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Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is at a vulnerable point in her life. At 40 years old, she can no longer get away with playing ingnue parts. She is unmarried and fears facing the second part of her life alone. When her most devoted fan, the mousy young Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), begins to show up to the theater every night just to watch Margo perform, the older actress takes pity on her and invites her into her life. As an employee and friend, there is no one more loyal than Eve. Before long, however, it is clear that there may be more to Eve than meets the eye. A conniving schemer, Eve is an aspiring actress who longs for the spotlight herself. Her unyielding ambition will stop at nothing to get what she wants and take everything away from Margo in the process, including her career, her man, and her life.
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Based on the story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Editing: Barbara McLean
Music Composer: Alfred Newman
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Cast: Bette Davis (Margo Channing), Anne Baxter (Eve Harrington), George Sanders (Addison De Witt), Celeste Holm (Karen Richards), Gary Merrill (Bill Simpson), Hugh Marlowe (Lloyd Richards), Thelma Ritter (Birdie Coonan), Marilyn Monroe (Miss Casswell), Gregory Ratoff (Max Fabian), Barbara Bates (Phoebe), Walter Hampden (Aged Actor), Randy Stuart (Girl), Craig Hill (Leading Man), Leland Harris (Doorman), Barbara White (Autograph Seeker).
Why ALL ABOUT EVE is Essential
All About Eve is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made about the theater and the sometimes backstabbing behind-the-scenes world of show business. It remains as vital and fresh today as it did in 1950.
Bette Davis was a last minute choice to play Margo Channing, replacing the already signed Claudette Colbert who suffered a back injury leaving her unable to do All About Eve. The role of Margo fit Davis like a glove and became one of the most definitive performances of her career, perhaps more closely associated with Davis than any other role. The success of All About Eve completely resurrected Davis' faltering career. Like Margo, the legendary actress was slipping into the film purgatory of middle age and was finding it increasingly difficult to find good parts. The role helped her transition into the meaty character parts of her later career that kept her working well into her 80s. Davis remained forever grateful to director Joseph L. Mankiewicz for "resurrecting her from the dead."
The Academy Award-winning script by Joseph L. Mankiewicz is still considered one of the best screenplays ever written. It features some of the wittiest dialogue, most vivid multi-dimensional characters and most memorable lines ever to appear on film.
Marilyn Monroe makes a memorable impression in one of her earliest roles as aspiring actress Miss Casswell in All About Eve. While the film is most certainly all about Bette Davis, it is fascinating to watch the gorgeous Monroe, a few years away from mega-stardom, hold her own in the midst of such great talent.
All About Eve set a record for receiving fourteen Academy Award nominations-the most ever received by any film before or since. 1997's Titanic finally tied All About Eve for nominations, but nothing has yet surpassed it.
by Andrea Passafiume
All About Eve (1950)
A radio play of Mary Orr's original story The Wisdom of Eve was performed on NBC's Radio Guild Playhouse on January 21, 1949.
When Bette Davis married her All About Eve co-star Gary Merrill, they adopted a daughter and named her Margot (with a "t") in reference to the film that had brought them together.
All About Eve was turned into a Broadway musical in 1970 called Applause starring Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing. The musical was a triumph, winning four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress for Bacall.
Bette Davis herself attended a performance of Applause, which made star Lauren Bacall a nervous wreck, though she was thrilled to meet one of her idols. Following the performance Davis said to Bacall backstage, "Funny-I never thought of this as a musical...No one but you could have played this part-and you know I mean that."
When Lauren Bacall stepped down from her role as Margo Channing in Applause, it was none other than original All About Eve co-star Anne Baxter who took over the role and won rave reviews.
All About Eve was released the same year as another famous film about an aging actress: Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, so comparisons between the two films and star performances were inevitable.
Though the distinguished actress Sarah Siddons was a real person, Joe Mankiewicz made up the fictitious Sarah Siddons Society and Sarah Siddons Award for All About Eve. However, in 1952 a real Sarah Siddons Society was formed in Chicago. Fashioning a statuette that was virtually identical to the one seen in the film, the Sarah Siddons Society gave its first real-life award to actress Helen Hayes.
Bette Davis herself was the recipient of the Sarah Siddons Society Award in 1973 for her years of outstanding achievement.
Another All About Eve co-star, Celeste Holm, received the Sarah Siddons Society Award in 1968.
Following the film's release, there were at least four radio play adaptations of All About Eve: a production on March 8, 1951 for the Screen Guild Players for which Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders all reprised their roles; a production for the Lux Radio Theater on October 1, 1951 for which Davis, Baxter and Gary Merrill all reprised their roles; and another Lux production on November 23, 1954 with Claire Trevor in the role of Margo Channing. In 1952 Tallulah Bankhead played Margo in a radio adaptation for NBC's The Big Show.
