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One of the cool things about retro-watching classic Hollywood films are the secondary screens listing the secondary actors and actresses. For example, take "All About Eve" (1950): And I have to give yet-another shout-out to Edith Head, who has won more Academy Awards (8) than any woman in history (Walt Disney has her beat with 22, which could be a difficult number to surpass): : I know two things about "All About Eve" going into the film: 1) It's one of the most famous movies ever made, and 2) I know nothing else about it. That is a *good* combination - I know it has Bette Davis in it (and also Marilyn Monroe from the above screen - if it's even possible, you might not recognize her at first unless you knew she was in the film (*)), and that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture from 1950, but that's about it - if I were writing a review of the film, you'd be getting a *v-e-r-y* pure critique, but I can hardly call what I do "reviews" so much as "calls for discussion" (because I want to enjoy the movie). I'm on the border of doing a separate thread for Gary Merrill - I've seen him in more than enough things where he deserves one: Likewise George Sanders, who not only plays the entitled critic Addison DeWitt in "All About Eve," but also played the scoundrel Jack Favell ten years before in "Rebecca." I've seen so many of these actors over the past month - Hugh Marlowe (who played Lloyd Richards) was an important character in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," released just a year after this was. And can anyone give a better "eat-shit" look than Bette Davis? *** SPOILER ALERT *** We all "know what happens" at the beginning of the film; it's how we get there that's the mystery. Yet, there are hints and clues throughout the movie (Eve (Anne Baxter) getting caught preening in front of the mirror with Margo's (Bette Davis's) gorgeous dress, for example). Interestingly, the one brash person in the world of Margo - Birdie (Thelma Ritter) - is also the one who plays the fool, and I mean the Fool in King Lear: Pay attention to everything she says in the film so you don't need to watch it twice. (*) This is such a great screen shot - remember my comment above about Marilyn Monroe. You can't really see Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), but it captures the essence of the three females *so well* (remember, Monroe wasn't famous yet, and she has a very minor role, but it still represents her in a picture-perfect way): A very interesting thing I noticed about "All About Eve" is the motif in the theme song, which is repeated in numerous places throughout the film - the first five notes are *exactly* the same as the first five notes in that of "Gone with the Wind." Perhaps my favorite exchange of dialogue in the film, between a furious Margo Channing (Davis, the actress) and an equally furious Lloyd Richards (Marlowe, the playwright). An angry screaming match: Richards: "Just when does an actress decide they're her words she's saying, and her thoughts she's expressing?" Channing: "Usually at the point when she has to rewrite and rethink them, to keep the audience from leaving the theater!" Richards: "It's about time the piano realized it has *not* written the concerto!" One thing about Addison DeWitt, the rogue theater critic: He knows what he's doing. Yes, he's corrupt as hell, but he still knows what he's doing, and only someone so full of self-interest would take the time to do the research that he did, all about Eve. If you understand the symbolism of this final scene, I like you, and want you to be a frequent poster in this forum; if you don't, please keep at it, watch as many great movies as you can, read as much as your time permits, and let's discuss things along the way. Likewise, if you understand why this is a genuinely great motion picture, but possibly a touch overrated, please also be a regular contributor (I don't really know why I'm saying these things, because I want everyone to be regular contributors here). "All About Eve" is a must-see for all serious students of film.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is one of "those" movies that I never saw because I'm the youngest child - I've seen small clips of the film, and heard it mentioned enough when I was young, to the point where I honestly thought that I had seen it, but I hadn't, and I had, and I hadn't. "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" received five Academy Award nominations, with Norma Koch winning the award for "Best Costume Design - Black and White." This was Produced and Directed by Robert Aldrich, and is a classic tale of sibling rivalry (that's something of an understatement) between Jane and Blanche Hudson (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively). This movie is made more diabolically delicious by the fact that Joan Crawford and Bette Davis actually hated each other in real life. And isn't it ironic that this most legendary of cat fights was caused by a dog? Of note is an important role played by Maidie Norman as the family's maid, Elvira. Norman, a woman of color, was often reduced to playing roles as domestic servants, but she refused to play them subserviently: "In the beginning, I made a pledge that I would play no role that deprived black women of their dignity," she said. About the role of Elvira, on Wikipedia: "Norman recalled that the character was originally written as a 'doltish, yessum character.' She rewrote the dialogue which she called 'old slavery-time talk' in an effort to dignify the character." Compare the role of Elvira to that of Mammy played by Hattie McDaniel in "Gone with the Wind" - as lovable and funny as Mammy was, she was only one small step away from being a House Slave (in fact, she *was* a House Slave), and the dialog - and the attitude - in these two roles, written only 23-years apart, could not be more different. If you're going to remember a third person from "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" why not make it Maidie Norman? (It's easy to remember "Maidie," since she always portrayed maids - and then there was the Norman conquest.) In one very subtle, inconspicuous scene, Jane (Bette Davis) - who had previously shown abusive behavior towards Elvira - was in the early stages of keeping people out of the house at all costs. Jane gave Elvira "the day off with pay," to which Elvira replied: "See you next Tuesday ..." - think about that one for a moment ... #CUNx Look at these two screen-shots, captured less than 1/2 second apart from each other: Remember Denzel Washington's "Ultimate Eat Shit and Die Glare," while he was being whipped, in "Glory?" Or Sidney Poitier's "Slap Heard 'Round the World" during "In the Heat of the Night?" Neither of these scenes exist without Maidie Norman. Sidney Poitier was born in 1927, and I fervently hope this somehow reaches him - I believe Poitier would be the first to agree, and that he could add many more examples: The importance of his wisdom and experience cannot be measured. My only regret is that Maidie Norman will never have a chance to see this. Incidentally, the actor receiving third billing, Victor Buono, made his debut in this film, and went on to play the villain King Tut on "Batman." Great, ingenious film - every bit as Hitchcockian as "Charade," with twice the horror: I thought I had it all figured out ... just like they wanted me to think, but I hadn't, and I had, and I hadn't ....