"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, recounting 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.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.
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"???
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.
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.
Genre Savvy: Addison. He's seen it all, so that when a young actress who's interested in Eve meets him, he knows that "Phoebe" isn't her real name and the cycle is about to begin again.
Phoebe: I call myself Phoebe.
Addison: And why not? Tell me, Phoebe, do you want someday to have an award like that of your own?
Phoebe: More than anything else in the world.
Addison: Then you must ask Miss Harrington how to get one. Miss Harrington knows all about it.
Also Birdie. Played for laughs at first ("What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end!"), but she's the first one to suspect that Eve's devotion to Margo might not be all it seems to be.
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.
And Eve attempts one between her, Karen and Lloyd.
Louis Cypher: Some say there's a faint whiff of the demonic about Addison.
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 Margo into becoming her understudy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.