In 1982 a television movie called Country Gold updated the All About Eve story to the world of Nashville and country music. Loni Anderson played the established Margo Channing-inspired star and Linda Hamilton played her younger Eve Harrington-inspired rival.
by Andrea Passafiume
All About Eve (1950)
Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrude Lawrence, Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Stanwyck were among the actresses considered to play Margo Channing in All About Eve.
Joseph Mankiewicz's original title for All About Eve was Best Performance.
Margo Channing's character was named Margola Cranston in Mary Orr's original story The Wisdom of Eve.
Joseph Mankiewicz wrote the character of Birdie, which did not appear in Mary Orr's original story, with actress Thelma Ritter specifically in mind. He had worked with her before on A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and liked her a lot.
It was long rumored that Bette Davis based her portrayal of Margo Channing on another great real-life star: Tallulah Bankhead. Though Davis and Mankiewicz always denied this, Bankhead always believed that she was being imitated. In 1952 Bankhead herself played the role of Margo Channing in an NBC radio adaptation on The Big Show.
Regarding Margo Channing's resemblance to Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis later remarked, "Tallulah herself, more than anyone else, accused me of imitating her as Margo Channing. The problem was that I had no voice at all when I started filming All About Eve due to emotional stress...This gave me the famous Bankhead husky voice. Otherwise, I don't think the similarity to Bankhead in my performance would ever have been thought of."
Mary Orr, author of the original story The Wisdom of Eve, said that Tallulah Bankhead asked her personally if she had based the character of Margo Channing (nee Margola Cranston) on her. When Orr said no, "this made her so angry," recalled the author, "she never spoke to me again."
The on screen credits for All About Eve list the name of Gary Merrill's character as Bill "Simpson," though throughout the film he is clearly referred to as Bill "Sampson".
All About Eve received a record fourteen Academy Award nominations. This holds the record to this day. Titanic tied the record in 1998.
Though Bette Davis and co-star Gary Merrill married after All About Eve, following their divorce ten years later, Davis was convinced that they had carried too much of their on-screen characters into their real lives. "We met while we were filming All About Eve," said Davis. "I was Margo Channing and he was my director, Bill Sampson. We fell in love with each other in the film and in real life. We then got married in real life. But he thought he was marrying Margo and I thought I was marrying Bill. It wasn't long before he found out that I wasn't Margo, and he was certainly no Bill Sampson."
Regarding the Academy Award he received as Best Supporting Actor for All About Eve, George Sanders remarked in his 1960 autobiography Memoirs of a Professional Cad, " I got an Oscar® for my performance in All About Eve which, I suppose, makes this film the high point of my career. If I sound doubtful about it, it is because Oscars®-for which so many actors and actresses pine and scheme-have affected the recipients' careers in such an adverse way as to make them view the whole thing with some apprehension as well as pride. I was grateful and flattered to get mine, but apart from making my already large ego one size larger it did absolutely nothing for me."
The success of All About Eve coincided with Bette Davis finally being invited to immortalize her hand and footprints outside the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood on November 6, 1950.
When Bette Davis and Anne Baxter both received Academy Award nominations for their roles in All About Eve, it was the first time in history that two actresses from the same film were up against each other in the category of Best Actress.
When the winner of the Best Actress award was announced at the 1951 Academy Awards, it was a shocking upset: the award went to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950). Many people believe that with both Bette Davis and Anne Baxter nominated in the same category, they split the vote and cancelled each other out, opening the victory up to Holliday.
All About Eve was restored in anticipation of its 50th anniversary in 2000.
The original camera negative for All About Eve was one of the last film prints to ever be shot on the highly flammable nitrate-based stock at 20th Century Fox.
Famous Quotes from ALL ABOUT EVE
"To those of you who do not read, attend the theater, listen to unsponsored radio programs or know anything in the world in which you live, it is perhaps necessary to introduce myself. My name is Addison De Witt. My native habitat is the theater. In it, I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theater." George Sanders, as Addison De Witt.
"Margo Channing is a star of the theater. She made her first stage appearance, at the age of four, in Midsummer Night's Dream. She played a fairy and entered quite unexpectedly stark naked. She has been a star ever since. Margo is a great star. A true star. She never was or will be anything less or anything else." George Sanders, as Addison De Witt.
"Autograph fiends, they're not people. Those are little beasts that run around in packs like coyotes...They're nobody's fans. They're juvenile delinquents, they're mental defective, and nobody's audience. They never see a play or a movie even. They're never indoors long enough." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing.
"There are some human experiences, Birdie, that do not take place in a vaudeville house, and that even a fifth-rate vaudevillian should understand and respect!" Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Thelma Ritter's Birdie.
"You're not much of a bargain, you know. You're conceited, and faultless and messy." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Gary Merrill's Bill.
"Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing.
"Darling, there are certain characteristics for which you are famous onstage and off. I love you for some of them and in spite of others. I haven't let those become too important. They're part of your equipment for getting along in what is laughingly called our environment. You have to keep your teeth sharp, all right. But I will not have you sharpen them on me or on Eve." Gary Merrill, as Bill to Davis's Margo Channing.
"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."-Bette Davis, as Margo Channing.
"Miss Casswell is an actress. A graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art."-George Sanders, as Addison De Witt.
"Why do they always look like unhappy rabbits?" Marilyn Monroe, as Miss Casswell, referring to theatrical producers in general.
"Lloyd, I am not twenty-ish. I am not thirty-ish. Three months ago I was forty years old. Forty. 4-0. That slipped out. I hadn't quite made up my mind to admit it. Now I suddenly feel as if I've taken all my clothes off." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Hugh Marlowe's Lloyd.
"Bill's 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago. He'll look it twenty years from now. I hate men." -- Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Hugh Marlowe's Lloyd.
"I've listened backstage to people's applause. It's like waves of love coming over the footlights and wrapping you up. Imagine to know every night that different hundreds of people love you. They smile, and their eyes shine. You've pleased them. They want you. You belong. Just that alone is worth anything." Anne Baxter, as Eve Harrington.
"Stop being a star. And stop treating your guests as your supporting cast." Celeste Holm, as Karen Richards to Davis' Margo.
"I shall never understand the weird process by which a body with a voice suddenly fancies itself as a mind. Just when exactly does an actress decide they're her words she's saying and her thoughts she's expressing?...It's about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto." Hugh Marlowe, as Lloyd Richards to Davis's Margo.
"I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Gary Merrill's Bill.
"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. There'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 is 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." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Celeste Holm's Karen.
"Now remember as long as you live never to laugh at me. At anything or anyone else, but never at me." George Sanders, as Addison De Witt to Anne Baxter's Eve.
"You're an improbable person, Eve, and so am I. We have that in common. Also a contempt for humanity, an inability to love and be loved, insatiable ambition, and talent. We deserve each other." -- George Sanders, as Addison De Witt to Anne Baxter's Eve.
"Nice speech, Eve. But I wouldn't worry too much about your heart. You can always put that award where your heart ought to be." Bette Davis, as Margo Channing to Anne Baxter's Eve.
Compiled by Andrea Passafiume
All About Eve (1950)
All About Eve began as a short story by Mary Orr called The Wisdom of Eve. The story about an ambitious young actress who backstabs her way to the top was originally published in the May 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. Orr had been inspired to write The Wisdom of Eve after hearing about an incident in the life of actress Elisabeth Bergner. Bergner had been performing in a stage version of The Two Mrs. Carrolls in 1943 when a devoted young female fan approached her. Bergner took the young woman under her wing and gave her a job as her personal assistant. It wasn't long before the fan became a burden, undermining Bergner and trying to emulate her style and every move. The association with the woman became a nightmare for Bergner, who forever regretted her decision to open her life to this person who became a parasite.
Even though The Wisdom of Eve had been good enough to be turned into a radio play, which ran on January 24, 1949 on NBC's Radio City Playhouse, it still took a few years for Hollywood to discover the potential for a great film lying in the pages of a 1946 Cosmopolitan magazine. Eventually, a story editor for 20th Century Fox named James Fisher read the story and passed it on to director/writer/producer Joseph Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz loved it and convinced the studio to pay Mary Orr $3500 for the rights to her story. Inspired, Mankiewicz drove to the San Ysidro Guest Ranch in California near Santa Barbara in the early fall of 1949 and pounded out an 82-page screenplay treatment titled Best Performance. Making some small changes from the original story and adding several new characters, Mankiewicz soon had a terrific completed script now called All About Eve.At first Mankiewicz thought that Margo Channing would be a plum part for the fiery actress Susan Hayward, but at 32-years-old she was ultimately considered too young. Eventually Claudette Colbert was hired.
Jeanne Crain was one of the top actresses considered for the part of Eve Harrington. When she became pregnant, however, it took her out of contention. Anne Baxter, an actress who had so far made a career out of playing supporting parts, had just won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in The Razor's Edge (1946), and Mankiewicz considered her one of the best young actresses around. He was happy to cast her as she was his first choice, anyway. Her resemblance to Claudette Colbert was also an asset, as Eve in the film would gradually transform into Margo visually.
For the juicy part of acid tongued critic Addison De Witt, actor Jose Ferrer was briefly considered, but the role eventually went to George Sanders. John Garfield and Ronald Reagan were among the names discussed to play Margo's love interest, Bill. That role went to Gary Merrill. With Celeste Holm and Hugh Marlowe rounding out the principal cast, all systems were set to go and shooting was scheduled to begin within a few weeks. However, disaster struck the production when Claudette Colbert, just before she was to begin filming All About Eve, badly injured her back while making Three Came Home (1950). It was a twist of fate that left Colbert permanently out of the picture.
