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Film / All About Eve

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Margo Channing

Featuring what is perhaps Bette Davis's most memorable performance, All About Eve is a 1950 20th Century Fox film, written and directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz. It recounts the tale of Margo Channing, a seasoned veteran of the stage and the darling of Broadway, taking under her wing Eve Harrington, a young acolyte with nowhere else to go, whose motives are not what they seem. Other important characters include Addison DeWitt, a jaded, cynical, and frighteningly influential drama critic; Bill Samson, Margo's director boyfriend; Lloyd Richards, Margo's playwright; and Karen, Lloyd's wife and Margo's closest friend and confidant. The costumes were by famed Hollywood designer Edith Head and the film score was by Alfred Newman. Marilyn Monroe also appears in a small role.

All About Eve was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards (including a whopping four nominations just for the actresses) and won six, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for George Sanders as Addison DeWitt), Best Costume Design for a Black-and-White film (Edith Head and Charles Le Maire), Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Sound Recording.

A Broadway musical adaptation starring Lauren Bacall, Applause, was produced in 1970.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adam and/or Eve: The movie is about a specific woman, but also about many female characters who are trying to negotiate their identity as women in the modern world. Get it? It's "All About Eve"???
  • Affably Evil: Addison and Eve.
  • Agent Peacock: Addison again.
  • Ambiguously Gay: At least to modern viewers, Addison comes off as more than a little camp, which is odd considering he blackmails Eve into having sex with with him.
    • There are a few (very subtle) instances in the film where you can also argue that Eve shows some Psycho Lesbian tendencies as well.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Eve knows exactly what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Bill to Margo.
  • Badass Boast:
    Margo: A mass of music and fire? That's me.
    • And:
    Addison: Take a good look at me Eve, it's about time you did. I am Addison DeWitt and I am nobody's fool, least of all yours.
    • Margo immediately subverts hers, reframing her "mass of music and fire" as "a kazoo and some sparklers."
  • Badass Longcoat: Addison sports one of these.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Most of the males as well as Margo.
  • Berserk Button: Getting too friendly with Bill has this effect on Margo. Among others.
    • Don't laugh at Addison. Just. Don't.
  • Betty and Veronica: Eve seems to be playing Betty to Margo's Veronica for a while. With an emphasis on playing.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Eve, oh so much.
  • Blackmail: Addison does this to Eve late in the movie.
    • Earlier, Eve does it to Karen when she threatens to tell Margo how Karen helped her unless Karen convinces Lloyd to cast her in his play.
  • Break the Haughty
  • Breaking Lecture: Addison, to Eve.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When Lloyd, while driving Eve and Karen to the train station, snaps that he doesn't want to have an accident on the icy road, Eve responds, "It doesn't matter to us if you have an accident. We (Karen and I) both have on long underwear." Lloyd can't help but laugh at this.
  • Camp Straight: Addison.
  • Can't Hold Her Liquor: Karen, or at least Margo seems to think so when Karen starts to laugh hysterically at the fact Margo has willingly given up the part Eve was going to blackmail Karen for.
  • Caustic Critic: Addison, to everyone else's annoyance.
  • The Chessmaster: Eve, although she is Out-Gambitted by Addison.
  • Cynical Mentor: Margo has been in theater for many years, has seen it all, and knows just what makes audiences tick. Addison has much wisdom to offer to a promising young unknown, but certainly does not feel compassion for her or for anyone else.
  • The Dandy: Addison.
  • Dawson Casting: In-universe; Margo feels washed-up for playing a character so much younger than her actual age.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Margo, in spades. Also Addison and Birdie, to nearly as great an extent.
  • Deal with the Devil: Eve's growing complicity with Addison comes to have unforeseen costs.
  • Double Entendre: In the title, "Eve" can refer to the main character, or to women in general.
    • Also:
      Lloyd: She apologized, didn't she?
      Karen: On her knees, I've no doubt!
