Has there ever been a more entertaining movie about show-biz than “All About Eve” (1950, Fox, unrated, $35)? Just go ahead and try to name a back-stager that’s as packed with insight, acid wit and crazy daring.
A Best Picture Oscar winner, “All About Eve” was written and directed by Wilkes-Barre native Joseph L. Mankiewicz – and it remains his towering achievement.
That’s saying a lot given Mankiewicz’s remarkable career, which included producing enduring classics like “Woman of the Year” and “Fury,” collaborating with Joan Crawford on nine features, and writing and directing the Oscar-winning gem “A Letter To Three Wives.”
But “All About Eve” is in a class by itself. Bette Davis stars as Margo Channing, an aging Broadway diva who gives a break to adoring fan Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) only to have the young woman wreck havoc on her personal and professional life.
The film has something of a double local connection. In addition to the obvious Mankiewicz tie, the character of Margo Channing was widely accepted to have been based on Tallulah Bankhead, a larger-than-life Broadway star who, ironically, originated many of the roles which Bette Davis would go on to play in the movies.
For the Broadway run of “The Skin Of Our Teeth,” Bankhead’s understudy was none other than Scranton’s Emma Matzo, better known as Lizabeth Scott, the beauty who became a film noir queen in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The reportedly tempestuous relationship between Bankhead and Scott is rumored to have inspired Mankiewicz. But the filmmaker himself never confirmed or denied this bit of speculation.
Released on Blu-ray in 2010, “All About Eve” is, above all else, a celebration of the joys of the theater. It’s a movie that is fueled by mad energy and talk, talk, talk. Nearly 65 years after its release, “Eve” can still strike up a riveting conversation.