Bette Davis, meanwhile, was finishing up her work on the film Payment on Demand (1951). When she received a phone call from Darryl Zanuck at 20th Century Fox, she thought it was a prank. She and Zanuck had not been on speaking terms for years ever since Davis had resigned from her Presidency of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Zanuck, who had sponsored Davis' AMPAS membership, warned her not to resign, telling her flat out, "If you resign, you will never work in this town again!" Davis resigned anyway, and Zanuck never spoke to her again-until now. When she realized that it really was Zanuck calling her so long after their falling out, she was both surprised and pleased. He told her about Claudette Colbert's injury and the part of Margo Channing, for which he knew she would be perfect. He would send her the script and if she liked it, he said, the only catch was that Davis would need to be ready to start filming All About Eve in a mere 10 days.
To her delight, Davis loved the script and agreed to take the role. "When I finished reading All About Eve, says Davis in her 1962 autobiography The Lonely Life, "I was on cloud nine. Any inconvenience was worth it." She knew that Margo was the role of a lifetime. Shortly before filming began, Davis met with Joseph Mankiewicz to discuss the character of Margo. Mankiewicz gave her a surprising piece of advice over dinner. "Mankiewicz very succinctly gave the key to the character of Margo Channing," Davis said in a 1974 interview. "'She is a woman who treats a mink coat like a poncho.'" Within days Davis would meet up with the rest of the cast in San Francisco to begin shooting. It would be a film that would change her life both professionally and personally.
Shortly before filming began, Joseph Mankiewicz received an ominous warning from writer/director Edmund Goulding, who had previously directed Bette Davis in four films including Dark Victory (1939) and The Great Lie (1941), phoned Mankiewicz and said, "Have you gone mad? This woman will destroy you, she will grind you down to a fine powder and blow you away. You are a writer, dear boy. She will come to the stage with a thick pad of long yellow paper. And pencils. She will write. And then she, not you, will direct. Mark my words." Mankiewicz made note of Goulding's advice and promised to keep an eye out for any trouble from Davis.
by Andrea Passafiume
All About Eve (1950)
In April of 1950 the cast and crew of All About Eve traveled to San Francisco to begin filming. Bette Davis traveled by train, while Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe and Celeste Holm all flew together on Darryl Zanuck's private seaplane. "I wonder what it's going to be like working with the Queen Bee," said Celeste Holm to Gary Merrill during the flight, referring to Bette Davis. "I know one thing," replied Merrill, "it'll all be over in eight weeks."
Davis, who had recently separated from husband number three, William Sherry, arrived in San Francisco with her infant daughter B.D., a nanny, a secretary and a bodyguard just in case there was any trouble from her estranged husband. The night before shooting was to commence at the Curran Theatre, Gary Merrill invited everyone on the production to have drinks at the elegant Fairmont Hotel. Davis agreed to attend. "Everybody was showing off," recalls co-star Celeste Holm about that night in Ed Sikov's 2007 book Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis. "Bette had taken one look at Gary and Gary had taken one look at Bette, and something had happened. And from then on she didn't care whether the rest of us lived or died."
While Bette Davis gained a new fan in Gary Merrill, she gained a new enemy in Celeste Holm who found Davis' behavior extremely rude from start to finish. On one of the first days of shooting, recalls Holm, she innocently said to Davis, "Good Morning." "Oh, shit," replied Davis, "good manners." Holm was extremely offended. Though they played best friends convincingly while the cameras were rolling, Holm made a point to never speak to Davis off the set again. The feeling was mutual.
The growing attraction between Bette Davis and the married Gary Merrill was increasingly obvious to everyone on All About Eve. To the film's benefit, the chemistry worked for their characters on screen. Soon Merrill and Davis were inseparable. "Before long we were walking about holding hands, going to the movies," recalled Merrill in his 1988 autobiography Bette, Rita and the Rest of My Life. "From simple compassion, my feelings shifted to uncontrollable lust."
After the first week of filming, the cast and crew gathered to view the rushes in San Francisco. From what everyone saw on screen, it was clear that All About Eve was something special. People got excited, and that excitement fueled what already seemed to be a charmed production into an even better picture. "None of us could wait to get to work," recalled Anne Baxter.
Despite their characters' tense relationship on screen, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter got along very well during the making of All About Eve. "The studio tried to play that up all during the filming," recalled Anne Baxter in Ed Sikov's book, "but I liked Bette very much. She'd come on the set and go 'Sssssss' at me, but it was just a joke between us." Davis liked Baxter, too, which was quite a compliment as Davis reportedly didn't often like her female co-stars. She felt that Baxter did an excellent job with her part as Eve, and publicly praised her for it.
