Tuesday, October 13, 2015

All About Catty Backstage Backstabbing

"Funny business, a woman's career — the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing's any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you're not a woman. Slow curtain, the end."

Margo Channing (Bette Davis)

As its title implied, "All About Eve" — which premiered on this day in 1950 — was, well, all about Eve (Anne Baxter), an ambitious ladder climber in the theatrical world. Fate threw her in with Bette Davis, who played an aging (and sensitive about it) actress.

I'll spare you most of the details — after all, you might want to see it if you haven't already, and I would encourage you to do so — but Eve maneuvered her way into more than Davis' home. She became Davis' understudy in the Broadway play in which she was appearing — then Celeste Holm manipulated events so Davis was unable to make it to the theater, and Eve had to fill in for her, as understudies are sometimes required to do.

And a star was born.

Her performance was so good it ultimately led to the awards ceremony that opened the movie, in which she was being honored for her work. The rest of the story was told in a kind of flashback mode.

In spite of the title, the movie was not all about Eve. At times, it seemed to be about everyone but Eve. You probably guessed that — even if you haven't seen the movie. Eve was like a pebble that is dropped in the middle of a pond, sending ripples in all directions. She was disarmingly modest — calculatedly so.

Much of the movie was about Davis, whose character's name was Margo, and Bill (Gary Merrill), a director who was in love with her. Their relationship was threatened at times by the young, vivacious (and manipulative) Eve.

Davis claimed that her inspiration for her portrayal of Margo was Tallulah Bankhead. Davis' line "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night" was #9 on the American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 movie quotes of all time. It certainly was a great line, but the truth is that just about all the lines in "All About Eve" were gems.

As always, Thelma Ritter played a blunt character — this time named Birdie — who didn't hesitate to voice her opinion of Eve.

"Birdie, you don't like Eve, do you?" Margo asked her at one point.

"You looking for an answer or an argument?" Birdie asked.

"An answer," Margo replied.

"No," Birdie said.

"Why not?" Margo wanted to know.

"Now you want an argument," Birdie replied.

With dialogue like that, it is no wonder that both Baxter and Davis were nominated for Best Actress — but both lost to Judy Holliday in "Born Yesterday" — and Holm and Ritter were nominated for Best Supporting Actress — both lost to Josephine Hull in "Harvey."

Those who are fans of movie trivia will note that "All About Eve" was one of Marilyn Monroe's early films. See her there at the bottom right?

George Sanders was nominated for Best Supporting Actor — in a movie that was primarily about women and their relationships with each other — and he won! Ironic, huh?

"All About Eve" also won Best Picture, Best Director (Joseph Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay (Mankiewicz), Best Sound Recording and Best Black–and–White Costume Design.