DVD Tuesday: Fasten your seat belts - All About Eve elevates backbiting, betrayal and world-class bitchiness to an art form!
There are mean girls and then there are grade-A, world-class, take no prisoners bitches, and no one played
All About Eve
's vain, thin-skinned, high-handed, hard-drinking, chain-smoking Margo Channing, a veteran Broadway headliner whose star is losing its luster, she's an absolute monster of the most entertaining kind.
The role revitalized the 41-year-old Davis' then-flagging career, and she only scored it after
hurt her back; Davis always said she modeled Margo on the legendary hell-raiser
, but she could have found plenty of inspiration closer to home.
Addison DeWitt (
), Margo's nemesis, is more than her match: Who better than a man who called his autobiography
Memoirs of a Professional Cad
to play a drama critic whose barbed tongue is dipped in poison?
is an amateur by comparison.
And there's a reason drag queens are still dipping into the
well: It's just seething with overwrought zingers, of which "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride" is only the most famous. "We're all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. Aren't we, honey?" "Everybody has a heart, except
people." "I detest cheap sentiment!" "I'll admit I may have seen better days... but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut." "Heaven help me. I love a psychotic!" Just add Davis' hard-as-nails drawl and you're halfway to a cabaret act. (Here's a
, who also adapted the screenplay from Mary Orr's short story
The Wisdom of Eve
All About Eve
is more than the sum of its smart talk and sophisticated nastiness. Its cautionary tale of a wolf in bashful fan's clothing - fresh-faced, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth ingénue Eve Harrington (
) - who unobtrusively insinuates herself into Margo's life and then takes over, is brilliantly cruel and rooted in a certain discomfiting reality. It's mean-spirited fun to watch mousey little Eve charm Margot's friends, seduce her significantly younger husband and usurp her career, but it's also scary: The world is full of Eves who want what other people have (cue Elvis Costello's "Senior Service") and have no compunction about scheming to take it.
And curiously, the thing that seemed most awkwardly old-fashioned when I (a child of the "have it all" age) first saw it - Margo's impassioned diatribe about working women and the mistake of sacrificing love for career - now has a sadly reasonable ring.
The supporting cast includes
as Margo's best friend, a young
as disingenuous gold digger Claudia Caswell and acerbic comedienne
as Margo's no-nonsense dresser: There isn't a bad or even merely OK - performance in the bunch.
Things to consider:
Were Hollywood stereotypes of catty women inherently a tool of disempowerment that made strong women look superficial and petty, or could they subtly illuminate the very real compromises many women were forced to make?
How do you define star quality?
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Previously in DVD Tuesday:
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
A Simple Plan
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Gone in 60 Seconds
Bob le Flambeur
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood
This week's new DVD releases