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All About Eve (1950)

Would we still be talking about All About Eve today if it had starred Claudette Colbert as an aging stage star whose life is invaded by fan-turned-rival Jeanne Crain? Certainly, their presence wouldn’t have dimmed the luster of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s script, one of the best and wittiest ever to hit the screen. Nor would they have drawn attention from the spot-on supporting performances of Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and a young Marilyn Monroe. But when Colbert injured her back and Crain found she was pregnant, their replacements, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, turned a potentially great film into a legendary one.

Davis was at a low point in her career, having left Warner Bros. after 18 years and a recent string of box-office disappointments. She knew the role of Margo Channing was a perfect fit and could put her back on top. Her performance is theatrical but authentic, as a woman who goes to extremes because she has the talent and passion to back it up. And it certainly helped that shortly after filming started the recently divorced actress fell in love with her leading man, Gary Merrill.

Under Mankiewicz’s direction, the witty dialogue sparkled, and the dramatic confrontations struck lightning. Audiences were enthralled and the picture was feted by the New York Film Critics, the Writers Guild, and the Directors Guild. It received a record 14 Oscar nominations, a feat later matched only by Titanic (1997) and La La Land (2016), winning for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Sanders), Screenplay, Costumes and Sound. For composer Alfred Newman, whose hummable score cleverly traces the shifting character dynamics throughout, the film earned him one of his 45 career nominations.

d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 139 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios