Fasten Your Seatbelts

Anne Baxter and Better Davis ready for a throwdown
(with a fresh-faced Marilyn Monroe in between)

The rain is rolling off the roof in steady streams, and the thunder is rumbling through. I actually think it is darker now than when I awoke this morning. On days such as this, I want nothing more than to curl up and watch a movie, preferably pre-1960. Since that's not currently possible, we'll stand for the next best thing - recalling a favorite. Today that favorite is All About Eve (1950).

The quick-witted dialogue of Hollywood's golden age has long since been lost to today's over-the-top special effects and careless plot lines. (Have you ever seen 1940's His Girl Friday? Dialogue clocks in at 240 words per minute. Seriously. That's 100 words faster than the average speaking rate.) Films just aren't the events they once were. You leave the theater wishing you had the previous two hours of your life back. Give me an old Hollywood film any day, and gloriously happy I will be.

Oh Bette, Bette, Bette. I adore you. What an absolute gem you are! Jezebel! Dark Victory! The Little Foxes! The Letter! Now, Voyager! All About Eve! Does it get any better? Hardly.Yes, May has become my unofficial Bette Davis month. I pulled out Now, Voyager last week and then All About Eve a few nights ago. I may have to pull out The Little Foxes next to continue this trend. I haven't decided.

If you haven't seen All About Eve, shame on you. Bette Davis as Margo Channing is at her best. Her Academy Award nominated performance couldn't have come at a better time in her long career. (Davis lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, but AAE was nominated for 14 awards and won six, including Best Picture.) Margo is an unmatched, but aging, Broadway star (similar to Davis at this point). Her entourage - playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), his wife Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), lover/director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), and maid Birdie (Thelma Ritter) - are enjoying life in the limelight when Karen discovers superfan Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), waiting in the pouring rain outside the theater door. She claims to have seen every performance of Margo's play, Aged in Wood, and the group quickly befriends the innocent young woman after hearing of her disparaging past (job as a secretary in a brewery where "everything is beer," husband dies in war, the theater was the only thing to give her life!). Eve quickly becomes Margo's assistant, the perfect companion doting upon the star. A comment from Birdie sets off Margo's suspicion that Eve has ulterior motives and from there jealousy, betrayal, backstabbing, and blackmail ensue. Classic!

I'll stop there for I don't want to give anything away. Just know that it's the original Single White Female. Anne Baxter's calm and calculating voice throughout the film will make your hair stand on end. Find it and watch it over and over and over. You won't be disappointed.

I love this film. I love the clothes, the quick jabs, the appearance of Marilyn Monroe before she was Marilyn Monroe. I love how they play on the title, constantly sneaking in the phrase "about Eve" dozens of times. I love that All About Eve is really all about Margo, i.e. Bette Davis. I love the ending. I love the dissection of the theater. Wrap it up with a bow; it is quintessential film making.

Notable Quotes:

Margo Channing: Lloyd, honey, be a playwright with guts. Write me one about a nice normal woman who just shoots her husband.

Margo Channing {about Eve}: She thinks only of me, doesn't she?
Birdie: Well, let's say she thinks only about you, anyway.
Margo Channing: How do you mean that?
Birdie: I'll tell you how: like... like she's studying you, like you was a play or a book or a set of blueprints - how you walk, talk, eat, think, sleep...
Margo Channing: I'm sure that's very flattering, Birdie. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with it.

Gary Merrill, Gregory Ratoff, and Bette Davis

Birdie: There's a message from the bartender. Does Miss Channing know she ordered domestic gin by mistake?
Margo Channing: The only thing I ordered by mistake is the guests. They're domestic, too, and they don't care what they drink as long as it burns! 

Margo Channing: Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!
{A note from Shannon: Please, please get this quote correct if you decide to use it. It's a bumpy night, not a bumpy ride. If I have one more person trying to erroneously correct me, I may just pull a Margo Channing-sized fit.}

Bill Sampson: Outside of a bee hive Margo, your behavior would not be considered either Queenly or Motherly.
Margo Channing: You are in a beehive, pal. Didn't you know? We are all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. {To Eve} Aren't we honey?

Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and George Sanders

Lloyd Richards: How about calling it a night?
Margo Channing: And you, pose as a playwright? A situation pregnant with possibilities and all you can think of is everybody go to sleep. 

Lloyd Richards: That bitter cynicism of yours is something you've acquired since you left Radcliffe!
Karen Richards: The cynicism you refer to, I acquired the day I discovered I was different from little boys!

Margo Channing:
So many people know me. I wish I did. I wish someone would tell me about me.
Karen Richards: You're Margo, just Margo.
Margo Channing: And what is that, besides something spelled out in light bulbs, I mean - besides something called a temperament, which consists mostly of swooping about on a broomstick and screaming at the top of my voice? Infants behave the way I do, you know. They carry on and misbehave - they'd get drunk if they knew how - when they can't have what they want, when they feel unwanted or insecure or unloved.    

Margo Channing: Funny business, a woman's career - the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing's any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you're not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.

Bill Sampson: Wherever there's magic and make-believe and an audience, there's theatre.

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill

Margo Channing: As it happens, there are particular aspects of my life to which I would like to maintain sole and exclusive rights and privileges.
Bill Sampson: For instance what?
Margo Channing: For instance: you!

Margo Channing: Bill's thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked it five years ago, he'll look it twenty years from now. I hate men.

Karen Richards:
A part in a play. You'd do all that just for a part in a play?
Eve Harrington: I'd do much more for a part that good.

Margo Channing: I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail like a salted peanut.

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