room needs except a basketball hoop!” “I ain’t got a union, I’m slave labor.” “And as for being third-rate, I closed the first half for twelve years and you know it!” And one of my favorite exchanges: Birdie: “Voila!” Margo: “That French ventriloquist taught you a lot.” Birdie: “There was nothin’ he didn’t know.”

Eve, I also meant to tell you (he said parenthetically, in hopes of not hijacking the thread), I bought your Theda Bara book a while back. Fabulous. And, I’ve seen you quoted in two other books recently. You’re like a rock star!

Oooh, oooh, Otto, who’s quoting me? Norman Mailer? Salman Rushdie? Tama Janowitz?

P.S. Glad you liked Theda!

This movie is very near the top of my all-time favorites list, both for the fabulous cast and the writing/direction of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Especially his writing! The dialog throughout just snaps.

Some more favorite lines (from Bette Davis):

“Everyone has a heart…except for some people.”

“Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it 5 years ago; he’ll look it 20 years from now. I. Hate. Men.”