Brilliantly acted and cleverly characterized, with sparkling dialogue that mercilessly parries the gloss from the New York theater world's highly sophisticated veneer, "All About Eve" is a scintillating comedy of manners that compels rapt attention for the whole of its 2¼ hours. We like George Sanders, pointing out Gregory Ratoff to his escort, Marilyn Monroe (whom the script describes as "a member of the Copacabana school of acting"), with the words: "There's a real live producer, honey! Go and do yourself some good!" And the final scene, in which Sanders asks Barbara Bates, "Do you want some day to have an award like that of your own?" — "More than anything else in the world!" she answers. "Then you must ask Miss Harrington how to get one", he replies. "Miss Harrington knows all about it!"
It is often complained of Mankiewicz's work that it is too stagey and too talkative, that there is not sufficient movement. There is some justice in this charge in the consideration of such films as Five Fingers, The Quiet American, House of Strangers, and Dragonwyck; certainly Mankiewicz's two spectacles, Guys and Dolls and Cleopatra, are much improved by sharp editing. But in his best films, The Late George Apley, A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve, People Will Talk (which I regard as his masterpiece — it was too off-beat, unfortunately, for contemporary audiences or critics to appreciate), and The Barefoot Contessa, any trace of over- talkativeness is more than offset by the range and variety, the unusualness of the characters. Moreover, it is the characters themselves that determine the plot — not the fate or some external force.
Thus, in All About Eve, Margo Channing is the victim of her egocentricity, Sampson the victim of his own cynicism and Richards, the victim of his own ingenuousness. Eve Harrington is cunning and ruthless enough to exploit these traits in her climb to stardom. Besides Mankiewicz's two awards, All About Eve also won statuettes for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders), Best Costumes and Best Sound Recording. Also, producer Darryl Zanuck won the Thalberg Memorial Award for consistent high-quality production over the previous three years.
The film also won the New York Film Critics' Citation for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Actress (Bette Davis). Actually, I thought that Miss Davis' performance, fine as it was, was overshadowed by Anne Baxter's interpretation of the scheming Eve. To cover with a winning veneer of innocence a character that would not stop at blackmail or adultery to win stardom, cannot have been an easy assignment for a young actress; yet Miss Baxter brought it off flawlessly.
OTHER VIEWS: I'd had the general idea for All About Eve in mind for a long time. But I never had a middle, a second act. Then our New York office submitted a short story by Mary Orr called "The Wisdom of Eve" — later a radio script — and I had my second act. Incidentally, Zanuck deserves some credit for what happened. He was the only studio head in town with the courage and intelligence to try new things. I don't think I could have made this picture on any other lot but 20th Century- Fox. -- J.L.M.