Marilyn Monroe, who was just starting out in pictures when she made All About Eve was very insecure working among such great established talent and struggled to hold her own. Bette Davis and some of the other actors could get impatient with her inexperience, but Monroe worked hard and tried to put forth her best efforts. Monroe's presence caused the most trouble for co-star George Sanders, who plays Addison De Witt. Sanders was newly married to Zsa Zsa Gabor at the time, and Gabor was none too pleased to have her husband away on location with the breathy blonde bombshell. According to Sanders, she was wild with jealousy and convinced that Monroe had her sights set on him. Gabor even asked Sanders to see if he could find a part for her to play in the film so she could be with him and keep an eye out. Sanders thought that his wife's concerns were ill founded. He believed Monroe to be nothing more than a beautiful lost, innocent child at heart. In his 1960 autobiography Memoirs of a Professional Cad Sanders says about Monroe, "Even then she struck me as a character in search of an author...She was very beautiful and very inquiring and very unsure-she was somebody in a play not yet written, uncertain of her part in the over-all plot. As far as I can recall, she was humble, punctual and untemperamental. She wanted people to like her." Gabor, however, called Monroe "an innocent, wild animal." The Sanders/Gabor marriage didn't last.
Gary Merrill described the experience of working with Monroe in his autobiography as occasionally frustrating. He describes a dinner party that Davis hosted the night before she and Monroe were to shoot a scene together. "The party went on quite late," he recalls, "but Marilyn excused herself early because she had to work the next morning. We all knew the scene Marilyn had to work on the next morning was really Bette's scene and that Marilyn had only a few lines...Bette had more, but she was an experienced actress and accomplished the scene with little bother. It had to be done in ten takes, however-Marilyn kept forgetting her lines."
After two weeks of filming on location in San Francisco, the production then moved back to Los Angeles for another month of shooting. Darryl Zanuck kept a close eye on the production, viewing the dailies on a regular basis along with other studio executives. It was clear to 20th Century Fox that they had an extraordinary picture on their hands. Zanuck was so confident that All About Eve would be a smash that no advance audience screenings were held-only press screenings to generate positive word of mouth for the film. In a confident move, the studio even financed the production of four separate trailers to advertise All About Eve.
By the end of filming, the affair that had begun between Bette Davis and Gary Merrill had blossomed into true love, despite the fact that they were both still married to other people. Following the film's wrap, both actors received quickie divorces and married each other on July 28, 1950 in Juarez, Mexico. The marriage lasted ten years.
When All About Eve opened in the fall of 1950, the buzz was overwhelmingly positive. The word on the street was that Bette Davis had given the performance of her career. She was once again happy and on top. The film went on to receive fourteen Academy Award nominations and become a bona fide cinema classic.
The experience of making All About Eve was a fond memory for all involved. "I suppose the best film I have been in was All About Eve," said George Sanders in his autobiography. "The critics and the trades loved it. It was a film of distinction: witty, sophisticated, and brilliantly written and directed." Bette Davis said in her autobiography, "I can think of no project that from the outset was as rewarding from the first day to the last. It is easy to understand why. It was a great script, had a great director, and was a cast of professionals all with parts they liked. It was a charmed production from the word go." As for Joseph Mankiewicz, Davis forever credited him for reviving her career at a crucial time. "He handed me the beginning of a new life professionally and personally," she said. "I also say thank you to Claudette Colbert for hurting her back. Claudette's loss was my gain."
by Andrea Passafiume
All About Eve (1950)
20th Century-Fox set a record for Oscar® nominations that has been matched (by Titanic in 1997) but never beaten with All About Eve , the witty 1950 comedy set in the New York theatre scene. Greeted with almost universal acclaim on its initial release, the film has become a classic whose lines, characters and story elements are now firmly entrenched in popular culture.
It all started with Austrian actress Elisabeth Bergner. She was appearing on Broadway in the hit melodrama The Two Mrs. Carrolls in 1942 when she noticed a fan waiting outside her dressing room door after every performance. When Bergner finally approached the young woman, she was so moved by her tale of misfortune and her apparent devotion that she gave her a place in her apartment and her life, only to discover that the stories were lies. The young woman was really trying to advance her own career. Bergner confided all this to her director's fiancee, actress Mary Orr, who fictionalized the account in the story "The Wisdom of Eve," which she sold to Cosmopolitan magazine in 1946. Although her agent shopped the story around Hollywood there was little interest until three years later, when Orr wrote and co-starred (as Karen Richards) in a radio adaptation that caught the attention of someone at 20th Century-Fox. She sold the studio the rights for $5,000.
Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz had been mulling over an idea for a film about the theatre and the ease with which people can use each other to advance their careers. When he read the studio synopsis of Orr's story, it fit his own ideas so well that he proposed it to studio head Darryl F. Zanuck as his next film. With Mankiewicz coming off a triumph with A Letter to Three Wives (1949), which would bring him Oscars® for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, he was in a very favorable position at the studio, and he had no trouble getting the story approved. Moreover, he pitched it as a possible vehicle for Susan Hayward, then under contract at Fox, who would have played Margalo, the actress taken advantage of in the original story.
As Zanuck read his treatment for what was originally titled Best Performance, he realized that Mankiewicz's emphasis on how the theatre star, now named Margo, adjusted to the aging process made the character inappropriate for Hayward who was much younger. Among the actresses he considered for the role were Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn before he concluded that the script's comic possibilities would make the role perfect for Claudette Colbert. Other actors considered for the film included Jeanne Crain and Elizabeth Taylor for Eve, William Holden and John Garfield for Margo's director fianc, Jose Ferrer and Clifton Webb as critic Addison De Witt and Angela Lansbury as aspiring actress Miss Caswell. Eventually Crain, Gary Merrill, George Sanders and Marilyn Monroe were signed for those roles, respectively. Only Hugh Marlowe as playwright Lloyd Richards, Celeste Holm as his wife and Thelma Ritter as Margo's dresser, Birdie, were the original choices for their roles. Shortly before production began, Crain became pregnant, forcing the hurried substitution of Anne Baxter.
Production on All About Eve was due to begin principal photography in San Francisco in April 1950, the only time the studio could book the Curran Theater for location scenes actually set in a classic Broadway theater. Colbert was finishing work on Three Came Home (1950), the story of a woman confined to a Japanese POW camp during World War II. While performing a fight scene, she fell and broke her back. Suddenly All About Eve needed a new leading lady.
Zanuck's first choice was Marlene Dietrich, but Mankiewicz though her too artificial to being Margo to life. His choice was stage star Gertrude Lawrence, but her agent made several unrealistic demands, including the cutting of any shots of Margo smoking and drinking (even though Lawrence did both herself) and the insertion of a song in the party scene. In truth, Lawrence was heavily involved in turning another Fox film, Anna and the King of Siam (1946), into the musical The King and I and didn't want to put that project on hold. In desperation Zanuck placed a call to Bette Davis, then considered box-office poison after a string of flops. The two had not spoken in years, the result of a feud when she resigned as president of the Motion Picture Academy® in 1942. In fact, when he called her on the set of her current film, Payment on Demand (1951), she thought it was a prank. After convincing her he really was Zanuck and was offering her a role, he told her that she would have to have her costumes fitted and be ready to shoot on location in ten days. Once she read the script, she was more than happy to oblige.
As soon as word of her casting got out, Mankiewicz got calls from directors who had worked with Davis warning him that she would try to take over the picture. The one exception was William Wyler -- who had directed her in Jezebel (1938), The Letter (1940), and The Little Foxes (1941). He congratulated Mankiewicz on his good fortune and assured him that he'd enjoy working with her, a prediction that proved correct.
Davis was a model of professional behavior on the set although in the early stages of filming she seemed ready to quarrel when she brought out a cigarette while running a scene and expected her co-star, Merrill, to light it. Both the actor and Mankiewicz suggested that his character wouldn't do that, and Mankiewicz added that Margo wouldn't expect that kind of treatment either. Although that might have triggered a major blow up with some stars, Davis readily agreed. When Mankiewicz finally told her about the warnings he had gotten about her, she conceded that she could be difficult -- if she had no confidence in the script or the director. With All About Eve , however, she knew she had one of the best scripts of her career, and she also had full confidence in Mankiewicz.
It may have helped that during the first days of filming, she and Merrill fell in love. He started out entertaining her young daughter Barbara between scenes and quickly became Davis' confidante during a messy divorce. By the time production was finished they were lovers. By the time All About Eve opened, they were married.
Davis' marital break-up brought the film an unexpected boon, though it would help lead to confusion about the story's source. Before leaving for San Francisco she had a screaming battle with her husband, William Grant Sherry. The morning she was to shoot her first scene, she woke up with no voice. After hot oil treatments, she could speak in her lowest register, which made her sound like stage star Tallulah Bankhead. She had to keep that voice throughout filming, leading gossips to say that the whole film was modeled on the tempestuous stage star's life. Some even went so far as to suggest that the understudy who had tried to take over her life was Lizabeth Scott, who had moved on to Hollywood stardom after understudying Bankhead on Broadway in The Skin of Our Teeth. Bankhead perpetuated the rumors, referring to All About Eve as All About Me on her weekly radio show and even playing Margo in a radio version of the film. She had long considered Davis a rival, particularly since the film star had enjoyed box office triumphs in film versions of two Bankhead plays, Dark Victory (1939) and The Little Foxes. In truth, Mankiewicz had modeled Margo's character on Peg Woffington, a tempestuous Irish-born star of the British stage in the 18th century. The only intentional reference to Bankhead was in the costuming. Edith Head, who had been hired to create Davis' costumes on short notice, based many of her designs on Bankhead's personal style.
