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All About Eve(1950)
In one of her "sharpest, truest, most sophisticated and titillating performances" (Los Angeles Examiner), screen legend Bette Davis plays stage legend Margo Channing. But as Margo's star is dimming, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a young, ambitious ingenue, becomes her all-too-willing protege. Slowly, this dreamy-eyed kid spins a deceptively cunning web around Channing's inner-circle, including Margo's director boyfriend Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill), playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Karen (Celeste Holm) until she reaches her end goal - Margo's spotlight on Broadway!
For more about All About Eve and the All About Eve Blu-ray release, see All About Eve Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 4, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
» See full cast & crew
All About Eve Blu-ray Review
“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 4, 2011
It's been called "the bitchiest film ever made," and though this may not sound like high praise, much of the allure of All About Eve—the 1950 film starring Bette Davis as a soon-to-be-washed up stage starlet—is found precisely in the catty, drama queen smackdowns that pepper the impeccably written script. This is the film that temporarily rejuvenated Davis' career, immortalizing her as a camp icon, a cigarette in one hand, a martini in the other, pausing only long enough between drags and sips to dole out savagely witty remarks. And yet there's more to the movie than just quickfire snark. This is a story of "insatiable ambition and talent," one that explores obsession, manipulation, and the pressure put on women to be forever young and beautiful. It netted fourteen Academy Award nominations—besting Gone With the Wind's thirteen nods and matched only later by James Cameron's Titanic, in 1997—and eventually won six, including Best Picture.
The film opens at a different annual awards ceremony, for the Sarah Siddons Society, where young stage actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is about to be honored with a trophy for distinguished achievement. While most of the audience cheers for this fresh-faced ingénue, a few faces in the crowd look less than pleased, especially fading "Star of the Theatre" Margo Channing (Bette Davis), puffing away on a cigarette and glowering at Eve with undisguised disgust. We think we understand—Margo is just jealous about losing her spot in the limelight—but it's not nearly that simple. Posh theatre critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) intones in voiceover narration about Eve's newfound celebrity: "Eve. Eve the Golden Girl, the Cover Girl, the Girl Next Door, the Girl on the Moon. Time has been good to Eve. Life goes where she goes. She's been profiled, covered, revealed, reported. What she eats and what she wears and whom she knows and where she was, and when and where she's going. Eve. You all know all about Eve. What can there be to know that you don't know?" As it turns out, quite a lot. Like, for instance, the fact that this innocent-looking starlet is actually a shrewdly manipulative show-biz bitch who's willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the top.
Told in flashback, the rest of the film chronicles the events leading up to Eve's success. A year prior, she was a lowly secretary who quit her job at a Midwestern brewery and followed the bright lights to Broadway—or so she says—so obsessed with Margo, her idol, that she began going to see every performance of the aging actress' hit play, Aged in Wood. After a not-so-chance encounter with Margo's best friend, Karen (Celeste Holm)— the wife of Aged in Wood playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe)—Eve is invited into Margo's inner circle, where she quickly ingratiates herself. Margo, initially flattered by Eve's showy affection, hires her as an assistant, and Eve uses this position to her full advantage, conspiring to become Margo's understudy and even hitting on both Lloyd and Margo's lover, play director Bill Sampson (Gary Marell), in an attempt to further her nascent career. The only ones to see through Eve's coldly calculated ambition are Margo's observant housekeeper Birdie (a charmingly grating Thelma Ritter), and Addison DeWitt, who, in one of the film's most biting monologues, tells Eve, "I'm nobody's fool, least of all yours."
There are so many good roles—and performances—here. George Sanders' DeWitt is the kind of arrogant, cynical critic who considers himself "essential to the theatre," and Sanders plays him wonderfully as a gay, snobbish and lonely sophisticate who preys on the fringes of the fame game. (During one party scene, DeWitt shows up with a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe as Claudia Casswell, a vapid wannabe thespian whom he's attempting to introduce to producers. "Why do they all look like unhappy rabbits?" she asks.) Celeste Holm's Karen, a playwright's wife—"the lowest form of celebrity," she says—is gracious and gullible to a fault, and Gary Merrill, as Bill, is a terrific, wryly smiling foil for Margo's constant crabbiness. It's Bette Davis, though—with her huge eyes and get out of my way, I'm coming through demeanor—that steals the show, chewing on some deliciously astringent dialogue and doing everything she can not to spill her dry martini. It's endlessly satisfying to watch the dynamic between Margo and Eve shift throughout the film as their characters' motivations are gradually revealed. Writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra, Sleuth), an early American proponent of psychoanalysis, really gets inside their heads, and his incisive, impossibly witty script offers up some clever role reversals. Margo, who we initially view as a brash, confident, grand old dame of the stage, is actually riddled with insecurities about her rapidly dimming starlight, and Eve, so warm and nice at first, is revealed as the driven fame-whore that she is. The two never get into a physical cat fight, but the emotional, verbal claws definitely come out.
All About Eve Blu-ray, Video Quality
With a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's absolutely pristine, it's clear that All About Eve has been given a thoughtful restoration. There's not a speck of debris or hint of damage on the print—okay, maybe one or two white flecks—and the image itself looks entirely natural, showing no evidence of excess DNR, edge enhancement, or contrast boosting. Director Joseph Mankiewicz was never known as a visual stylist, but there are some wonderful shots where he uses light and shadow to full effect, shots that really show off this transfer's deep blacks, crisp-but-not-overblown whites, and punchy gradient of grays. Sharpness is variable, but this seems to be a product of the way the film was shot. Some close-ups—especially of the female actors— feature flattering soft-focus, which removes finer details like pores or wrinkles. That said, there are also some fantastically crisp scenes that let you make out the fuzzy textures of fur coats and the individual stitches on herringbone wool blazers. Overall, it looks wonderful, and certainly a huge improvement on the DVD. Plus, sitting comfortably on a dual-layer 50 GB disc, there are no compression quirks or other encode issues to fret over.
All About Eve Blu-ray, Audio Quality
20th Century Fox has expanded the film's original mono mix into a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, but purists will be pleased to note that there are no obnoxious new cross-channel effects or whiz-bang pans. Rather, the extra speakers are implemented to lightly expand composer Alfred Newman's score, and that's about it. You really have to crane your ears toward your surrounds to even tell that they're being used—most of the activity is contained up front. The music sounds excellent, with plenty of dynamic presence and none of the tinny quality you sometimes associate with mid- century audio. Likewise, dialogue is clean, clear, and balanced, with no hisses, pops, crackles, or drop-outs. Do note that while the back of the case only indicates English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles, there are additional tracks in a veritable U.N. summit's worth of languages.
All About Eve Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no new bonus features here, but this Blu-ray release comes fully loaded with supplements, including two commentary tracks and several half-hour documentaries. The film comes packaged in a sleek 25-page digibook with actor/director bios and lots of photos.
All About Eve Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Joseph L. Mankiewicz' script for All About Eve is one of the sharpest, most sophisticated examples of mid-century Hollywood screenwriting there is, and Bette Davis' performance—especially the scene were she gets drunk at Bill's party—is legendary. If that's not enough, the film remains incredibly relevant as an invective against the kind of shameless self-promotion that still rules the celebrity roost. 20th Century Fox has done a terrific job with this release, with an immaculate new high definition transfer, a crisp audio track, and a collection of supplements that, while recycled from previous releases, offer lots of insight into the making of the film. Highly recommended!
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An early announcement to retailers indicates that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release three catalog releases on Blu-ray on February 1, 2011: An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957); All About Eve: 60th Anniversary Edition (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1957) ...
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