I am ashamed to say that I bought 'All About Eve' years ago and it's been sitting on my shelf unopened, untouched all this time. The Blind Spot Series, which all started with Ryan McNeil, have a read of his brilliant website, The Matinee, was an excellent excuse and reason for me to finally watch the film.
All About Eve has been one of the classics that I've put off, not out of laziness but out of the worry it will be an anti climax. I felt this way when I saw The Graduate and when I aw Vertigo. At first there was guilt that I should be honouring such films then there was shame when I read more about the films and still disliked them I tried watching them another time, to given them a chance, but alas, they weren't for me. But, All About Eve, thankfully was NOT one of these films. All About Eve was and is a brilliant film, with two of the most fantastic roles for women I have seen in recent years. It's odd saying that as the film was made in 1950.
Nominated for 14 Oscars, winning 6 including Best Picture and praised by critics. Pedro Almodovar' All About My Mother was even inspired by the film. For me, it has stood the test of time.
Eve Harrington is an ambitious, star struck admirer of the great Broadway actress, Margo Channing. After 'accidentally' bumping into Margo's best friend outside the theatre where her latest play is on, Eve meets her idol and from there worms her way into Margo's and her friends' trust. Claiming all innocence and acting incredibly modest, she starts to rouse Margo's suspicions and question her motives. Soon Eve is on the fast track to becoming the star of Broadway, and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
I was shouting at the screen for most of the film, when Eve was in a scene of course. Having the advantage of knowing what the story was about, I could see right through Eve's game. Having encountered people in real life that reminded me of her didn't help. Personal emotions aside, this story about a younger woman taking over and climbing up the career ladder, stopping at nothing through lies was pitch perfect in every line.
There were two themes running throughout the film that I couldn't ignore and another that barely registered with me. First being this was about women. The three main women, Margo, Eve and Karen all represent a different 'type' of woman. Margo, of course is the outspoken, unmarried, sensation. She doesn't depend on any man, but is conflicted as she is deeply in love with Bill and can't ignore their age gap of 8 years. At first we're on Bill's side, he doesn't care, why should she, but Margo says, that Bill looks his age and will always look his age where as she won't, she will visibly age. She is strong and wants to be independent but needs emotional support. Karen, the housewife, is happy with her life and at first, has no doubt about her marriage. As soon as it feels threatened, she feels helpless and wishes she could do something other than 'just' support. Eve, is of course, the villain of the film. She is ultimately fake, pretending to be modest, sweet and charming, always putting herself down so others will build her. She may be clever but she is calculating and she becomes a woman who cannot fool other women, just men.
The other theme, that is quite prominent, is the normalcy of being in a couple. The films pictures those who are in a pair or works in a pair are stronger. Margo fights against the conventional marriage throughout only to break down, apologise to everyone (except Eve) and marries Bill. Margo mocks her friend Karen 'the happy little housewife' only to decide do become one herself. The film shows that she is only happy now that she has 'settled down'. Where as Eve, is depicted in a negative light, not only because she has lied, blackmailed and tried to destroy happy relationships, but because ultimately, she is alone. This is against what is seen as normal and therefore unacceptable. This last theme ties in with what I've read about, going deeper in the meaning of the characters and their actions. It's hinted that not only is Eve shunned for her deeds but for apparently being a lesbian.
I didn't pick up on this as Eve was said to have an affair with her boss and his wife had her followed and she did try to seduce Bill but failed. It is also suggested that Addison, the slimy critic played by George Sanders who is always delightfully mean, is meant to be gay and uses all these 'young women' as a means of power. This may well be true as he shows no desire for them or anyone sexually. Eve too, may be explained with this suggestion as being more than skin deep as she lives alone, and throughout has always seen as career driven over anything else. Later in the film, she claims that she loves Lloyd but only so that he can write her the best plays. Nothing else really. But this whole idea may seem far fetched. I think with a second viewing, this may come to light more. I mean, I was completey wrong about Miller's Crossing. Once you realise that all the men are actually lovers or in love with each other, it makes SO much more sense.
A brilliant film and one hell of a screenplay that I hope to get my hands on. Margo Channing is now one of my fictional heroes, she did have the best speeches.