    • Some subtle, non-sexual ones in the play titles: aging actress Margo stars in "Aged In Wood". Eve spends a sizeable portion of the plot gunning for the lead in the play "Footprints on the Ceiling". Indeed, in the course of doing this her persona does "flip over".
  • Drink Order: "I'll have a martini. Very dry."
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Margo, at Bill's welcome home party.
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Everyone Has Standards: Addison admonishes Eve for insulting the memory of dead heroes and the women who loved them.
  • Evil Brit: Addison.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Addison shows Eve that in the end, he's bigger and badder than she could ever be, reducing her to a miserable, teary-eyed mess.
  • Extreme Doormat: Eve towards Margo.
    Eve: Well, if [Margo]'s got to pick on someone, I'd just as soon it was me.
  • Follow the Leader: You can blame this film for an entire subgenre of films that includes The Girl in Gold Boots and Showgirls.
  • Foreshadowing: A subtle example at the beginning; everybody applauds at the beginning when Eve is set to receive the Sarah Siddons award — everyone, that is, except Margo and Karen. Also, when Eve first meets Margo and Lloyd, she specifically mentions the play Lloyd is currently writing. Finally, there's the scene later where Margo catches Eve taking a bow to an empty stage, holding the dress Margo just wore in the play.
  • Funny Foreigner: Max Fabian.
  • Genius Ditz: Loyd Richards and Bill Sampson.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Addison.
  • Gratuitous French: Used by a few characters.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Margo.
    Bill: You have every reason for happiness, but due to some strange, uncontrollable, unconscious drive you permit the slightest action of a kid like Eve to turn you into a hysterical, screaming harpy!
    • Eve is also envious of Margo's success.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Margo, in spades.
  • Heel Realization: Margo has one partway through the film.
  • Here We Go Again: At the end, it's rather heavily intimated that Phoebe may be planning to do the same thing to Eve that Eve has done to Margo.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens at the award ceremony, then flashes back to show the events of the previous year, and finally ends up at the ceremony again.
  • Info Dump: The opening narration of the film.
  • Informed Ability: We see a sliver of the incredible performance Eve gives that's supposed to kick-start her acting career... but considering her character is performing fabulously throughout the film, we can assume she's great.
    • And Margo Channing, the great lady of the theater, compared to Helen Hayes and Jeanne Eagels by Addison: all we see of her performance in Aged in Wood is a glimpse of the curtain call.
  • Insufferable Genius: Margo, Bill and Addison.
  • It's All About Me: Addison and Eve. Ironically, Margo is almost as self-centered as the woman who idolizes her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bill.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Addison.
  • Lady Drunk: Margo.
  • Large Ham: Margo and Addison.
  • Lemony Narrator: The film is partially narrated by Addison, who has a rather low opinion of the other principal characters, and of humanity in general.
  • Loony Fan: Margo is the only source of happiness in Eve's life from before the two even meet in person, and the focus of her activities for a long time afterward.
    • The ending shows that Eve may have gained a Loony Fan of her own.
  • Love Triangle: Between Margo, Bill and Eve.
    • And Eve attempts one between her, Karen and Lloyd.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Most of the important characters are skilled at manipulating others' emotions. Some elevate it to an art form.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Don't get up. And don't act as if I were the Queen Mother."
  • Meaningful Name: More than a few. Eve is named after the first woman, which makes her character seem generic, while allowing the film's title to have a double meaning. Her surname, Harrington could be taken as a reference to "Red Herring". Margo is to Bill Sampson what Delilah was to Samson in that she robs him off his power. Addison DeWitt's name is both a reference to the adder that offered Eve the apple in the garden and of course his wit: Addison The Wit.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: It turns out Eve has been lying about her background and true identity as part of her plan to manipulate her way into becoming Margo's understudy.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Eve, when she first meets Margo.
  • Narcissist: Addison.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Bill implies this to Eve when she tries to seduce him. The other reason, of course, is that he's already taken.