One gown acquired the Bankhead look only by accident. Although Head had designed and fitted all of Davis' costumes before location filming started, the costumes she needed for scenes shot in Hollywood weren't finished until later. The day shooting began in Hollywood for the cocktail party, Head arrived on set to discover that the square necked cocktail gown she had designed for Davis had been made incorrectly. Although the skirt and waistline were right, the bodice was too large. Head was on her way to report the mistake to Mankiewicz and take responsibility for delaying production when Davis called her back. By pulling the bodice down so the neckline rode low on her shoulders, she made the gown look even better than the original design -- and exactly like the type of gown Bankhead would have favored.
There were relatively few sour notes during the production. Davis and Holm did not get along. Holm claimed that she stopped speaking to her co-star when Davis mocked her politeness the first morning of shooting. She would also state that many in the cast felt shut out by the closeness that developed between Davis and Merrill. Monroe, then an insecure actress who had only won the part because of heavy campaigning by her agent, Johnny Hyde, was completely intimidated by the acclaimed star. It took her 11 takes to get through the scene in the theatre lobby after Miss Caswell's failed audition, and when Davis snapped at her, she ran off to throw up.
Zanuck was so pleased with All About Eve that he decided not to conduct any previews. The only advanced screening was for the Hollywood press, a group of hardened entertainment journalists who gave the film an enthusiastic standing ovation and began spreading the word about Davis' amazing comeback. The film opened to glowing reviews and fared very well in the end-of-year awards, with Davis capturing the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress and the film taking Best Picture. When the Oscar® nominations were announced All About Eve had set a record with 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Sanders), Best Supporting Actress (Holm and Ritter) and, for the first time in Academy® history, two nominations for Best Actress. The latter, however, would prove a disadvantage.
Zanuck had originally intended to run Baxter in the supporting category, even though she played the title character. Feeling it was time to acknowledge her rise to stardom, Baxter convinced him to put her up for Best Actress. Many in the industry felt that the decision hurt both Baxter's and Davis' chances in that category. On Oscar® night All About Eve captured seven awards, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor and Costume Design. Mankiewicz won for both directing and writing, making him the only person in Academy® history to win both awards in two consecutive years. Best Supporting Actress, which could have easily gone to Baxter, went to Josephine Hull in Harvey. And though Davis had hoped to win a third Oscar® for the film, the award went to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday.
In later years, Baxter would concede that she had probably pulled votes from her co-star, though in fairness, it should be conceded that Davis' temperamental behavior during her final years at Warner Bros. probably cost her votes too. In addition, she had to face stiff competition from Gloria Swanson, who had scored a comeback of her own in Sunset Boulevard. In fact, a national critics poll named Holliday best actress, with Davis and Swanson close enough behind to suggest that they had split the majority of the votes.
The legend of All About Eve didn't end with the Oscars®. Not only did it remain popular in theatrical re-issues and later on television, but it eventually became a cult film, particularly among gay fans who identified with Margo Channing's larger-than-life personality. Her warning "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night" became the most quoted of the film's many famous lines. The story of an understudy scheming to replace the star has been referenced in everything from the hilariously excessive Showgirls (1995) to Pedro Almodovar's Oscar®-winner All About My Mother (1999), while the entire plot was recycled, with an all-male cast, for the 1995 gay porn video All About Steve. The script itself was set to music for the hit 1970 Broadway musical Applause, starring Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing. Eve finally got to take over for Margo when Anne Baxter stepped into the leading role after Bacall left the show.
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Director-Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Based on the story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler, George W. Davis
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Bette Davis (Margo Channing), Anne Baxter (Eve Harrington), George Sanders (Addison De Witt), Celeste Holm (Karen Richards), Gary Merrill (Bill Sampson), Hugh Marlowe (Lloyd Richards), Thelma Ritter (Birdie Coonan), Marilyn Monroe (Miss Caswell), Gregory Ratoff (Max Fabian), Barbara Bates (Phoebe), Walter Hampden (Aged Actor).
by Frank Miller
All About Eve (1950)
AWARDS AND HONORS
All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (for both Bette Davis and Anne Baxter), Supporting Actress (both Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter), Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Musical Score. It won six: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Costume Design, and Sound.
All About Eve won a BAFTA Award as Best Picture.
