This quote from the classic film sums it all up. All About Eve is a timeless masterpiece of film and one of my all-time favorite movies. The writing is acerbic and brilliant, the acting is stellar and the entire film unfolds as a fantastic reflection of the vanity of the theater crowd. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is the shining star of Broadway, although at 40, she is finding it more and more difficult to play the roles of 20-somethings, no matter how great a stage actress she may be. What makes things more difficult is the fact that her handsome lover and director, Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill), is 8 years her junior and she constantly feels the looming threat of all of the young starlets forcing themselves in front of him in the hopes of a role with him... both on stage and off. Margo surrounds herself with Bill and her other great friends, Karen (Celeste Holm) and Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), the playwright whose pen has helped to make her so famous. One fateful night, Karen is approached by a dowdy young woman in a raincoat, a woman she has seen many times standing out behind the theater in the hopes of catching just a glimpse of her idol, Margo. She discovers that the woman, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), is such a fan that she has seen every performance of Margo's current play and she insists that Margo must meet this shy but gushing fan. She brings Eve to Margo's dressing room and introduces her to the gang, only to have Eve tell her life's story, one tragic and fraught with tear-jerking moments that culminates with the tidbit that Eve followed Margo's show from San Francisco to New York. The moment is broken when Bill announces he simply must leave for his flight or he will miss it and Margo, Bill and Eve rush to the airport. Eve offers to take care of the luggage and such while Bill and Margo kiss goodbye, but then she interrupts them just as they are about to embrace. This is what Eve does - she acts as if she is the most helpful person Margo has ever met while she is working to separate her from her lover, her friends and most importantly, her star status.
Naturally, Margo doesn't see Eve for what she truly is and even goes so far as to move her into her own home and hire her as her assistant. Eve worms her way further and further into her life, with her ultimate goal being a star herself. Now, Margo is a bit of a handful and very vain, but she doesn't deserve the fate Eve has in store for her. Eve manipulates situations so that she gets to read Margo's part with a potential actress when Margo shows up several hours late, as is her style. Margo, Karen, Bill and Lloyd end up in a huge fight and the end result is a pouting Margo, with Eve as her "reluctant" new understudy. When Karen unwittingly gets wrapped up in Eve's insidious plot in a playful attempt to play a joke on Margo, what results is Margo missing her train and not making her performance, with Eve stepping in to play the part. What Karen doesn't realize is that Eve has called all of the newspaper critics, including biting theater critic and Margo's sworn enemy, Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) and her performance is hailed as brilliant. Soon, Addison and Eve are joined in an unholy alliance to make Eve a star and to bring down Margo. While Margo realizes what is happening, she doesn't comprehend what Eve truly is until it is too late. As the film draws to a close and Eve ascends into the ranks of stardom, she meets an ardent young fan named Phoebe, an aspiring actress who ingratiates herself into Eve's life. And so the cycle begins again.
All About Eve is sheer cinematic genius. Not only is the cast superb, but the writing is edgy, witty and will keep you on your toes, and the directing is flawless. The final scene will send shivers up your spine, not because it is frightening, it just has such an impact. Standout performances of actors with lesser roles include Thelma Ritter as Margo's outspoken assistant and maid, Birdie, Gregory Radoff as Max Fabian, Margo's mostly loveable producer with constant stomach ailments, and Barbara Bates as Phoebe, the young fan of Eve's. Of special note is the fact that one of Marilyn Monroe's earliest performances occurs in this film as she plays a starlet under the wing of scheming Addison DeWitt. While her role is not as crucial as the rest, it's interesting to see her in such a young role, albeit playing her typical part - the not-so-bright sex kitten. Joseph Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay and directed the film and I learned so much about the man himself, plus his impact on Hollywood in the special features chronicling his life and times. There's a featurette on the woman this film is based on and there's even a portion of a nasty recorded interview between the original author of the short story that appeared in Cosmopolitan, Mary Caswell Orr, and the woman the story is based on, Martina Lawrence, an actress who named herself after a character played by her idol. There is also an AMC special detailing the backstory of All About Eve and its cast, plus vintage promos by Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, as well as old Fox Movietone News footage regarding the film. Additionally, there are two commentary tracks, one by author and film expert Sam Staggs and one with the lovely Celeste Holm, Ken Geist (Joe Mankiewicz's biographer) and also son, Christopher Mankiewicz. For a film over 50 years old, they've compiled a wonderful array of special features, not the least of which include a 24-page book included in the packaging that details the actors from the film, director Joe Mankiewicz and additional info on the film itself.
The transfer to Blu-ray is flawless. This is the way this film was meant to be viewed. Although I already own this film on DVD, I was thrilled to see it offered on Blu-ray and jumped at it. While I don't often recommend a repurchase on something not special effects-heavy, All About Eve is one those films that not only deserves a place in every true movie buff's collection, but the best possible version of the film deserves that special place and this is it. Highly recommended... as if the perfect score didn't already tell you that.