Back in 1950, All About Eve made history when it was nominated for 14 Academy Awards a number that was not equaled until 1998 when Titanic sailed into view. A witty, incisive look at what goes on behind the scenes of show business, All About Eve is renowned for Bette Davis's famed portrayal of actress Margo Channing, an aging star whose career is eclipsed as a result of her association with a conniving starlet (Anne Baxter). Davis's larger-than-life performance and lines the likes of Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night, enshrined its legend, as does All About All About Eve : The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made. In recounting his attempts to trace the journey of Eve, author Sam Staggs relates how Celeste Holm, the film's only surviving cast member, chose not to respond to his letter requesting her participation. This after a combative phone call in which she asked, Why the hell do you want to write that book? To Staggs's credit, he pushed forward with what he calls a work of fan scholarship/camp scholarship. In charting the movie's metamorphosis which began with a 1946 short story in Cosmopolitan he has also written a colorful tell-all about how movies are made.
The role of Margo may have become a Davis signature, but it almost wasn't so. Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, and the stage actress Gertrude Lawrence were among the contenders. Finally, Claudette Colbert was to have starred but couldn't, after rupturing a disk. Ironically, Margo would be the last truly great role for Davis; likewise, the film marked a career climax for the rest of the players save for a largely unknown co-star named Marilyn Monroe.
According to some reports, the Davis performance borrowed from Tallulah Bankhead, whose own mystique is intertwined with her sexual personae, which resulted in her avid gay cult following. The Tallulah connection is partially responsible for Eve's own gay following. Indeed, during one production of Applause the hit Broadway musical of the '70s that was inspired by Eve Margo was portrayed by a drag queen.
As for Eve's mainstream allure: it originates with the storyline, as first written by Mary Orr, and later adapted by screenwriter-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With its portrait of an aging star, who falls under the spell of a fan with her own hunger for fame, Eve is all about greed, ambition and, ultimately, survival. As you'll discover upon reading All About All About Eve. Pat H. Broeske is the biographer of Howard Hughes.