Released 1950 (France & USA on the same day)
American, in English
Director – Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Stars – Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm
Margo Channing (Davis) is the queen bee of the Broadway stage. One night, her best friend Karen (Holm) – wife of the playwright, Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), who continues to cast Margo in his plays – invites a young woman named Eve Harrington (Baxter) backstage to meet Margo. At first, Eve seems fresh-faced, sweet, and naïve, but Margo soon begins to discover that there is something more sinister about the young woman and her motives. Merrill co-stars as Margo’s boyfriend, Bill Simpson.
There were parts that I felt dragged on a bit too long, when I got bored and started surfing IMDB to read about the actors & what happened to them in their lives/careers after this movie.
For me, there was too much navel-gazing. This was one of those movies that I suspect I would have enjoyed so much more if I had ever been involved in the theater or in movie making. It felt like a movie made for people who’ve endured the cutthroat world of the backstage.
Lots of great, snappy dialogue. Even the husband, who was only half-watching, laughed out loud a couple of times.
Everyone raves about Davis’s performance in this, and I’m not saying the accolades aren’t deserved. She did a great job of making Margo likeable, even during times when she shouldn’t have been. However, I enjoyed Baxter’s performance even more. Also impressive were Thelma Ritter as Birdie, Margo’s maid (Or maybe assistant? It was never very clear), who had Eve’s number right from the start, and George Sanders as smarmy news reporter Addison DeWitt (whom you may recall as smarmy cousin Jack Favell in Rebecca).
The story is pretty masterful. Baxter’s performance is so nuanced that it would have been easy for me, the viewer, to be suckered by her in the beginning if I hadn’t read the blurb about the movie on the back of the DVD case. I liked that the story didn’t always go where I expected it to go. For example, I was pleasantly surprised when Bill turned out to be a better man than I’d anticipated. The ending felt a little heavy-handed, but it was still immensely entertaining.
This is kind of tough. It’s one of those movies that critics rave about. I feel like I should be raving about it too, but that’s not what I want to do.
I’d like to stress that I do not dislike this film in any way. In fact, I rather liked it, although I don’t imagine that I’ll want to watch it again any time soon. My main problem is that I spent the whole film feeling like I wasn’t the intended audience. As I said before, it felt like a movie made for other actors, and there was this winking “aren’t we so clever” air about it.
Is it possible for a movie to seem smug? I guess I’m positing here that it is. That smugness I sensed made it difficult for me to connect with this film the same way that a lot of critics seem to. While it’s a very good film, it’s not one I count amongst my favorites.
6/11/14 - Upon further reflection, I decided to rase the rating of this movie to 4 stars. To find out more about why, click HERE.