All About Eve

138 minutes 2012

The catfight of the century, with smiling understudy Anne Baxter flashing deadly epigrams at aging Broadway star Bette Davis (1950). Much of the fun of the film depends on a casting twist—making Baxter the bitch and Davis the doe-eyed victim. The dialogue is sharp and justly famous, though writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz has trouble putting it into the mouths of his actors: nothing sounds remotely natural, and the film is pervaded by the out-of-sync sense of staircase wit—this is a movie about what people wished they'd said. The hoped-for tone of Restoration comedy never quite materializes, perhaps because Mankiewicz's cynicism is only skin-deep, but the film's tinny brilliance still pleases. With George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and a just-hatched Marilyn Monroe.

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