All About Eve ★★★★★

“Oh, waiter!” “That is not a waiter, my dear, that is a butler.” “Well, I can’t yell ‘Oh, butler!” can I? Maybe somebody’s name is Butler.” “You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.”

To be a great stage actor, one must project. A camera can come to the performer, bringing the viewer into intimate contact. The theater audience, however, cannot rush the footlights; the onus is on the actor, who must reach out and grab the audience, never letting go. But beware the actor who believes all the world’s a stage…

Nominated for a record 14 Academy Awards, All About Eve concerns aspiring young actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who manages to befriend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), best friend of legendary stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis). As Eve maneuvers her way into a role as Margo’s personal assistant, she projects a mien of humility and service. But Margo’s maid, Birdie (Thelma Ritter), suspects that Eve’s utter selflessness may belie a scheming heart, and soon Margo agrees. Before long, Eve has become Margo’s understudy and is angling to become more than just friends with Margo’s boyfriend, director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), and Karen’s husband, playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe). Only infamously venomous theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders)—and Eve’s own hubris—stands in her way.

Margo may be temperamental, difficult, even spiteful at times—she may, in her words, (mis)behave like an infant. She is, after all, a star. But at times Margo stops starring in her life and simply exists in it. Eve, curiously devoid of super-ego, performs at all times. She does not speak to her friends; she delivers lines to her audience. She is never heartfelt, for she has no heart to express, though she can put her awards where her heart ought to be.

Blessed with one of the finest and most quotable screenplays ever written and great performances from Davis and Sanders, All About Eve stands as a testament to the power of the well-sculpted phrase—and the dangers of duplicity as a means of advancement. Once you’ve arrived, you may find a girl calling herself Phoebe awaiting you, and no confidants to express an eerie sense of déjà vu.

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