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ALL ABOUT EVE

Director: JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZ

U.S.A. • 1950 • BLACK AND WHITE • 138 MIN • NEW 35MM PRINT


WRITER-DIRECTOR JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZ’S 1950 MASTERPIECE STARS ANNE BAXTER AS EVE, A STAGE-STRUCK PREDATOR WORKING HER WAY TO THE TOP OVER THE EGOS OF HER FELLOW BROADWAY THEATRICALS. SYMBOLISING THE INFINITE RESOURCES OF FEMININE GUILE, EVE IS ALSO A METAPHOR FOR NAKED AMBITION, WHERE ENDS JUSTIFY MEANS.

‘You gather I don’t like Eve,’ said Mankiewicz. ‘You’re right. I’ve been there.’ A Hollywood veteran from the early days of sound, he knew all about showbiz conspiracy and back-stabbing people: he did, after all, murder Julius Caesar twice in his screen career and once defined a producer as ‘a mouse studying to be a rat.’ Epigrammatic eloquence and waspish wisdom inform his observation of classic theatrical archetypes: the ruthless aspirant with youth on her side; the temperamental star (Bette Davis) who fears age and loneliness waiting in the wings; the suave critic (George Sanders) whose willingness to wound betokens an arid contempt for humanity; the starlet (a poignant Marilyn Monroe) with more hope than talent.

Mankiewicz is often underrated as a visual and narrative stylist (his use of flashback here is typically sophisticated), but the film’s real joy is in the writing, where the dialogue is not so much delivered as detonated by a supreme cast in top form. To those who found his films too wordy, Mankiewicz responded: ‘There can never be an excess of good talk.’ To put it another way, never mind the quantity, feel the wit: if Oscar Wilde had ever written a Hollywood movie, this would have been it.—Neil Sinyard.

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