Today is Friday, and I’m going to publish this week’s first 100 New Code Films article. The purpose of this series is to expand my knowledge of the American Breen Era (1934-1954) and the movies made during those twenty years. In this series, I will watch and review two movies in all but four weeks this year. I try to combine these articles with blogathon entries by watching new movies which will fit certain themes. During the year, I am trying to watch award-winning, famous, and critically acclaimed films as well as more obscure ones. I made a list of the Code films which won Academy Awards in the four major categories, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress, which I haven’t seen. I hope to watch all twenty-eight films on this list this year.
Today’s topic is All About Eve from 1950. This new Code film manages to fill both the categories I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I have enjoyed participating in The Broadway Bound Blogathon in past years, so I decided to join again this year. Instead of writing about a Broadway musical or a film adaption of a Broadway work, I decided to write about a drama which follows the lives of Broadway performers, All About Eve. This movie was on my list of films to watch because it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1950, among other awards. We watched it on a free classic film channel on Roku on Sunday.
A middle-aged actress is at the top of her field, best friends with the man who wrote the hit play in which she is appearing and his sweet wife and in love with her director. One evening, the playwright’s wife meets a simple young woman outside the theater, whom she sees after all the shows. The young woman addresses her, telling her that she has seen every performance of this play because of her admiration for its star. Touched, the wife brings her to meet her best friend. Although the proud actress at first is patronizing to her fan, she is deeply touched when she hears the young woman’s story of a tragic marriage and a deep attachment to her acting. After seeing her director beau off on a plane to Hollywood, she takes the young waif home with her and lets her move into her flat as her personal assistant. The young lady is extremely devoted, so devoted in fact that the actress’s maid suspects her motives. When she learns that her perfect assistant has arranged a midnight phone call and a birthday party for her returning beau, she suddenly thinks her maid may have a point. Does the young fan have more than the actress’s welfare in mind?
This movie stars Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and George Sanders. Supporting actors include Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, and Marilyn Monroe.
This movie was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. The production company was Twentieth Century Fox. It was written for the screen by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on Mary Orr’s story “The Wisdom of Eve.” This movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress for Bette Davis as well as Anne Baxter, Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm as well as Thelma Ritter, Best Black-and-White Cinematography for Milton R. Krasner, Best Black-and-White Set Decoration for Lyle R. Wheeler, George W. Davis, Thomas Little, and Walter M. Scott, Best Film Editing for Barbara McLean, and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Alfred Newman. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Best Supporting Actor for George Sanders, Best Screenplay for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Best Black-and-White Costume Design for Edith Head, and Best Sound Recording for Thomas T. Moulton. It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for George Sanders, and Best Supporting Actress for Thelma Ritter. It won Best Screenplay.
This is a good Code film. I appreciated how Code compliant it is. It deals with very serious topics, but it handles everything properly. The inclusion of Margot Channing (Bette Davis) getting married to Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill) is very important. It shows that fame alone is empty without someone to enjoy it with you. Because of her marriage, Margot is able to turn down the role in the new play, since she knows that she is too old to play the part. This is an important lesson which many performers must learn. I had heard that there was an inclusion of burping in this film, which is a Code violation. However, the actual instance was quite acceptable. It occurs when producer Max Fabian (Greogry Ratoff) asks for bicarbonate of soda for his heartburn. After drinking it, he makes some noise, but it sounds more like a cough than a burp. Another difficult situation which is handled well is the relationship between Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) and Broadway critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders).
I highly recommend this film. It is an excellent movie. The story is very riveting, and the way it is told keeps one fascinated at all times. This story is presented as a flashback. It begins at an award ceremony. Addison DeWitt narrates as Eve receives an award for outstanding acting, introducing us to the characters in the story, who look less than friendly toward the recipient. Then, he says that he will tell us all about Eve. The narration then goes to Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), who tells how she first met Eve as the film-long flashback begins. Later, Margot takes the narration for awhile. The acting in this film is magnificent. Bette Davis is perfect in the role of the middle-aged actress who begins to struggle with her age because of young Eve’s presence around her. She also is concerned by the fact that Bill is eight years younger than she. Bette Davis effectively conveys a sympathetic nature in this character, making her a likeable character. Anne Baxter does a wonderful job as Eve Harrington. She is so sweet and gentle, yet she uses very subtle acting to plant doubt in the minds of her fellow characters as well as the audience. Eventually, she shows a magnificent dual nature. George Sanders is bitingly sarcastic as the witty and droll playwright who is much more involved in the workings of the theater than just reporting them. Celeste Holm is so sweet as the dutiful best friend, who sticks by Margot as well as her husband, Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe). Her compassion for the pathetic Eve is what sets the story in motion. Gary Merrill provides a tense love story through his portrayal of Bill Simpson. He is very hot-tempered, yet he truly cares about Margot. Thelma Ritter provides great comic relief and words of wisdom as Margot’s sarcastic maid, Birdie Coonan. Another interesting performer is a young Marilyn Monroe, who has a small role as a chorus girl who wants to be an actress. She is very pretty here, and it is refreshing to hear her real voice in this early role of hers. The score is extremely compelling. It adds a lot to this magnificent story.
For the Blogathon
This is my entry in The Third Broadway Bound Blogathon, which is being hosted this weekend by Rebecca Deniston of Taking Up Room. Broadway is more than what happens onstage. The magic of the theatre, which one finds in every branch of the performing arts, is as much backstage as before the audience. This movie shows that magic, which anyone who has ever performed in a theatre knows. The curtains, the costumes, the ghost light, the makeup, the wigs, the dialogue, the footlights, the stage crew, and, of course, the applause create the magnificent realm where performers live. The first night when he meets Eve, Bill seems to sense something he doesn’t like about her, since he quickly picks a fight with her. When she says that he is leaving the theatre and going to Hollywood, he gives a speech about what the theatre truly is. With it, I will conclude this tribute to the Great White Way.
The theatre. The theatre. What book of rules say the theatre exists only within some ugly buildings crowded into one square mile of New York City? Or London? Paris or Vienna? Listen, Junior, and learn. Do you wanna know what the theatre is? A flea circus. Also opera. Also rodeos, carnivals, ballets, Indian tribal dances, Punch and Judy, a one-man band, all theatre. Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience, there’s theatre. Donald Duck, Ibsen and The Lone Ranger. Sarah Bernhardt and Poodles Hanneford. Lunt and Fontanne, Betty Grable. Rex the Wild Horse, Eleonora Duse, all theatre. You don’t understand them all. You don’t like them all. Why should you? The theatre’s for everybody, you included, but not exclusively. So, don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theatre, but it’s theatre for somebody, somewhere.
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