To millions of fans, All About Eve represents all that's witty and wonderful in classic Hollywood movies. Its old-fashioned, larger-than-life stars--including Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, and Celeste Holm--found their best roles in Eve and its sophisticated dialogue has entered the lexicon.
But there's much more to know about All About Eve. Sam Staggs has written the definitive account of the making of this fascinating movie and its enormous influence on both film and popular culture. Staggs reveals everything about the movie--from who the famous European actress Margo Channing was based on to the hot-blooded romance on-set between Bette Davis and costar Gary Merrill, from the jump-start the movie gave Marilyn Monroe's career and the capstone it put on director Joseph L. Mankeiwicz's.
All About "All About Eve" is not only full of rich detail about the movie, the director, and the stars, but also about the audience who loved it when it came out and adore it to this day.
"Fans.... They're juvenile delinquents, mental defectives. They never see a play or a movie--they're never indoors long enough!" exclaims Bette Davis's Margo Channing in the camp classic All About Eve. This seems especially ungrateful language given that uber-fan Staggs (MMII) has interviewed all of the surviving members of the cast and crew and compiled every possible fact, factoid and rumor about Joseph Mankiewicz's 1950s Oscar-winning tale of backstage back-stabbing in the Broadway theater. He details the evolution of the story, the filming, the stars' lives and the story's later incarnation as a Broadway musical. His book bears up under the weight of all this trivia not only because he has uncovered so much captivating material, but also because he uses it to illuminate larger themes. Staggs's comparison of similar dialogue from Eve and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? illustrates the complexities of cultural influence, while his investigation of whether Tallulah Bankhead was the real-life model for Margo Channing becomes a meditation on the role of the bitch-goddess-diva in popular culture. Most startling of all, he has actually tracked down the young actress who was the model for the deviously ambitious Eve Harrington and tells her alarming, lamentable story. Written in a chatty style that can be laugh-out-loud-funny (actor Hugh Marlow is described as "one of those slow-burning, carbohydrate actors who all look like versions of Gregory Peck"), Stagg's engaging study should be the last word on this enduring classic. B&w photos not seen by PW.