ALL ABOUT EVE is the consummate backstage story, a film that holds a magnifying glass up to theatrical environs and exposes all the egos, tempers, conspiracies and backstage back-biting that make up the world of make-believe on Broadway. The screenplay, written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who
also directed, may be the most biting example of hard-boiled wit ever to come out of Hollywood, and it is stylishly performed at a breakneck pace by a uniformly expert cast.
The story, based on Mary Orr's "The Wisdom of Eve," concerns an aging star who befriends a seemingly innocent fan, who wants to take over and inhabit the star's life. Bette Davis won the part of vain, temperamental Margo Channing by default when Claudette Colbert broke her back, and
single-handedly revived her career after having been dumped by Warner Bros. Though Mankiewicz and Davis always claimed the character was based on Austrian actress Elisabeth Bergner, Davis enacted her role as a mirror twin of then-fabled Broadway rival Tallulah Bankhead, thus fanning the flames of
an already existing feud. EVE was the peak of Anne Baxter's star years and she almost matches Davis in her silky, dangerous portrayal of Eve. These two are supported by a who's who of matchless portraits, including Gary Merrill (whom Davis would fall in love with during filming and later marry),
George Sanders (as a poisonous critic), the biting Thelma Ritter, Celeste Holm, and a young Marilyn Monroe as a cynical, dreamy starlet.
EVE won six Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Sanders), Costume Design (Edith Head), and Sound Recording. It also was nominated for Cinematography, Art Direction, Score, Editing, and Supporting Actress (Holm and Ritter). Bette Davis was doomed to lose for Best Actress,
canceled out by Baxter's shared nomination, and by rival old pro Gloria Swanson for SUNSET BOULEVARD (all lost to rookie Judy Holliday for BORN YESTERDAY). The musical Applause, a Broadway success with Lauren Bacall, and later Anne Baxter, was based on EVE.
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