“Hi, I’m Kathi. I’m an Evaholic.”
If you’re queer, you’ll know the source of my addiction. Like many of my LGBTQ friends, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the movie “All About Eve.”
Some say the world is made up of beach lovers and mountain aficionados.
But, lovers of Oscar Wilde, camp, Bette Davis, and, of course, Thelma Ritter, know: there are Eve obsessives and, well, other people.
Seventy years ago, in October 1950, “All About Eve,” written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, premiered in New York City. I love Old Hollywood. But even I have to admit that some of Tinseltown’s “classics” are as out of date as MySpace or your great-grandma’s girdle. Yet “All About Eve” has aged as well as a fine vintage wine. Its wit still sparkles, its camp delights and its story resonates with anyone who’s run up against treachery and deceit. (Think of the young employee you’ve mentored who goes after your job. The fake BFF who makes a move on your spouse. Trump running for a second term.).
Unless you’ve lived with your head under a rock, you either know the plot of “Eve” or have seen references to it in pop culture (in everything from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to “The Simpsons”).
Eve (Anne Baxter) seems to be an innocent young, worshipful fan of the theater and of actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis). But, in truth, Eve is an habitual liar with no conscience who’ll do anything to benefit her career as an actress (from taking Margo’s roles away from her to seducing the theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). There are deliciously campy supporting characters from Birdie (played fabulously by Thelma Ritter) to producer Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff).
Trying to say why you love “All About Eve” so much is like attempting to tell a dog person why you like cats. But you give it a go. Because you’d like to get everyone you can hooked on “Eve.”
“All About Eve is, to me, is one of the most entertaining movies ever made,” writes Sam Staggs in “All About All About Eve.”
Staggs’s book, a meticulously researched “bio” of “Eve,” is an indispensable guide to all aspects of the movie – from its script to its actors to “Applause,” (the Broadway musical of “Eve” starring Lauren Bacall).
“I wanted to write not as a detached observer but rather from the point of view of an audience member trying to figure out why I like the movie so much,” Staggs writes, “and why I still find it fresh after thirty or forty viewings.”
“All about Eve” is a movie for grown-ups, Miles David Moore, film critic for Scene4 told me in a phone interview. “But it’s not adult like “Midnight Cowboy,” he added.
Mankiewicz wasn’t queer. But, he imbues “Eve” with a queer sensibility. As others have pointed out, Eve appears to be a lesbian (though coded). In the opening scene, she’s wearing (for the 1950s) an “unfeminine” trench coat and hat. In another scene, she walks arm-and-arm up the stairs with another woman (who seems like a girlfriend – if Eve possessed an iota of affection for anyone).
Eve isn’t a queer role model for me. But how I adore hating her!
Addison DeWitt is seen with the aspiring actress Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe) on his arm. Later, he wants to possess Eve. Though “any sex between Addison and Eve wouldn’t be pretty,” Moore said.
Yet, DeWitt to anyone with gaydar seems to be a queer of the Oscar Wilde sort. “My native habitat is the theater,” he says. “In it, I toil not, neither do I spin.”
Then, there’s Bette: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
“All About Eve” is a feminist picture, holy writ for queers – brilliant satire for LGBTQ and hetero fans.
Happy anniversary, Eve!
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.