At the Cannes Film Festival All About Eve won Bette Davis an award for Best Actress and a Special Jury Prize for Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Joseph Mankiewicz won the Directors Guild of America award for Best Director on All About Eve.
Joseph Mankiewicz won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for All About Eve. The film was nominated for five other Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture--Drama, Best Actress--Drama (Bette Davis), Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), and Best Supporting Actress (Thelma Ritter).
All About Eve was selected for preservation into the National Film Registry in 1990.
The New York Film Critics Circle awarded All About Eve with Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress for Bette Davis.
As of 2007 All About Eve ranks number 28 on The American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
The character of Eve Harrington was ranked by the American Film Institute as the 23rd Greatest Film Villain of All Time.
Bette Davis' line from All About Eve, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" was ranked by the American Film Institute as the 9th Greatest Movie Quote of All Time.
The Critics' Corner: ALL ABOUT EVE
"The good old legitimate theatre, the temple of Thespis and Art, which has dished out a lot of high derision of Hollywood in its time, had better be able to take it as well as dish it out, because the worm has finally turned with a venom and Hollywood is dishing it back. In All About Eve, a withering satire-witty, mature and worldly-wise...the movies are letting Broadway have it with claws out and no holds barred. If Thespis doesn't want to take a beating, he'd better yell for George Kaufman and Moss Hart...A fine Darryl Zanuck production, excellent music and an air of ultra-class complete this superior satire."
The New York Times
"All About Eve is a literate, adult film of the caliber that will do big league, big town business... The basic story is garnished with exceedingly well-cast performances wherein Miss Davis does not spare herself, makeup-wise, in the aging star assignment. Miss Baxter gives the proper shading to her cool and calculating approach in the process of ingratiation and ultimate opportunities; and the other principals mouth dialog which is real and convincing. .. All About Eve has substance in virtually every dramatic and romantic mood, which have been given proper shading and projection by producer Darryl F. Zanuck and Mankiewicz...The Zanuck production investiture is plush in every department." -- Variety
"All About Eve is probably the wittiest, the most devastating, the most adult and literate motion picture ever made that had anything to do with the New York stage...a crackling, sparkling, brilliantly written and magnificently acted commentary on the legitimate theatre. Bette Davis gives the finest performance she has ever played on the screen." --
New York Morning Telegraph
"Ersatz art of a very high grade, and one of the most enjoyable movies ever made...Bette Davis is at her most instinctive and assured. Her actress--vain, scared, a woman who goes too far in her reactions and emotions--makes the whole thing come alive."
- Pauline Kael
"Mankiewicz's bitchy screenplay makes the most of the situation, being both witty and intelligent. The young Monroe gets to have a stairway entrance (introduced by cynical critic Sanders as a 'graduate of the Copacabana school of acting').
- TimeOut Film Guide
"Growing older was a smart career move for Bette Davis, whose personality was adult, hard-edged and knowing... Her veteran actress Margo Channing in All About Eve was her greatest role; it seems to show her defeated by the wiles of a younger actress, but in fact marks a victory: the triumph of personality and will over the superficial power of beauty. She never played a more autobiographical role....The movie's strength and weakness is Anne Baxter, whose Eve lacks the presence to be a plausible rival to Margo, but is convincing as the scheming fan. When Eve understudies for Margo and gets great reviews, Mankiewicz wisely never shows us her performance; better to imagine it, and focus on the girl whose look is a little too intense, whose eyes a little too focused, whose modesty is somehow suspect."
- Roger Ebert
"Funny thing about great movies. Age only makes them seem fuller and richer. Mankiewicz would never again achieve such a pitch-perfect blend of wit and rueful wisdom...The treachery of the theatre has never been as sweetly or artfully done as it is by Mankiewicz and his cast of a lifetime in All About Eve."
- Peter Travers, The A List
"This conventional but intelligent satire of the theatrical world is most notable for the acting. Although Bette Davis was hailed at Cannes for her performance, the film is dominated by Anne Baxter."
- Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films"...acidly accurate depiction of theatrical politics and an unscrupulous ingnue's rise to stardom. In an excellent cast, Bette Davis gave one of her most dazzling performances."
- The Oxford Companion to Film
"Bette Davis at her peak....Mankiewicz's script is wittier and more cynical than his direction."
- Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema
"A basically unconvincing story with thin characters is transformed by a screenplay scintillating with savage wit and a couple of waspish performances into a movie experience to treasure."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide
"....the crispness of the dialogue was not matched by equally crisp editing."
- Hollis Alpert
"Backstabbing bitchery and catty one-liners make this a must-see."
- The Rough Guide to Cult Movies
"Brilliantly sophisticated (and cynical) look at life in and around the theatre...Witty dialogue to spare, especially when spoken by Sanders and Ritter."
- Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
Compiled by Andrea Passafiume