Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Diva Duel Part II: All About Eve
Our historic diva throwdown continues with the other megawatt performance of 1950, one of the Greatest Performances of All Time that begs the question: who did it better?
All About Eve also lands on just about every list of the Greatest Movies Ever Made, though never ranking quite as high as Sunset Blvd. The plot follows the story of a drama critic named Addison DeWitt (George Sanders, who won an Oscar for his role) as he observes the insecurities of aging stage star Margot Channing (Bette Davis). Margot has spent years at the top, but knows she doesn’t have forever. One night she meets a superfan named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) outside the stage door. Hearing poor Eve’s sob story, Margot hires her as a secretary. It all seems so perfect, but DeWitt recognizes something else: Eve’s ravenous ambition. Margot comes to distrust Eve and sparks fly, especially after Eve lands the job as Margot’s understudy.
Incidentally, if the plot sounds familiar, that probably has something to do with the scores of movies that have borrowed it over the years, perhaps most notoriously Showgirls.
But we digress. All About Eve features a roster of outstanding performances, led by Bette Davis in one of her greatest screen roles. That folks, says something: Davis isn’t afraid to lean into Margot’s spoiled diva antics or her insecurities. Hers is one of the most fleshed-out and fascinating characters in the movies. Baxter, meanwhile, gets to show off her range, playing Eve as both a girlish innocent and a woman lusting for success. As DeWitt, Sanders seems both amused and turned on by it all, dropping acidic one-liners and recounting each detail with relish.
Like Sunset Blvd., All About Eve benefits from outstanding writing and performances. And, like Sunset Blvd., it also plays as something of a referendum on showbiz, begging questions about the types of personalities and actions it takes to succeed in such a cutthroat world. Both movies also feature a great actor playing a grand diva. We’re not sure who would win in a wrestling match between Gloria Swanson’s Norma and Bette Davis’ Margot, but we’re pretty sure the first three rows would be covered in blood. We’re also not sure who gives the best performance, and our opinion on the matter seems to vary depending on our mood.
Bitchy, cynical, and featuring a grand performance for the ages, we can never get enough of All About Eve. It’s the kind of classic movie that never gets old, with a story that always seems fresh.
Streams on Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and VUDU.