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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, Thelma Ritter
Writing Credits:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

It's all about women - and their men!
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor-George Sanders; Best Screenplay; Best Costume Design; Best Sound.
Nominated for Best Actress-Bette Davis; Best Actress-Anne Baxter; Best Supporting Actress-Celeste Holm; Best Supporting Actress-Thelma Ritter; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing; Best Score-Alfred Newman.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 2.0
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 2/1/2011

• Audio Commentary with Actor Celeste Holm, Director’s Son Christopher Mankiewicz, and Biographer Kenneth Geist
• Audio Commentary with Author Sam Staggs
• Isolated Score
• “Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz” Featurette
• “Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey” Featurette
• “The Real Eve” Featurette
• “The Secret of Sarah Siddons” Featurette
• AMC Backstory Episode
• Vintage Promotion with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter
• Four Movietone Newsreels
• Theatrical Trailer
• Collectible Book Packaging


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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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All About Eve [Blu-Ray] (1950)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 16, 2011)

Embarrassing admission: when I first watched 1950’s All About Eve around 2000, the storyline caught me off guard. I thought it would be more of a psychological thriller instead of the character-driven drama it is. Because I'm a moron, I'd confused All About Eve with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Three Faces of Eve. My pea brain melded those two to come up with All About Eve. It didn't take me long to realize my mistake, but I felt pretty stupid nonetheless.

It also didn't take me too long to see where All About Eve was going with its plot. Despite the film's title, it's not directly about Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter); although she plays a major role in the film, the plot seems more concerned with the effect Eve's presence plays on the other characters, most notably successful stage actress Margo Channing (Davis). After the movie starts with an awards banquet at which Harrington receives the most prestigious prize, we learn that Eve has become a huge star, and the film plays in flashback to lead us up to - and past - the moment of her victory. We see Eve ingratiate herself into the lives of Margo and her friends. We watch as Eve's machinations slowly create tension and dissension among the tightly knit group, all as she positions herself to climb the ladder.

In a way, Eve actually offers something of a thriller, as it seems somewhat similar to films like Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Those movies depicted women who infiltrate the lives of others and seem perfect and wonderfully supportive at first but inevitably cause great harm due to their own goals. Eve sticks to more subtle means - there are no murders or bloodshed here - and the psychological damage inflicted by Eve's cunning doesn't look frightfully severe, but much of the fun of the film stems from being ahead of its characters and watching as Eve inevitably cons her way through life.

I hope these plot points don't sound like spoilers, but I think since the movie essentially begins with its ending, they won't reveal information you shouldn't already figure on your own. Within five minutes of the film's start, we know that Eve is a hugely successful actress, so it isn't a surprise to see her work through the ranks. How she gets there also seems inevitable, which can make the film somewhat frustrating; I was so far ahead of the characters that they appeared terribly dense at times.

Still, the movie works because it's well executed and acted. Davis makes the most of her role as Margo. I must admit I was startled to see how old she looked; only eleven years passed between 1939’s Dark Victory and Eve, but Davis looks to have aged 25 years in that span. She's supposed to be 40, and was actually 42 at the time, but she appears closer to 50, and a worn-out 50 at that.

Nonetheless, she conjures some of that delicious bitch goddess attitude that has made her a favorite of gay men worldwide. The way she joyfully snarls "Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy night!" has made that the most famous bit from Eve, but I actually preferred one minor line early in the picture. When Margo's friend Karen (Celeste Holm) brings the allegedly-starstruck Eve backstage after a show, Margo instructs her assistant Birdie (Thelma Ritter) to give the interloper "the heave-ho!" I don't know what it was, but something about the way she spits out that modest line really works for me; that's the sign of a strong performance, I suppose, when even the inessential becomes delightful.

At first, it may seem odd that Eve focuses mainly on Margo, but it makes sense within the conventions of the genre. Eve needs to remain mysterious and aloof for most of the film, and that can't happen if she's the main character. Also, the concentration on Margo gives the audience a better entrance into the movie, as we can more easily relate to what happens.

Does All About Eve deserve its status as a classic? Yeah, though it’s not a rollicking, continual winner. While I enjoyed the movie, I can't say that it completely bowled me over and stunned me. Much of it seems dated - when Margo concludes that she can only be a "complete" woman if she has a man, I gagged - but the picture moves at a sprightly enough pace, and the acting seems pretty strong. Baxter can be a bit bland, but that’s appropriate for her character, someone who needs to be something of a nothing for much of the story. Eve is essentially a cipher, and Baxter pulls off her growth and change nicely.

