U.S.A. • 1950 • BLACK AND WHITE • 138 MIN

Ace screenwriter William Goldman described Joseph L. Mankiewitz’s All About Eve as ‘an example of the perfect screenplay. Few movies have such witty dialogue and such bright characters doing such terrible things to each other. And with that Bette Davis performance,’ he adds, ‘the film has the very helpful quality of abrasiveness.’ Goldman is right: whilst one can relish the cynicism of George Sanders’ theatre critic, he purrs rather than snarls, and Anne Baxter’s ruthlessly ambitious starlet has to proceed by stealth to avoid discovery. It is Bette Davis who gives the material its teeth and its extrovert swagger, a majestic portrayal of a great actress, Margo Channing, whose tantrums (‘Fasten your seat-belts,’ she says, limbering up for a lethal party, ‘it’s going to be a bumpy night’) are a cover for her fear of loneliness and advancing age. Astonishing to think that Claudette Colbert was earmarked for the part before injury forced her to withdraw: Bette Davis makes the part her own, as if demonstrating with awesome assurance that it takes a legend to play one.

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