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All About Eve

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 133 mins . PG . PAL


Long before 1997's Titanic, there was another film that garnered an unheard of fourteen Academy Award nominations. That film, obviously, was All About Eve.

Eve, and its success, proved a boon to the careers of so many of those involved, not least of whom was Bette Davis. After a film career spanning some eighteen years, and at the ripe old age of 41 (the horror!), she was feeling quite past it, and even bought out her contract with Warner Brothers so as to make a graceful exit. When Claudette Colbert, who was originally signed to play the role of Margo Channing, suffered a back injury Davis was called in, loved the role, and it went on to become one of her greatest and most memorable performances ever.

The Eve of the title is one Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who is introduced as the youngest ever recipient of the Sarah Siddons Award for Distinguished Achievement in Theatre. With a voiceover from theatre critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders, who landed a Best Actor Oscar for the role), we are presented with the movie's main characters, and are taken back less than a year to discover just where Eve's meteoric rise to success began.

Originally almost stalking THE star of theatre at the time, Margo Channing (Davis), by witnessing every performance of her hit play, the star-stricken Eve eventually lucks out by running into Karen Richards (Celeste Holme), the wife of the playwright responsible for the show, Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe). Invited back stage to meet her heroine, she seemingly reluctantly unleashes a woeful tale of poor parents, being an only child and the loss of her husband to the war. Margo and her group are both enthralled and saddened by Eve's story, and she is quickly taken under wing as an assistant to Ms Channing.

The only doubter in the camp is Birdie (Thelma Ritter), who fears that the seemingly butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth sweet and innocent Eve is nothing more than a sneaky schemer, finagling her way into Margo's life to learn all her moves, as well as chumming up to all her considerable contacts, so as to kick-start her own stage career. Birdie proves to be a wise one, and as the tale unfolds we are treated to all manner of betrayals, blackmails, bitchiness, vitriol and deceits until catching up to the film's opening, and a rather ironic little twist.

"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Whilst often very stage-like, as was the style at the time, All About Eve provides an incredibly captivating look into the world of Broadway all those years ago, with a very snappy, often delightfully cynical, adaptation of Mary Orr's short story and radio play The Wisdom of Eve from the director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The quite remarkable cast bring the script to life superbly, including a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe doing her classic dumb blonde routine, however Bette steals the show entirely with her sheer presence and perfect balancing act between bitchy little spoilt brat and victimised innocent. When they were handing out on-screen charisma, somebody surely must have given her a triple helping.


All About Eve is now over 50 years old and, as you may expect, this certainly shows - however it does so more than may have been necessary. For a film that is regarded so highly by so many (including 'the Academy'), it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some restoration work to have been carried out. This doesn’t appear to be the case, however, with quite the abundance of black and white flecky artefacts and other imperfections rearing their ugly heads throughout, and grain being essentially omnipresent.

This is not to say that this non-anamorphic 1.33:1 transfer (the way it was made) is a dead loss, as it isn’t. Looking past the blemishes, the black and white image still manages to be relatively clear at most times, and of course its age must be taken into consideration when commenting on the relatively average shadow detail and black levels.


Understandably this comes with a standard mono audio track. Whilst suffering from regular outbursts of hiss and assorted added Rice Bubbles-like sound effects, dialogue remains clear and easily digestible at all times. The only issue, and it's a big one, is the wandering audio synch. It never veers too far off track, however even when it strays even ever so slightly - as it does regularly - it is very noticeable, and remarkably disconcerting.

A rather grandiose score from Alfred Newman accompanies the action, and is a fabulous example of gloriously melodramatic '50s-type movie music very much in keeping with the dramatic nature of the film.


An extremely modest collection of extras accompany Eve on her trip to DVD...

Theatrical trailer: Running a second longer than three minutes, this flickery, fleck-ridden and muffled trailer features a Newsweek interview with Davis in fine screen siren form, smoking away merrily as she effortlessly reels off a delightfully bitchy summation of the Eve character. Then there's the typical fare of a collection of scenes from the film - all without voiceover - and much hoo-ha about the six Academy Awards the film won.

Theatrical trailer - Gentleman's Agreement: Well, it's from the same producer, Darryl F. Zanuck. This Gregory Peck vehicle's trailer is in worse shape than Eve's, runs just shy of three minutes and comes complete with a fabulously strident voiceover which makes it well worth a quick viewing.

Cast gallery: A rather pointless inclusion, just one picture each of Bette, Anne, George, Celeste, Gary, Hugh, Thelma and Marilyn.


All About Eve is an absolute classic of a film on a remarkably so-so disc. For fans of Bette Davis this career highlight is a must-have, whilst the merely curious may be disappointed by the lack of quality and care afforded the transfer.

Otherwise it serves as a fabulous training guide for those aspiring to hone their bitchiness, with an extended lesson from one of the screen world's greatest ever exponents of the craft.

OK - acid tongue, heavy-duty mascara, dagger-like stare, that perfect pout, flounce-able hair, copious amounts of cigarettes… let’s go!

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      And I quote...
    "An absolute classic of a film on a remarkably so-so disc..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
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    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
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          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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