I especially like George Sanders' drolly-nasty turn as showbiz writer Addison DeWitt. He completely upstages the other men in the cast; as the respective mates of Margo and Karen, both Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe become almost completely unmemorable. To be frank, I continually forgot which was which. They look so much alike and both seem so bland that they made little impression on me, especially when confronted with the quiet menace inherent in every word from Sanders. Also keep an eye out for a small role from a very young Marilyn Monroe, who portrays - surprise! - a ditzy aspiring actress. Eve wasn't Monroe's first acting job, but it clearly was the first in which she worked that found a substantial audience.

And a fairly deserved audience at that. As I already mentioned, I didn't think All About Eve was an amazingly good film, but it seemed very strong nonetheless. It dragged at times, and it probably could have lost 20 minutes or so of its 138-minute running time, but I enjoyed it anyway. Buoyed by some solid performances and crisp writing, All About Eve makes for an interesting and entertaining experience.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus A-

All About Eve appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Most of the image was strong.

Sharpness varied but usually looked fine. Some shots appeared moderately soft, a factor that seemed somewhat affected by the hazy “glamour focus” afforded the actresses. A few other scenes came across as a bit fuzzy as well, but the movie generally came across as accurate and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent, as I noticed no signs of specks or marks.

Black levels generally seemed pretty strong, with some nicely defined dark tones throughout much of the film. Contrast appeared solid, with nicely silvery tones throughout the flick. Shadow detail also came across as distinct, with low-light sequences that were appropriately thick but not overly dense. The image of All About Eve rarely showed its age, as the picture looked quite positive.

The Blu-ray includes both the film’s original monaural audio and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track as well. The imaging seemed like glorified monaural for the most part, as the majority of the audio remained anchored in the center. Some material moved to the sides and rears; for example, the applause at the end of one of Margo’s shows blended to the various speakers, and the planes at the airport added good ambience. Otherwise, the audio seemed concentrated in the middle.

For the most part, speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct. The lines could be a little thin, but dialogue usually appeared fine. Effects and music also lacked much range, but they were fairly clear and well defined for their age. Some light hum hiss cropped up but didn’t distract. This was a perfectly acceptable surround remix for a movie that didn’t need a surround remix.

I was unable to compare the Blu-ray to the most recent DVD release from 2008 for the simple reason that I never saw that one. When compared to the 2003 “Studio Classics Edition”, though, the Blu-ray demonstrated improvements. Audio was a bit clearer and more natural, while the image was clearer and more concise. Actually, the higher resolution of the Blu-ray meant soft spots were even more noticeable, but the overall definition seemed stronger.

The Blu-ray provides the extras from the 2003 disc along with newer ones that I presume appeared on the 2008 disc. The Blu-ray includes two audio commentaries, the first of which offers remarks from actor Celeste Holm, director’s son Christopher Mankiewicz, and Joe Mankiewicz biographer Ken Geist. All three were recorded separately for this edited, non-screen-specific track. Rather than focus on the movie itself, the commentary probably should be retitled “All About Joe”, as it concentrates largely on the flick’s writer/director.

We hear little from Holm, who occasionally tosses in a tidbit about the flick. None of these seem terribly memorable, though, and she gets lost in between the statements from the two men. Mankiewicz dishes the most dirt about the director, as he gives us a view of life with his father. He occasionally makes some positive comments, but his memories largely appear to be negative, especially in regard to the interactions between his parents. Geist focuses more on Joe Mankiewicz’s career, with a particular emphasis on the director’s feelings of inferiority in regard to his brother Herman. While this track doesn’t provide much of a look at the movie itself, it nonetheless offers an interesting examination of the director and it seems like an intriguing piece.

At the start of the first track, Geist related that he didn’t think much of the book All About “All About Eve”. Interestingly, the second commentary comes from that text’s writer, author Sam Staggs. In his piece, Geist really never related what bugged him so much about Staggs’ book, so I guess I need to take the latter’s remarks here at face value.

Whatever problems Geist had with the book, Staggs offers a pretty interesting commentary – when he speaks, that is. Though the piece starts well, Staggs fades badly after a while, and much of the movie’s second half passes without information. Nonetheless, Staggs manages to add some good facts about the production, as he details facts about the participants as well as notes about sets and locations and anecdotes from the set. The commentary includes far too many empty spots to truly succeed, but Staggs provides enough useful bits to make his track reasonably interesting.

Fans of movie music will be happy to find the Isolated Score. This presents Alfred Newman’s work via DTS 5.1. This is really more a stereo track than anything else, but it sounds pretty good and acts as a nice addition to the set.

