The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

All About Eve is still sadly relevant

with 19 comments

As you might have noticed I don’t care all that much for classic movies. I’ve written about a handful of them over the last year, in most cases because they were screened at my local film club, and I’ve done my best to embrace them, but the outcome so far has been so-and-so.

It’s not just that I’m spoiled with the advantages of modern technology, such as better sound, better cinematography and better special effects. It’s also about the values that are expressed in those movies. Even if I know the films reflect the time when they were made, I still don’t enjoy seeing women treated like second rate citizens, who ultimately only care about marrying Mr Wonderful and then spend the rest of their lives taking care of him and his offspring.

Most of the time, given the choice, I’ll rather watch something contemporary than pick a black-and-white film from the 40s or 50s.

But thankfully there are exceptions. It happens that I stumble upon older movies that will make me drop my usual reservations, films that I can embrace and love unconditionally, not because I feel expected to like it (“it’s a classic that everyone else seems to like”), but because I truly have a blast watching it. And this was the case with All About Eve.

This film from 1950 tells the story about an aging actress who one day is approached by a young admirer who becomes her personal assistant. It turns out that this assistant isn’t as pure hearted and innocent as she appears to be. She has her own agenda.

Still relevant
There are several things that make this film so wonderful. One is the acting. Bette Davies in particular is heartbreaking as Margo, but there also a number of great supporting performances. Another thing is the relevance. You only need to take a quick glance at the beauty industry to realize this. Look at the money and effort women invest as they try to erase the natural signs of aging! They always claim that they’re doing it “for themselves”, but I think they’re facing exactly the same issues as Margo. In the fear of losing their position to younger and more beautiful women, they try to stay where they are as long as they can.

And then there’s the script. To tell the truth I usually don’t give the work of the screenwriter as much attention as they deserve. I just take it for granted. If there’s a line that comes out awkward I might think “that sounds bad, people wouldn’t say that”, but that’s about it. I just take it for granted. But in this case, the dialogue is such a pleasure to hear that you can’t help noticing. It’s funny, sarcastic, witty and fast paced. The enjoyment I got listening to it made me associate to Aaron Sorkin. Normally it wouldn’t occur to me to read the screenplay of a movie for enjoyment, but the thought came to my mind. That’s how good it was.

All About Eve was able to win over even a hugger of contemporary cinema like me and I might actually be open to explore a few more of the classics. The question is where to go next? What other older movies do you think I might enjoy?

All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, US, 1950) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

September 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in All About Eve

19 Responses

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  1. Now here’s my question: Why can’t Hollywood (or anywhere else) produce movies with this many great female roles? That’s what sells this film–these women are worth watching, and the idea that men would be turned off by it is crap. I love this film.

    I know you’re a sci-fi geek. There’s plenty of fun stuff from the 1950s and 1960s worth watching.


    September 10, 2012 at 2:24 am

    • I didn’t think of it but now that you say it – there are really man great female roles in this movie. The men are more in the background. Usually it’s the opposite, isn’t it?

      You’re right about sci-fi. I’ve never explored the sci-fri from those days. It could be worth a shot.


      September 10, 2012 at 7:13 am

  2. I would recommend Brief Encounter. For a film made in 1945 it felt surprisingly modern, and the theme (man and woman having an affair) is obviously timeless.


    September 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    • That’s a film I think I should look into. Thank you!


      September 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm

  3. “This picture takes place in Paris in those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm — and if a frenchman turned out the light it was not on account of an air raid!”

    This is the title card of a movie from 1939. Doesn’t sound exactly like your kind of movie? Let’s say Ernst Lubitsch was the director, Billy Wilder the screenwriter. And if you know their other work they didn’t put women in passive roles normally. Oh, and the title role was played by Greta Garbo.

    The movie is “Ninotchka”. It is about a female main character that is active, superior in her job to a bunch of men (she is head of a Soviet trade delegation), but very technocratic. She doesn’t enjoy life. She learns this in Paris… while it looks like this is done by falling back in clichés (like nice dressing) this does not takes away her active role; it is not about putting her in a typical “woman/spouse” role but about her personal development. I would like to know if you share my impression.

    A quote from the movie: “Don’t make an issue of my womanhood.” Just flick through the other quotes (some spoilers, of course):


    September 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    • “As basic material, you may not be bad, but you are the unfortunate product of a doomed culture. I feel very sorry for you.”

      Yes, there are quite a few quotes there that hint to me that it’s a film I could love. Thanks for the suggestion!


      September 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm

  4. It depends at what you’ve seen. I love All About Eve myself and have my copy proudly on my shelf. I’ll follow with Andy’s rec and saw Brief Encounter is a fine film. Your looking for female leads specifically? Anything with Ingrid Bergman…I’d don’t know where to lead you, but I found this piece while looking for some ideas:


    September 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    • Actually I don’t particularly look for movies with female leads. All I want is movies that feel modern, including their portrayal of women (if there are any present.) But I think 12 Angry Men is a great movie, for it’s male dominion.

      I checked out that link and of course I had to see who they put as their number one. A good choice!


      September 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

  5. Nice post. The title is a little misleading, though, haha. I thought you hadn’t liked but I’m glad you did. Watched it a few years ago so don’t remember it perfectly, but I liked it a lot.


    September 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    • Oh, sorry if I mislead you. Setting a title is always hard. I honestly don’t pay as much attention to it as I should.


      September 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm

  6. Great post, I wrote a review of this ages ago, you should check it out.


    September 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    • Thanks. I would check yours if I could find it easily but I’m afraid you don’t have any movie index on your blog so it’s hard to find. Hint: get something like that. I see that you’re at wordpress. Then you can do like me: make a category for every movie you write about and then make a dropbox that lists all the categories. It’s very easy; you just need to tick a few boxes in your settings.


      September 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      • Thanks for the tip


        September 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      • I’ve done a category archive, you will find the review in the movie review section.


        September 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm

        • that’s a beginning. But look at the archive I have. In my drop down menu you find every movie I’ve reviewed. That takes a bit of work. You need to go back and mark every movie individually with the category named like the movie. It’s totally worth the job though. Nowadays I can go back and find my old reviews so easily.


          September 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm

          • Thanks for your advice, I will edit it as soon as I can.


            September 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm

  7. If anything, Eve is the epitome of staged, mannered, classic cinema. But despite or maybe because of it the movie works. Those same qualities make it compact and witty.

    And I commented on Andrew’s post linking to this post about In a Lonely Place. I have an inkling of what your taste is although I’m not sure whether you’ll like it or not. I fucking love it though.


    September 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    • Well I won’t know until I’ve tried it if I’ll like it or not. Thank you for the recommendatiion!


      September 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

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