  • One Head Taller: Addison is this to Eve. This is particularly noticeable at the end, when he hits her.
    Eve: (opens door insistently) Get out!
    Addison: You're too short for that gesture.
  • Only Sane Man: Bill, to some degree, and also Karen, are the only characters in the film who aren't massively screwed up and manipulating others for their own gain.
  • The Only Way They Will Learn: Doubly subverted. Karen deliberates on her plan to help Margo to get over herself. She finishes with "there's not even a reason why I shouldn't tell her," then, as she picks up the phone, adds, "in time." Subverted again, when it turns out Karen is the one without a clue.
  • Out-Gambitted: Eve's attempts to find fame for herself go quite far.... Except her wishes to marry Lloyd. Turns out making allies with Addison was a mistake.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Bertie starts off her early rants about Eve with a variation on this.
  • Pimped-Out Cape: Eve has one when she gets her award, that Phoebe tries on when she shows she has the same ambitions.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The lead role in Aged in Wood calls for one.
  • Pretty in Mink: Particularly when some of the ladies comment enviously on a sable coat.
    • Marilyn Monroe wearing an ermine coat.
    • Margo jokes that she'll just wear a fur coat and a nightgown to her wedding.
  • Properly Paranoid: Margo
  • Psycho Lesbian: Whatever her feelings for Margo (or Phoebe), it's about as clear as The Hays Code would allow that Eve leans toward women, one scene even closing with her and a female cohort retiring arm in arm to their boudoir.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: At the opening of the film, Eve is being awarded the Sarah Siddons Award for Distinguished Achievement, an award for acting. This was a fictional award at the time, but was later Defictionalized as a regional award in Chicago. The musical adaptation Applause changes it to The Tony.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given to both Margo and Eve.
  • Rich Bitch: Margo.
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: Macbeth, specifically.
    • Margo also quotes from Julius Caesar ("the evil that men do"), though she can't remember the whole quote.
  • Smug Snake: Eve. When Addison decides to get tough with her, her confidence drops and she breaks like a twig.
  • The Sociopath: You could make a definite case for Addison and Eve.
  • Spit Take: Max when Margo asks him to give Eve a job.
  • Spock Speak: Lloyd describing the time to Margo in the car.
  • Spot the Imposter: A subtle but key example as Addison and Eve talk about her past with Eve saying she saw Margo perform at the Shubert in San Francisco which Addison describes as "an oasis in the California desert." This comes up when Addison demolishes Eve's entire fašade in the film, noting that San Francisco has no Shubert Theater and "it was an easy lie, unworthy of you."
  • Stalker with a Crush: Eve is a stalker par excellence. Whether what draws her to Margo can be called a crush depends on one's interpretation.
  • The Stoic: Acerbic, icy, and unflappable, Addison is a Stoic to the very end, even when he would be entirely justified in showing some emotion. He feels passion only for the theatre, such as his joyful reverence for Margo Channing even when she is having a theatrical temper tantrum. In one scene, Eve is able to make him lose his temper, something no one else ever comes close to doing.
  • Subverted Suspicion Aesop: The entire plot of the movie.
  • Title Drop: In Addison's opening monologue:
    Eve... but more of Eve, later. All about Eve, in fact.
    • The phrase "about Eve" crops up pretty regularly.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Margo introduces Miss Casswell to Eve as "an old friend of Mr DeWitt's mother", in mockery of Eve's youth and perceived na´vetÚ.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: None of Eve's schemes could have gotten started without Karen.
  • Villainous Breakdown/Villainous BSOD: Eve, whilst Addison coldly and efficiently obliterates her entire facade in private. She still goes on to win the award we see her win at the start of the film and is clearly going to be successful, but she's a shadow of her former self.
  • Wham Line:
    Eve: There is something you can do. Something most important.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Birdie completely disappears without explanation halfway through the film.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Karen, which allows Eve to manipulate her with ease.
  • World of Snark