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All About Eve (1950) Print E-mail
Monday, 07 February 2011
ImageMagnificent.  That is the one word I can finally use to sum up at film.  It is not because I have been watching meaningless drivel lately.  It is because “All About Eve” is a truly wonderful film.  It is classic that makes today’s films seem like garbage.

I’m not padding my liking of the film.  It did garner 14 Oscar nominations in 1950, and it won six, including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.  Unfortunately, the women of the film got robbed, neither of the leading women winning the Best Actress category.  Still, “All About Eve” has everything that a film needs, something that really doesn’t come along very often.

“All About Eve” is a deep and engaging story about the aging of women in theater (a stand in for Hollywood) and the trend for younger actresses to take their place in contrast to actors in Hollywood.  More and more roles are written for women in the twenties.  As a woman approaches the forties they begin to be left out of the scene.  Taking the film another level deeper is the examination of what a woman is once she is done in entertainment.  What becomes of an actress when she is no longer an actress?

Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is that aging woman of the theater.  She is uptight and always twisting the words and intentions of friends in order to reinforce her belief that she is no longer wanted in entertainment.  She has a terrific boyfriend and great friends.  She is the lead in a New York Broadway play.  Her show is sold out night after night.  Still, she feels as if her time is about up.

Throwing gasoline on the fire is the appearance of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter).  She is a woman in her twenties.  She is modest, soft-spoken and very beautiful.  After showing her interest in theater she is invited backstage to meet Miss Channing.  Her story of woe tugs at the heartstrings of Margo and her friends.  Margo takes in this homeless stranger and makes her an assistant.  Eve is diligent, to say the least.  Eventually her attentiveness to Margo makes Margo uncomfortable.  She begins to read into Eve’s actions, and probably with good reason, but Margo chooses the wrong reasons.
The most famous quote from the film, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” arrives in the pinnacle of the film.  As Margo hosts a birthday party for Bill, her boyfriend, she becomes jealous of the time Bill is spending with Eve, furthering her belief in that her time is over in entertainment.

Eve progresses in her work, eventually finding herself Margo’s understudy and impressing the writers and directors of the theater.  Again, this continues to push Margo over the cliff.  Eve’s behavior drives a wedge between Margo and Bill and her friends.  It becomes clear of Eve’s intentions.  I won’t unravel all the twists for you.  However, I highly recommend you see this film.

The writing and directing of the film is impeccable.  It is nothing short of genius.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz had quite a distinguished career, but none were so bold as “All About Eve,” with perhaps the exception of “Cleopatra.”  But no matter how wonderful his screenplay was from the start, nothing can best the performances given by Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.  They both deserved Oscar wins for their performances.  Alas, they must settle with simply knowing that fans were enthralled.  Also, let’s not forget, “All About Eve” is one of Marilyn Monroe’s earlier films.  While it is a small part, it is differently one that garnered her much attention.

I have always been an Anne Baxter fan.  Growing up I would stay awake as long as I could on Easter Sunday to watch her in “The Ten Commandments.”  While I loved that performance, Baxter’s best truly shows in “All About Eve.”  She alone is worth the price of this disc.  So, when you add all the elements together, it is a no brainer that this is a must own film.

“All About Eve” comes with a flawless video transfer.  There may be a minor issue her or there, but the restoration of this classic is as good as it gets.  As a black and white film it is important for the contrast and black levels to be impeccable.  Thankfully, they are.  The contrast levels lead to a prominent and nicely delineated gray scale.  The whites are vibrant but not overblown, and the blacks are deep and rich, without crushing.  The details are spectacular, leading to the discoveries about the set that you have never seen before.  During the production there was a lot of diffuse lighting used so close ups are not as detailed as they are today.  Marilyn Monroe shows this soft glow feature extremely well.  This is not a heavily dramatic visual piece, however, the original production is conveyed with spot on accuracy.  And lastly, the noise reduction is not excessive and never rears its ugly head.  This is a marvelous transfer.

In 1950 the film won for Best Sound Recording.  By today’s standards the film doesn’t sound all that terrific.  However, when you consider the technology of the late 1940s and early 1950s, this is a terrific transfer.  There is plenty of background noise in the track, however, this is much preferred to the drop outs and birdies that are caused by excessive noise reduction.  Of course the original audio was in mono.  The Blu-ray comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.  However, do not fear the expanded audio track.  The rear channels only serve to expand the music score slightly.  You will be hard pressed to really tell there are any surround channels.  The stereo separation in the front channels is limited.  Most of the sound is anchored to the center channel, which should make purists happy.  The dialogue is crisp and clear.  The frequency is better than I expected.  It doesn’t take on the comb filtered or tinny quality that you find in most restored classic films.  This lossless audio mix is superior to any of the previous releases of the film.

“All About Eve” comes in a digibook edition, with a hardback book type case.  There are 24 pages in the book with quite interesting biographies.  The disc is housed in the rear of the book much in the way that the “Alien Anthology” holds the discs.

The film comes to Blu-ray with the same bonus materials present on past releases of the film.  While there is nothing new, this is a great amount of information contained within.  There are two audio commentary tracks.  One track is with Sam Staggs, the author of the definitive book on “All About Eve.”  The second track is with actor Celeste Holm, Mankiewicz’s son, and Ken Geist (Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s biographer).  Both tracks are informative and worth a listen.

“Directed By Joseph L. Mankiewicz” is a discussion on the filmmaker’s career.  “The Real Eve” is a discussion on the real story that inspired this screenplay.  “Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey” is another biography on the filmmaker.  “The Secret Of Sarah Siddons” examines the real Siddons Society.  “AMC Backstory: All About Eve” is a making-of the film AMC style.  “Fox Movietone News” is a collection of vintage newsreels.  “Vintage Bette Davis Promotion” and “Vintage Anne Baxter Promotion” are like trailers of sorts.  Lastly, there is an isolated score track in 5.1.

It goes without saying that “All About Eve” is a must own.  The film is a classic, the performances are terrific and the audio/video restoration on this Blu-ray is unparalleled.

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