Before there were greats like Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren, there was Bette Davis (The Letter, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), a fierce embodiment of talent and confidence. Whenever I’m asked who my favorite actress is, I always respond with Bette Davis, even though I’m often met with a perplexed blank stare. I get it, though; Ms. Davis isn’t exactly from my time, and to be honest, if it weren’t for my mother exposing me to black and white movies, I don’t think I would have come across this gem of a movie either.
For anyone who has ever daydreamed about what it would be like to meet and work with their idol, All About Eve wonderfully captures this. Eve, played by Anne Baxter (The Ten Commandments), is a young aspiring actress with an overt adoration for Margo Channing (Bette Davis), an aging Broadway star who pities Eve’s sad life story and takes her under her wing. Although well intentioned, Margo soon discovers that Eve doesn’t just worship her but strategizes to become Margo’s unwelcomed prodigy.
Now it’s one thing to have another woman try to steal your job from you, but the claws really come out when Eve attempts to win over Margo’s man and two best friends. Although I began by rooting for Eve, by the middle of the movie I was throwing popcorn at the screen and mumbling a few choice words at her. But that’s what makes this movie so great; it sends the viewer on a wave of all kinds of emotions.
While the drama of a backstabbing plot is exciting on its own, there was something else I appreciated about this movie (and well, all old Hollywood movies), and that’s the purity in theatrical acting prior to the 1960s. To me, watching classic Hollywood cinema feels more like watching a play than a movie; the performances from each actor are lively and overdramatized, creating a beautiful harmony of drama and humor in the satire of Broadway.
The worst thing about this movie is also the best – it’s a black and white movie. A lot of people won’t typically seek out black and white movies and perhaps that is why this one will go unnoticed as time progresses. It’s almost as if the absence of color forced me to pay closer attention to the storytelling rather than the screen itself.
All About Eve has been a gift that I am indebted to my mother for showing me because each time I watch it, it’s like being in the presence of some of the greatest actors to have existed. For anyone who is willing to go on this rollercoaster of emotions, in the words of Margo Channing, I encourage you to “fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”