Saturday, May 7, 2016

What can I say about All About Eve that hasn't been said before?

TCM is showing All About Eve tonight at 8:00 PM as part of the Essentials, which may or may not have Robert Osborne back with Sally Field. All About Eve is one of the all-time classics, so pretty much anything that can be said about it already has been said, probably dozens if not hundreds of times.

If, for some bizarre reason, you don't know anything about the movie, the brief plot is that Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is a young woman who comes to New York City with an interest in the Broadway stage and wanting to become an actress. She meets her favorite stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and begins to worm her way into Margo's life, eventually becoming her understudy and leading Margo, who is approaching middle age, to fear that Eve is trying to take her job away from her. There's a subplot regarding the author of Margo's latest play (played by Hugh Marlowe), one regarding Margo's new boyfriend (Gary Merrill, who would become Davis' real-life husband), and then the theather critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) who is the first to see Eve for what she really is.

So what do I like so much about the movie?

First, there's George Sanders' performance. Sanders walked away with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and he's brilliant as the devious critic who knows more than he's letting on. It's in some ways similar to the antagonist he played in Rebecca a decade earlier, and it's easy to tell that he's relishing the part.

There's a brief reference to Poodles Hanneford. Poodles did horse stunts, including some on The Red Pony, although I think most of his work was outside of the movies, in circuses and wild west shows and the like. But there's that name, and the fact that he and I share a birthday. (So now you all know when my birthday is.)

The finale. I don't want to give the ending away, and by this I mean the part of the ending that comes after what the opening framing gives away. (Most of the movie is technically a flashback, although there are a lot of great noirs that use this technique.) But the final shot is visually stunning and, for a movie that's based on interiors and small spaces, that's saying something.

As for the exteriors, there's a scene of George Sanders and Anne Baxter walking through New Haven that's done with rear-projection photography. The rear-projection is stunningly bad, and really sticks out for what it otherwise a tremendous movie. In fact, this scene is notable precisely because of how much it sticks out.

I haven't even mentioned Thelma Ritter yet. She earned the first of her six Best Supporting Actress nominations (she never won) for playing Margo's dresser, and she's good when she appears. Unfortunately, she's more or less written out during the second half of the movie. Marilyn Monroe also has a small role; as with The Asphalt Jungle, it's easy to see the potential.

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