All About Eve is a 1950 film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The film stars Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, and Celeste Holm. A number of other popular actors and actresses make appearances including a young Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles. The film was a critical success upon release and drew similar praise to Sunset Boulevard which dealt with similar thematic material and released that same year. The film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and brought home six trophies (Picture, Supporting Actor, Costume Design B/W, Director, Writing, and Sound Recording). The film has continued to be seen as a significant cinematic achievement and has landed on numerous AFI “best of” lists down through the years. So does this film live up to its billing and rise above the pack to earn the label “classic?”
Should this film be considered a classic? No doubt in my mind. This is a true classic. It has everything you would want in a great movie. It has compelling characters who suck you into their world. Even though 99.9% of the world is not involved in show business, this film feels like it is pulling the curtain back on the industry and giving the viewer a peek inside. Plus, you genuinely feel for the “glamorous” people portrayed on the screen. The script and story are outstanding and provide a perfect mix of drama, intrigue, comedy, and romance. The film also manages a fairly large cast of characters very well. While Bette Davis gets top billing, we are treated to significant character development for Baxter, Sanders, and Holm and their side stories are what really bring the film to life. So this begs the question, Sunset Boulevard deals with a similar story: an aging actress past her peak and attempting to cope with that new reality. Which is the better film? That’s a really tough call. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite. They both stand on their own merits with one focusing on the stage and one focusing on the transition from silent films to talkies. The best thing to do is just watch them both.
Would I own this film? Probably not. However, I would like to watch it and Sunset Boulevard close together. Maybe watch both over the course of a weekend. They both deal with similar themes that we still wrestle with today. In a youth obsessed culture what happens to an aging generation of stars? I think that is a question that is just as pertinent today as it was in 1950. These are definitely films worth revisiting and worth considering not just for the outstanding films that they are but also for the fascinating social commentary they offer.