My current Top 5

My current Top 5

5/19/2011

Number 26: All about Eve (Best Picture Ranking)

I guess this may be the biggest shock in my ranking. Few movies have achieved such a following, especially on the Internet, where it is usually called one of the best, if not the best, movie of all time, featuring Bette Davis giving, for many, one of the best, if not the best, female performances of all time. Personally, I react to All about Eve the same way as I do to Bette Davis’s performance – I completely agree that it is brilliant, I just differ with others on the level of brilliance.

All about Eve, of course, tells the story of a young, ambitious actress who manipulates her way into the life of Broadway diva Margo Channing in hope to steal her next part right from under her nose. Margo Channing herself must not only deal with this young woman but also with her own insecurities that come from her realization that she is slowly becoming too old for the roles she is playing and maybe even for the man she loves.

All about Eve is mainly a very wordy movie – but oh, what words! Director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz created some of the finest dialogue in motion picture history and he was lucky enough to get a cast that not only did justice to these words but more than that, brought them to life and created ‘fire and music’ on the screen. Bette Davis gives the performance of her career and shows a woman who is used to being the centre of attention but also begins to sense that her prime is coming to an end. Celeste Holm sparkles as usual as her best friend who, unknowingly, is the driving force of the story – she introduces Eve to Margo, she makes sure that Eve gets a chance to star as Margo’s understudy. George Sanders leaves a big impression as the sharp-tongued theatre critic Addison DeWitt and Thelma Ritter makes the most of her little screen time. Unfortunately, Anne Baxter’s often too monotonous acting style prevents her from exploring the most important quality of Eve – her ability to fool the people around her – but she still is satisfying enough to prevent her performance from seriously harming the overall quality of the movie.

Because of the (mostly) fantastic cast and the almost magical way Mankiewicz develops the characters and uses the dialogue, All about Eve is both incredibly entertaining and almost thrilling despite the fact that the words always overwhelm the action. There is not much happening in All about Eve, it’s a simple story but Mankiewicz highlights how the characters react to this simple story, how all of sudden the lives of all group members change. All about Eve is neither a backstage drama in the classical sense nor a story about the world of show business but a quiet character study set in the world of the theatre.

To be fair, All about Eve also features one scene and one plot detail that will forever annoy me – the scene between Eve and Karen in Margo’s bedroom. Up to this moment, Eve has only worked as Margo’s secretary, she has told that she had acted a little bit in her home town but was terrible and that she is mostly a fan of the theatre. So, when Eve suddenly tells Karen that she isn’t very busy as Margo’s assistant and asks Karen as a favour to become Margo’s new understudy in a play on Broadway, everything suddenly turns into an incredibly awkward scene because never once does any character concern itself with the topic that it would be highly unusual to give a woman like this a job as understudy of the central character in a Broadway play. This aspect of the story which also influences the rest of the main story always bothered me rather very much but it doesn’t take away the excellence of the remaining movie.

So, I, too, agree that All about Eve is an overall brilliant movie and the fact that it didn’t make it higher on this list does not mean that I don’t appreciate it as much as others do but only means that I prefer 25 other movies a little bit more.

3 comments:

Louis Morgan said...

A brilliant film certainly.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought this would be at least top 15, I disagree (it is certainly in the top 15 for me) but to each his own. A perfect film in my opinion. Still, your ranking so far has been amazing and very similar to mine in general.

Margaret Perry said...

I love this movie. I'm going to see it again this weekend at a local theatre that shows old movies and I'm so looking forward to it! Here's the post I wrote the last time I saw it - I'd love to hear what you think of my blog!
http://thegreatkh.blogspot.com/2011/08/all-about-eve.html