Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All About Eve

Rating : 9/10
Release Date : Jan, 1951
Time : 138 minutes
Director & Writer : Joseph L Mankiewicz; Music : Alfred Newman
Starring : Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Marilyn Monroe, Thelma Ritter

Innocence, greed, charm, ruthlessness, simplicity and raw naked ambition. We see them all, in a story succinctly, skilfully and superbly told.

Eve (Anne Baxter) is from a small town, dazzled by the performances and brilliance of Margo (Bette Davis), the theatrical superstar. So much so that she comes to New York and watches every performance of her ongoing play. She strikes up a silent friendship with Karen (Celeste Holm), Margo’s friend. One day they finally do speak and touched by her story, Karen introduces her to Margo, who is also similarly touched by Eve’s naivity and small town sweetness. She takes Eve under her wing, has her move in with her and lets her become a sort of manager / companion. Things are great at first and then gradually, she and we realise things are not exactly as they seem.

Other well etched characters include Bill (Gary Merrill) as the director and boyfriend of Margo, who is witty, tells it like it is and is determined to remain untouched by the hoopla of showbiz. Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe), the gifted playwright and Karen’s husband, writes plays keeping Margo in mind but without doing her any favours. Addison De Witt (George Sanders) is a theatre critic and poison pen columnist who ensures he sees all that is happening and partakes of some of the temptations on offer. There is also a bit part by Birdie (Thelma Ritter) as Margo’s caustic maid and an interesting one scene cameo by Marilyn Monroe as an upcoming artist.

The screen though belonged to Margo and Eve, with the former playing the tempestuous prima donna with the flashing eyes and tossed hair, the heart of gold, heaving emotions and a brooding self awareness of her growing age and of how things really are. Eve plays the backstage, almost invisible character at first and then slowly, we discover that still waters run deep. We fall for her innocent face, her eagerness to please, her bliss and joy at being a companion to her stage idol. And then slowly realise whats behind it all.

The screenplay is taut, pulls no punches, acts like an expose of the theatre world, is funny / laced with sarcasm yet is a moving, gripping human story at the same time. The issues, the people, the industry, all exist even today as described…nothing seems to have changed…and that perhaps is the ultimate accolade for this timeless classic.

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