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Cinematic Shorts: All About Eve

Wowza!

All About Eve (1950)

     Although I immensely enjoyed All About Eve on my first viewing, it was not until the second time around that I really came to feel the utter evilness of the title character, giving me chills and heightening the experience. This picture is definitely a standby that not only highlights the talent of the actors and writer-director, but also gives a great look at the cut-throat side of the acting world. Although set in the realm of theater, All About Eve could just as easily be portraying the caustic and rough environment on some Hollywood soundstages.

     Bette Davis is perfectly cast as Margo Channing and was thought of as “brave” for taking on the role of an aging actress. It was a great move on her part professionally and romantically, as she ended up married for 10 years to her onscreen lover, Gary Merrill. But speaking of well-cast talent, George Sanders earns his Supporting Actor Oscar as theater critic Addison DeWitt, whose meddling and always quotable lines make him essential to the plot and wholly loathsome. Anne Baxter as Eve does not necessarily grab be as a great performance, but it is possible I am too busy wishing harm upon her character to give Baxter a chance. Perhaps the greatest talent lies in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz who was vehemently warned against working with Davis. Thankfully for us, he avoided the advice and gave us a thouroughly complex and well crafted story and fantastic performances from his cast.

     To sum it up, poor, star-struck Eve Harrington is mad about dramatic actress Margo Channing and wrangles a meeting with her, after which she quickly snakes her way into a personal assistant-type role. Eve aspires to be an actress and wins everyone’s trust, except Margo’s. She manages to secretly land herself Margo’s understudy position and when circumstances allow, and with some help from friends, Eve takes the stage in Margo’s place, becoming an instant sensation.

     The story is really an unbelieveable tale about the lengths to which people will go to reach their dreams and is probably the best backstage movie ever made. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards with wins going to Mankiewicz (directing and screenplay), and the movie itself earning Best Picture accolades. Do not let modern promotion of this film fool you, however. Marilyn Monroe is in two scenes and is meaningless to the story. She is literally arm candy.

Seatbelt, anyone?

  • All About Eve is set for 10 p.m. ET March 1 on TCM.

Cinematic Shorts: High Society

Wowza!

High Society (1956)

     I have always considered myself a fan of musicals, but in recent years I have discovered I am a bit choosy on that front. For instance, I cannot stand The Sound of Music or South Pacific and was fairly bored with The King and I. If Kathryn Grayson is singing in a picture, forget it. I really enjoyed Show Boat, but I literally fast-forwarded through her songs.

     High Society, however, was the perfect combination of elements for me. Not only does it feature some of my favorite singer-actors, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, but offers Cole Porter songs (my favorite songwriter) and the glorious Grace Kelly in her final role before becoming Princess Grace and in her only on-screen singing spot. Add in Louis Armstrong as himself, and this had no choice but to be a favorite.

     The story is a musical version of The Philadelphia Story that transplants the action to Newport News, New Jersey. The dialogue is identical in many cases, yet the roles seem to fit the respective actors perfectly. I understand that many people will side with Philadelphia Story when presented with this adaptation, but I saw High Society first, so I am biased. I definitely enjoy the original that transformed Katharine Hepburn from box office poison to gold, but why not go for the version with songs?

"Well did you eva?"

  • High Society is set for 6 p.m. ET Nov. 21 on TCM
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