Great Scenes… All About Eve

allabouteveShe’ll tease you. She’ll unease you. All the better just to please you. She’s precocious. And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. All the boys think she’s a spy, she’s got Bette Davis eyes. Probably because she’s Bette Davis.

There is a really simple formula to filmmaking: great script + great actors = great movie. And yet why do so many get it wrong? Well, if every film had Bette Davis in it they would at least be halfway to greatness. But throw in a scintillatingly witty script from writer/director Joseph L Mankiewicz and you get one of the best films ever made. All About Eve is pretty much perfect in every way, from its scathing depiction of the corruption that can come with ambition, to its portrayal of what goes on behind the curtain in the world of theatre.

At the heart of the story is Margo Channing (Davis) an ageing actress whose sense of paranoia is heightened when a young protégé, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), walks quite literally off the street and into her life. To reveal much more is to spoil the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, but suffice to say it is a wonderful feast of a movie, filled with cracking performances and crackling dialogue.

In this sequence, Margo is playing hostess at a birthday party for the theatre director she is seeing. It gives Davis the chance to shine amid two different groups of guests. First, she delivers the memorable ‘bumpy night’ line before moving to the hallway, where Margo introduces Eve to brilliantly-monikered newspaper critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) and his date for the evening, Miss Caswell, who just happens to be played by Marilyn Monroe.

The ensuing verbal fireworks are fantastic from Davis (‘I distinctly remember Addison crossing you off my guest list’), Sanders (‘Dear Margo, you were an unforgettable Peter Pan, you must play it again soon’) and Monroe (‘You won’t bore him honey, you won’t even get a chance to talk’), who holds her own in more exalted company. It’s the quiet ones you want to watch though, as Eve’s entrance shakes up the dynamic and leads to the characters separating.

Tellingly, it is Margo who is left standing alone at the party she has thrown, and the long pause that closes this scene is just as effective as any of the sparkling banter that lit it up seconds before. Magnificent scene from a magnificent movie.



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2 Responses to “Great Scenes… All About Eve”

  1. It truly is a fantastic movie. Great choice of scene too.

  2. This is actually my favorite movie from the classic Hollywood era. So many great moments and funny lines.

    And if I could be anyone from the movies I’d probably be Addison DeWitt.

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