Next we find four featurettes that weren’t found on the 2003 DVD. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz goes for 26 minutes and offers notes from director’s sons Tom and Chris Mankiewicz, director’s wife Rosemary, Golden Age of Cinema author Rick Jewell, and Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz author Kenneth L. Geist. “Directed” discusses aspects of Joseph Mankiewicz’s life and films. It offers a decent overview, but don’t expect much depth, as the show’s too short to give us much detail.

We learn more about the director in the 25-minute, 58-second Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey. It provides remarks from Tom Mankiewicz, Chris Mankiewicz, Rosemary Mankiewicz, Jewell, Geist, and film critic Brian Dauth. “Journey” acts as a complement to “Directed”, with more of an emphasis on family and behind the scenes aspects of his career. It’s the more interesting of the two, especially when it gets into brother Herman and the anti-Communist era. The program is also pretty blunt about problems in the director’s first marriage and the suicide of his wife. This is also too short a piece, but it’s enjoyable and informative.

The Real Eve fills 18 minutes, 11 seconds and gives us statements from Rosemary Mankiewicz, UCLA film professor Jonathan Kuntz, and Playbill Magazine writer Harry Haun. Here we learn of the real-life inspirations for Eve and other influences. We find some intriguing insights and details in this nice little piece.

For the final new component, we locate the seven-minute, five-second The Secret of Sarah Siddons. It features Chris Mankiewicz, Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, Sarah Siddons Society co-chair Donna Beaumont Atwater, Siddons Society Board of Governors co-chair Mary Lou Bilder-Gold, and actor Lisa Orgolini. We learn about the real Siddons and the Society named after her. Joseph Mankiewicz invented the Society for the movie but then it became a real institution in Chicago. Who knew? The featurette occasionally feels like an ad for the Society, but it’s still got some useful background.

Next we find an episode of AMC Backstory that covers All About Eve. In this 24-minute and 24-second program, we find a mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with actors Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and Celeste Holm, Joseph Mankiewicz, director’s son Tom Mankiewicz, film historian Rudy Behlmer, and Bette Davis biographer Roy Moseley. The bits from Davis, Baxter and Joe Mankiewicz come from 1983 sources, while the others are more contemporary.

The program desperately wants to dish some dirt about the film, but it comes up short in that regard. We learn that Holm and Davis didn’t care for each other, and we hear of an extra-marital affair between Davis and co-star Gary Merrill, but otherwise, we don’t find much excitement in this drowsy documentary. It tries too hard to find scandal to act as a proper “making of” piece, so it doesn’t really accomplish much. “Backstory” includes some rudimentary information about the movie, but it seems incomplete and lackluster.

Some archival films appear as well. These include a 74-second Bette Davis Promotion and an 80-second Anne Baxter Promotion. Parts of the Davis piece appear in the trailer we’ll soon see. Both clips seem puffy and don’t offer much of interest other than for archival reasons.

Movietone News breaks down into five smaller pieces. “1951: Academy Awards Honor Best Film Achievements” runs 150 seconds and covers some of that year’s ceremony, while “1951: Hollywood Attends Gala Premiere of All About Eve” takes 115 seconds to document that event. “Holiday Magazine Awards” goes two minutes, 48 seconds, and shows parts of that drab presentation. The 116-second glimpse of the “Look Magazine Awards” also comes across as fairly dull, though at least this one features Bob Hope along with Joe Mankiewicz and Bette Davis. None of these clips seem very interesting, but they provide some nice historical artifacts nonetheless.

Finally, we find the theatrical trailer for All About Eve. For this ad, we see an “interview” with Bette Davis on the movie’s set and then watch some film clips. As was the case with the promo on the original Eve DVD, this one comes from a post-Academy Awards issue of the film, as it mentions the flick’s many prizes.

The packaging boasts a 24-page Collectible Book. This follows the example set by a number of Warner Bros. Blu-rays: it attaches a book inside the Blu-ray’s case. Here we find a plot synopsis, biographies of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Mankiewicz, a short essay about the film, and a collection of photos; those mix shots from the movie, images from the set and publicity stills. The book adds a nice touch of class to the set.

More than 60 years after its initial release, All About Eve continues to offer a witty and incisive portrait of showbiz and its inhabitants. Some parts of the movie don’t age well, but most of the time it seems lively and engaging. The Blu-ray presents solid picture and sound for a film of its vintage, and adds a nice roster of extras. Eve remains a strong movie and this Blu-ray gives it the best home video rendition to date.

To rate this film please visit the Fox Studio Classics Edition review of ALL ABOUT EVE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main