Turner Classic Movies by Jeremy Arnold

Turner Classic Movies by Jeremy Arnold

Author:Jeremy Arnold
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780762459476
Publisher: Running Press
Published: 2016-03-11T16:00:00+00:00

A MANIPULATIVE YOUNG ACTRESS WORMS HER WAY INTO THE LIFE OF A FAMOUS STAGE STAR AND GRADUALLY MANEUVERS TO SUPPLANT HER.

WHY IT’S ESSENTIAL

Witty lines abound in All About Eve, from “Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night” to “It’s about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto.” The theatricality of the dialogue and its delivery is a joy throughout—and perfectly suited to a story immersed in the world of the theater and its larger-than-life players. Yet writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz keeps the picture moving cinematically, with a result still considered among the finest ever for its screenplay, ensemble cast, and iconic star turn by Bette Davis.

Mankiewicz based his script on a 1946 magazine story by Mary Orr titled “The Wisdom of Eve” (uncredited onscreen). Orr, in turn, had drawn her idea from a real-life episode in 1943 in which Broadway star Elisabeth Bergner, performing in The Two Mrs. Carrolls, saw a young, aspiring actress waiting outside the stage door every night. Touched, Bergner took her on as an assistant, but eventually the woman started scheming behind Bergner’s back and tried to seduce her husband. Mankiewicz transformed this germ of an idea into a larger backstage story dripping with cynicism and sophistication. While it delves into the precarious nature of friendship and ambition among actors and theater people, it also has a universal quality. As Mankiewicz said, “There are Eves afoot in every competitive stratum of our society.”

The outstanding cast came together with a lot of luck. Bette Davis, for instance, got the role of Margo Channing at the last minute, only after Susan Hayward was deemed too old, Claudette Colbert withdrew after dislocating her back, and Gertrude Lawrence insisted on the character being a teetotaler. For Eve, Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck wanted Jeanne Crain, but her pregnancy allowed Mankiewicz to cast Anne Baxter instead. Mankiewicz also prevailed in his choices of George Sanders and Gary Merrill over Jose Ferrer and John Garfield, respectively. Sanders is a particular highlight of the movie, clearly having a field day as the sardonic, menacing theater critic Addison DeWitt. Sanders made a career of playing suave cads in such films as Rebecca (1940) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), but Addison was a culmination of the type and fit the actor like a glove.



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