All About EveAFI Rank: #16
Year Released: 1950
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Actors: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter
There may be men in the cast, but this movie is all about women, about the things they desire and what they give up in order to get what they want. Bette is a 40 year old theater star who is beginning to worry about losing her power - and Anne is the young upstart who is eager to get it all herself.
This movie hits #16 on the AFI top movie listing of all time, and it's intriguing that only a few spots above is another movie about an aging female star dealing with the troubles of lost youth. In Sunset Boulevard, the female actress doesn't have any other women around - she is being taken care of by an ex-husband, and latches onto a young boy-toy to keep her company. Women are really not a concern at all in her world. In All About Eve, in comparison, the main plot is about a rivalry. In this case, it's between Bette, the beautiful but 40-something stage star and the young Anne who latches onto her.
Bette first strikes you as petty, jealous, demanding - but you see over time that she has had to build this tough exterior in order to survive the sometimes harsh world of strutting your life out on a stage. Her younger boyfriend weathers the storms but gets weary of the tantrums and fits. On the other hand, Anne seems sweet, innocent and eager to please at first. Over time, it becomes more clear that her aims are very much selfish and that she had little concern about who she tromps on in order to reach her goals.
The acting is brilliant on both parts. Anne seems a sweet, dull doormouse - as is her goal - until she gets to where she wants. Bette shines as being intelligent and beautiful, well worthy of the praise she has earned, but also insecure and worried about where life will take her.
It's a shame that in the 50s women worried about life being over at age 40 - and here we are in modern times, with actresses worrying the exact same thing. One would hope that someday we would treasure and crave seeing mature actors and actresses with their vast skills and talents, even though their faces show a little of their history and years.
It's been said by some that Bette looks better in this movie than in any other. I certainly found her outfits to be gorgeous, and her mature beauty to shine through. While I might agree that she shouldn't be aiming for parts that had her playing age 20, it would seem that there should be many thrilling roles created for her, for a mature woman of reasonable age. It would seem a shame if the only plays on Broadway involved lead females who were (character) age 20!
The dialogue is simply brilliant, and several lines in here are ones repeated and quoted in modern culture.
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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100