Director: Joseph L Mankiewicz
Starred: Bette Davis * Anne Baxter * Celeste Holme * Garry Merrill * George Sanders * Marilyn Munroe * Thelma Ritter.
This was Bette’s first major role after being released from her Warner Bros contract after almost twenty years.
She based the character Margo Channing on the persona of stage actress Tallulah Bankhead.
The story begins with Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) waiting by the stage door to catch a glimpse of her idol Margo Channing (Davis), it had been noticed that she’d been there every night.
They invite in her in and she tells her story of a young war widow, who loves the theater but is also looking for work.
Margo takes her on as a housekeeper cum secretary and Eve slowly takes over by making herself indispensable, though this is noticed by Margo’s dresser (Ritter) who feels like Eve is studying Margo like a blue print, she tells Margo who begins to take notice and is furious when Eve arranges a birthday party for her lover Bill (Merrill).
The night of the party Margo gets drunk an utters the famous line “Fasten your seat belts it’s gonna be a bumpy night” she gets drunk and behaves badly partly to do with Bill who is some years her junior and her struggle to reconcile getting older having a career and settling down.
She also turns on eve and more or less throws her out, much to the dismay of her friends who immediately side with Eve, and she is taken further into her bosom, at the same time theater critic Addison De Witt( Saunders) notices her but is not fooled, he is also trying to find work for Miss Caswell(Monroe) who is quite comical in this role.
Lloyd a playwrite and good friend of Margo is writing a new play but is not quite sure Margo is right for the role, De Witt sniffing an opportunity contrives to get Eve an audition which of course she reads for perfectly and she becomes Margo’s understudy which further undermines her and plays into her insecurities as she’s much older than the character and is not quite sure she can pull it off.
Next Eve convinces Karen (Holme) to help her delay Margo so she can play the lead role, Karen goes along because she thinks she’s giving a young actress a chance to break through, Eve of course is a success, De Witt further twists the knife by highly praising her performance and taking sly digs at Margot age.
By this time De Witt has got Eve’s measure and learns the truth about her and also her burning ambition to be a great star of the stag and the lengths she’ll go to achieve it, he goes along but in someway owns Eve as he knows her secret.
Gradually all around eve they begin to realise how she’s manipulated them to achieve her own ends, and none of them feel good about their roles in her own drama to get to the top.
It ends with Eve winning a prestigious award, and yes she’s worked her brand of magic on a member of the panel, however for all her success, she has provided a happy ending after all, Margo retires and decides to marry Bill Lloyd will continue to write and Eve after arriving home finds a fan there and will now get a taste of her own medicine a kind of poetic justice.
This was tailor made for Bette Davis really life imitating art, it’s classy, funny the lines are delivered perfectly and is a character study in ambition, Anne Baxter was a perfect foil for Davis’s pace and style, Saunders with his smooth sarcasm adds a bite to the ensemble piece, however I feel all actors in this film were perfectly cast.