When I was a kid, our mother rarely watched old movies on daytime TV. So, if she put chores aside and watched one and suggested that I watch too, I knew that movie was significant. That's exactly what happened late one afternoon when the local CBS station aired ALL ABOUT EVE. Mom's face lit up and she said, "Ooooh, that's a good one!" Need I tell you that Mom was right? The movie got 14 Oscar nominations. Two in the Best Actress category (Bette Davis and Anne Baxter) and two in the Best Supporting Actress category (Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter). George Sanders won for Best Supporting Actor. Joseph Mankiewicz took home Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. His 20th Century Fox film won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1950.
For decades I've read that Claudette Colbert was originally slated to play Margo Channing. That's pretty much common knowledge now among classic film fans of all ages. Colbert sprained her back and, heartbroken, had to withdraw from the project. Bette Davis was contacted by Mankiewicz as a last-minute replacement. Her career was in a lull at the time. The 2-time veteran Oscar winner had completed years of service under contract at Warner Bros. Bette Davis would say that ALL ABOUT EVE was her career "resurrection." With that in mind, notice something: In the script, Margo's maid and loyal friend Birdie (perfectly played by Thelma Ritter), warns Margo that Eve studies how she "walks, talks, thinks, acts" -- like Margo is "a set o' blueprints." Eve is out to replicate Margo. For a character who's trying to copy her stage idol, actress Anne Baxter is styled more like Claudette Colbert instead of Colbert's replacement, Bette Davis. Here's a pic of Colbert in 20th Century Fox's 1951 comedy, LET'S MAKE IT LEGAL.
By 1955, Marilyn Monroe would no longer be a bit player. She'd be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, an international sex symbol, and -- like Bette Davis -- she would become a Hollywood legend. Marilyn Monroe and Thelma Ritter are seen together in a shot during the staircase conversation at Margo's party. Guests are seated on the staircase chatting about the highs and lows of seeking a career in the theater.
The year before Joseph L. Mankiewicz won his Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars for his 1950 Bette Davis classic, he won the Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars for 1949's A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, also a sparkling and sophisticated script with juicy roles for women. It starred Ann Sothern, Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Thelma Ritter, the voice of Celeste Holm and Kirk Douglas.
You don't get TCM on your TV? Both must-see classics are available on DVD.