Jealousy is a cruel and fickle feeling, and All About Eve makes that rather apparent. Through its opening spiel introducing us to the many bankers, businessmen and big brains clamouring for attention, there is a feeling of animosity between them all. Aristocrats and artists who wish for the lives of others, when they have those who wish for their lives too. Joseph L. Mankiewicz is the man behind this, and there should be no surprises there. The man crafted some fine features, but nowhere is he more consistent with his leading character than in this piece following the titular Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) and her time at the top. She shoves Margo Channing (Bette Davis) out of the spotlight, and Eve slides herself into it.
It is the typical tale of an actor wanting more from themself. We cannot blame them for that, but we can take issue with the way they do this. All About Eve navigates this well. One follows their dreams, the showbiz lifestyle very much their pedigree. They are playing the system, rather than the people. With that cemented with confidence and simplicity, Mankiewicz flourishes as he spins this story. An innocent-looking fan begins to pry and wheedle her way into the life of a celebrity. She has aspirations beyond her reach, and who can blame Eve for piggybacking her way to the top of the eclectic pile?
Mankiewicz does a good job of pinning her as the villain, because, essentially, she is. There are opportunists, and then there are those of a different calibre. Eve is not just utilising her charms and youthful looks against the established Margo. A stunning performance from Davis allows for that crucial emotional connection. She is worried not just about Eve’s rise to fame, but about her inevitable downfall. Eve or not, this would happen to her. You can hear it in Davis’ voice, her quivering fear and encroaching anger against those she believed to be close confidants. They are chasing the money and the fame, just like everyone in the rat race of stage productions. She is on top for a while, but change is inevitable, and there is a touching understanding of such a theme found in the second act. Nothing lasts forever, but we believe it will. Margo certainly does.
A lust not just for the life of another, but the career and troubles they encounter. All About Eve is, as the title would suggest, all about Eve. It is about her desire to think big and dream bigger, but both collide into a rough and dangerous desire to replicate the life of her idol. Mankiewicz creates a clever bashing of star power and its impact on an audience. It is a compelling argument to keep the artist and audience separate, locked away from one another so they cannot speak, see, or even interact with one another. We may have idols, but to subsume their life into ours is a dangerous card to play, and not one All About Eve advises. “Actresses never die. The stars never die, and never change,” and that is why we love them. We fall for their stage persona, the parts they play, and it is an infection we must remove immediately.