All About Eve is a 1950 20th Century Fox film, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It recounts the tale of Margo Channing (Bette Davis), a seasoned veteran of the stage and the darling of Broadway, taking under her wing Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a young acolyte with nowhere else to go, whose motives are not what they seem. Other important characters include Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), 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 (not that 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. This is still the record for nominations, tied with Titanic (1997) and La La Land.
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: Modern viewers like to imagine Addison and Eve as homosexuals, Addison from his posh way of speaking and Eve from her obsession with Margo. Regardless it's revealed that Eve was run out of town for having an affair with a married man, and Addison blackmails her into marrying him so this one is up in the air. Eve does have enough smouldering moments with other women, such as her (supposed?) neighbor, that she could rate as Ambiguously Bi.
- Ambition Is Evil: Eve knows exactly what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it. Lampshaded by Addison.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Bill to Margo.Bill: I love you. You're a beautiful and intelligent woman, a beautiful and intelligent woman and a great actress, a great actress at the peak of her career. You have every reason for happiness, every reason, but due to some strange, uncontrollable, unconscious drive, you permit the slightest action of a kid, of a kid like Eve to turn you into a hysterical, screaming harpy! Now once and for all, stop it!
- Badass Boast:
- One from Margo, which she immediately subverts by reframing her "mass of music and fire" as "a kazoo and some sparklers."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.
- One from Margo, which she immediately subverts by 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.
- Eve threatens to tell Margo how Karen helped her unless Karen convinces Lloyd to cast her in his play.
- Addison does this to Eve late in the movie; he threatens to go public with the sordid details of her past, thereby ruining her image and her career, unless she completely submits to him.
- Bookends: All the drama started when a Loony Fan slips in Margo's life and ends with a Loony Fan slipping in Eve's life.
- Break the Haughty:
- Breaking Lecture: Addison, to Eve.
- Camp Straight: Addison.
- Can't Hold His 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.
- Casting Couch: A variation. It's hinted that Miss Caswell got her audition via Addison being persuaded to pull some strings and in fact, Miss Caswells career-building strategy seems to involve a lot of flirting with men. And shes played by Marilyn Monroe.
- Casting Gag: Tallulah Bankhead played Margo in a radio adaptation of the movie. For years it was rumoured that she was the inspiration for Margo.
- 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".
- Drowning My Sorrows: Margo, at Bill's welcome home party.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Addison has no issues with Eve doing everything possible to succeed. Unless those things include easily discovered lies, hurting those who loved and cared about you, and using pity for those who have died in the military.
- Everybody Smokes: This being the mid-20th century, almost every character is seen lighting, smoking, or putting out a cigarette in almost every scene. Addison even has a fancy cigarette holder.
- Everyone Has Standards: Addison admonishes Eve for insulting the memory of dead heroes and the women who loved them.
- Evil Brit: Addison is completely merciless in his theatre reviews and in his personal life (the other characters remark that he doesn't get heartburn from being around Eve because he has no heart to burn), and is played by (Russian-born) English actor George Sanders using his natural accent.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gentleman Snarker: Addison snarks at practically everything, in a gentlemanly drawl.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Eve is first seen lighting a cigarette at the end, when she meets Phoebe, to signal that the roles have been swapped at last.
- 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. Lampshaded by Bill when he finally gets fed up of "these paranoiac outbursts".
- Heel Realization: Margo has one partway through the film. Right before Eve makes her villainy known.
- 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, where Addison explains who each of the primary characters are and what their situation is.
- 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 Jerk: So Addison reveals he's onto Eve's lies and knows her actual backstory, and starts calling her out on how stupid and ill-judged her faux-backstory was. Think this means he's going to reveal himself as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold? Does this mean Even Evil Has Standards? Not particularly — he's more than happy to keep it all under wraps, in exchange for Eve putting herself at his mercy in such a way that's just short of outright slavery. And although he can tell immediately that "Phoebe"note has the same designs on Eve that Eve had on Margo, far from being worried for Eve, he seems amused by the idea that she might be hit by a bolt of Laser-Guided Karma.
- Lady Drunk: Margo in the movie's famous quote, detailed above.
- Large Ham: Margo is quite dramatic, which makes sense if she's a theatre actress.
- 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 afterwards. 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 of 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.
- Naïve Newcomer: Eve, when she first meets Margo. Or rather this is what she pretends to be.
- 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 and he's just disgusted with her true nature.
- Oh, Crap!: Eve remains defiant during the early stages of Addison's declaration that she belongs to him now and his revelation that he knows her real name (Gertrude Slescynski) and that her parents haven't heard from her for three years. But her defiance turns to horrified panic when he reveals that he knows she had an affair with her married boss at the brewery in Milwaukee and was paid $500 to leave town to avoid a scandal, as she realises that if she doesn't submit to Addison, he will completely destroy her dreams of stardom.
- 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: Birdie 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.
