Making the Grades
Acting is an art. But what happens when an actor forgets to leave his or her work on the stage and continues playing a part in the off hours.
In the classic 1950s film All About Eve, Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, an aging actress who often manipulates her friends, especially her younger boyfriend, director Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill). Despite her success in the theater, she still faces insecurities, particularly about her age.
Then after another sold-out performance, Margo meets a fan who is down on her luck. Told a sad story about a lost husband and financial setbacks, Margo invites Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) into her home to work as her personal secretary. The ambitious and attentive girl excels at her job, anticipating Margo’s every need.
However, it soon becomes evident that Margo isn’t the only consummate actress in this story. Margo’s assistant, Birdie (Thelma Ritter) is the first to question Eve’s motives as the young woman worms her way into the affections of playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Karen (Celeste Holm).
Eve also plays to producer Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff) with a feigned humility that has the old man stumbling over himself. But she achieves her biggest coup when she scores a dazzling review of her debut performance from theatrical critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), a cynical aficionado who wears a beautiful debutante (Marilyn Monroe) draped on his arm like a woman wears furs. Just as the movie The Black Swan divulges the backstage backstabbing of the ballet world, All About Eve discloses the scheming antics of aspiring actresses.
Known for the famous line, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” the film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards—a record that was finally tied by the Titanic in 1997. As well, the movie garnered four female nominations including Best Actress for Davis and Baxter and Best Supporting Actress for Holm and Ritter. In the end, the production received six Oscars including one for Best Picture in 1951.
Received with critical acclaim at the time of its release, All About Eve has continued to offer audiences an insightful look into the drama that happens off-stage, away from the bright lights and applauding audiences.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about All About Eve.
What is the difference between admiration and obsession? How does Eve use her position to help advance her own ambitions?
How important is “who you know” versus “what you know” in the theatrical world? What influence, if any, does a critic have to make or break an actor’s career? With the rise of the Internet, do you think a critic’s impact is lessened?