- When Eve gets her acting award, she wears a dress loaded with pearls.
- Pretty in Mink:
- Margo's dress for her party has mink trimmed sleeves and mink trimming the pockets on her skirt.
- At Margo's party, quite a few of the guests go gaga over a sable coat. Karen even says her new mink looks pitiful next to it. Even Eve can't help petting the fur as she talks to Karen.
- Miss Caswell arrives at the party wearing a white ermine wrap.
- Margo jokes that she'll just wear a fur coat and a nightgown to her wedding.
- Properly Paranoid: Margo who cops onto Eve's ruse early on, whereas her friends don't see it.
- 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.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Bette Davis's voice is so raspy in this film because her marriage was breaking up and she was screaming at her husband all the time.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Margo gets one from Bill when he tears into her for letting her paranoia regarding Eve shatter her career and personal life.
- Eve gets one from Addison, as detailed in Eviler Than Thou above.
- Rich Bitch: Margo is a successful actress and not too nice to those around her. She does suffer Break the Haughty and has Took a Level in Kindness towards the end.
- Shout-Out: Shakespeare is referenced frequently, especially Macbeth.note Margo also quotes from Julius Caesar ("the evil that men do"), though she can't remember the whole quote.
- Servile Snarker: Birdie, Eve's housekeeper. There's little she doesn't snark at and she's the first who realizes there's something off about Eve.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Deeply cynical. Everyone in this universe of this film a selfish, cynical jackass who lacks the ability to care about others; and if a character does not start that way in this film, he or she will sure as hell be disillusioned into cynicism by the end of this film.
- Smug Snake: Eve. When Addison decides to get tough with her, her confidence drops and she breaks like a twig.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Pretty well any big scene between the major characters is conducted largely as a duel of irony and sarcasm, especially if Addison or Margo are involved.
- The Sociopath: You could make a definite case for Addison and Eve. The latter manipulates and controls everyone around her, while the former is a master at blackmail.
- 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 Schubert in San Francisco which Addison describes as "an oasis in the California desert." This comes up when Addison demolishes Eve's entire façade in the film, noting that San Francisco has no Schubert 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.
- In Addison's opening monologue:
- 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 naïveté.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: None of Eve's schemes could have gotten started without Karen.
- The Vamp: Eve is revealed to be one. She's willing to seduce Bill or Lloyd to advance her career and Addison finds out she has done this before.
- Villainous Breakdown: 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.Addison: To begin with, your name is not Eve Harrington. It's Gertrude Slescynski.
Eve: What of it?
Addison: It's true your parents were poor. They still are. And they would like to know how you are, and where. They haven't heard from you for three years.
Eve: What of it!? [stomps away from Addison]
Addison: A matter of opinion, granted. It's also true that you worked in a brewery... but life in the brewery was apparently not as dull as you pictured it. In fact, it got less and less dull, until your boss's wife had your boss followed by detectives.
Eve: [whirls round, enraged] She never proved anything, not a thing!
Addison: But the $500 you got to get out of town brought you straight to New York, didn't it? [a horrified Eve flees into the bedroom and slams the door; Addison calmly opens it again and enters] That $500 brought you straight to New York, didn't it?
Eve: [breaking down] She was a liar! SHE WAS A LIAR!
Addision: [icily] Answer my question, weren't you paid to get out of town? [Eve falls onto the bed, sobbing; Addison impassively stands over her] There was no "Eddie", no pilot. You've never been married. That was not only a lie, it was an insult to dead heroes and the women who loved them. [he sits on the bed and leans close to Eve] San Francisco has no Shubert Theater! You've never been to San Francisco, [grabs Eve and turns her face toward his] that was a stupid lie, easy to expose, not worthy of you!
Eve: [through tears] I had to get in to meet Margo! I had to say something, be somebody, MAKE HER LIKE ME!
Addison: And she did like you! She helped and trusted you. You paid her back by trying to take Bill away.
Eve: That's not true!-
Addison: I was there! I saw you and heard you through the dressing room door. [Eve falls back and continues sobbing] You used my name and column to blackmail Karen into getting you the part of Cora, and you lied to me about it.
Eve: [pounding the mattress] NO! NO! NO!...
Addison: I had lunch with Karen not three hours ago; as always with women who try to find out things, she told more than she learned. [Eve continues sobbing; Addison sits up straight again] Now, do you want to change your story about Lloyd beating at your door the other night?
Eve: [completely broken] Please... please...
- Wham Line: A seemingly distraught Eve is lamenting to Karen that Addison Quote Mined his column about her to paint her in a negative light, and Karen asks if there is anything she can do. Eve's tone of voice suddenly cools as she grabs Karen's wrist in a vicelike grip...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: Margo, Addison, Bill, Lloyd and sometimes Karen snark their way through life in the film.
- You Keep Using That Word: Margo gets very annoyed when Bill keeps using the word 'paranoiac' to describe her behaviour.