All About Eve

Season Fourteen

 

All About Eve

Written & Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

1950


Cast:

Bette Davis

Anne Baxter

George Sanders

Celeste Holm

Gary Merrill

Hugh Marlowe

Gregory Ratoff

Marilyn Monroe

Barbara Bates


Studio:

Theatrical:  20th Century Fox

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Video:

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 47.59 GB

Feature Size: 40.79 GB

Avg. Video Bit Rate: 25.49 Mbps

Runtime: 138 minutes

Chapters: 20

Region: All

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English DTS 5.1

French, German, Italian, Japanese & Spanish DTS 5.1

Portuguese, Russian & Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Thai Dolby Digital 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (original mono)

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, English, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai & Ukrainian

 

Extras

• Audio Commentary by Celeste Holm, (Mankiewicz biographer) Ken Geist & Christopher Mankiewicz
• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Sam Staggs
• Isolated Musical Score in DTS
• "MovieTone News: 1951 Academy Awards Honor Best Film (2:30)
• "Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz" (26:01)

• "Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey" (26:00)
• "The Real Eve" (18:10)
• "The Secret of Sarah Siddons" (7:05) )
• "AMC Backstory: ALL ABOUT EVE" (24:20)

• 1951 Hollywood Attends Gala Premiere of "All About Eve (1:57)

• Look Magazine Awards" (1:55)

• Holiday Magazine Awards (2:50)
• Vintage Bette Davis promotion (1:20)

• Vintage Anne Baxter promotion (1:27)

• Theatrical trailer

• 26 -page Digibook with essays and photos

 

Presentation:

Digibook Blu-ray case: BD x 1

Release Date: February 1, 2011



Product Description:

When The Adventures of Robin Hood arrived on Blu-ray on August 26, 2008, to be followed lazily by Casablanca three months later, we knew, or hoped, that classic films were to find a place in the new high resolution home movie format.  Here we are a little over two years later and we have already seen a number of silent films from Chaplin to Keaton to Fritz Lang as well as the great Technicolor classics, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.


         

 

Black and White classics have been represented by the likes of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon.  But the case of All About Eve is yet another important milestone - the talking picture: dramas where the word is more important than the visuals, where character is more important than action, not that any of these can really exist with out the others.  (Having said that I realize that the UK is well ahead of the U.S. in this regard, having already made Olivier’s Hamlet, David Lean’s Brief Encounter, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and others.) Noirs are a relatively easy sell these days, but films like A Letter to Three Wives, The Lost Weekend, Random Harvest, Mildred Pierce and Kubrick’s Lolita are more likely to be viewed as a gamble.  All About Eve is likely to tell the studios just how much.  And with their release of this 1950 Best Picture Oscar winner on Blu-ray Fox has given this film their priority presentation.  We all hope that it pays off.  It should.


         

 

The Score Card

 

The Movie : 10

How could a movie – the movie – about the theatre be anything less than a play itself.  And even though “opened up” from time to time, there are lengthy speeches, interior monologues meant for our ears only, long scenes where actors stand, sit, or lie quite still, often in rapt attention to the spoken words of another.  Its cast of characters includes every significant – or, at least, influential, figure in the business of the theatre: the star – one, aging, another, starstruck (two of these, in fact) and another, the starlet - the writer, the director, the producer, the dresser, even the wife of the writer and, of course, the critic, whom I’m sure would like to think of himself as a stand-in for the audience, or at least the audience he would like to imagine.


         


In fact, everyone is here but the audience.  We, of course, are the audience - not the actors, but Mankiewicz’.  In All About Eve the audience “out there” is not so much seen by the players as felt – as happily adoring or cynically disapproving or worse, bored.  For there appear to be, in Mankiewicz’ universe at any rate, few people on the planet as self-involved or as vulnerable to criticism.  Yet the theatre artist cannot exist without his audience - as the director envisions it: one that is reflected in their own infinite mirror.


         

 

Mankiewicz’s challenge is to write a play about the theatre, about theatre people, and make a movie about them that will engage and please a movie audience.  His solution is as simple as it is intuitive.  He permits us to become voyeurs into this world, rather than participants.  He doesn’t really want us to identify with this or that character, but rather to feel with them around the edges, at a safe distance, a very safe distance.  And that’s the pleasure of All About Eve – to witness how those folk tick.  To revel in their agonies and their attempts to direct the play of their own lives, to enjoy being taken in by the schemes of this character or that, but only so far, because we know what’s up before their victims do.


         

 

But most of all, there’s the language, the words that all by themselves, create and flesh out real and diverse people.  It is Joseph Mankiewicz’ special gift, and there has been none like him - not Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet, whose style (delicious as they are) makes everyone in their plays sound alike, nor even Billy Wilder – with or without I.A.L. Diamond, brilliant but lacking Mankiewicz’ gift for nuance and his understanding of class distinctions and longings. 

 

Critics use the term “Shakespearian” to describe the writing of David Milch, and I concur, vaguely: the language of Deadwood is rich with mouth feel and imagery, fresh and dynamic.  Now listen to All About Eve with your eyes closed and behold a master at work.


         

 

. . . and we haven’t even begun to talk about one of the best ensemble casts of the day, before or since.  I’m on my fifth or sixth watching of All About Eve and I admit to a certain revulsion to a Hugh Marlowe line reading, but lately I have come not just to a rapprochement, but a surprising fondness for Lloyd Richards, the writer, always just a little more exasperated than anyone else on the set or in the dressing room.  Everyone else is a slam dunk: Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a star of Davis’ age, concerned, appropriately enough, about her age and her audience appeal – at least for the kind of role she had made her fame with (It was with some surprise that I learned that until two weeks before shooting, Claudette Colbert was slated to play the part).  By the way, your trivia question, should you choose to accept the challenge, is: Both Bette Davis and Anne Baxter were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.  Who won?  The answer is at the bottom of the page.


         


Gary Merrill as Bill Simpson, Margo’s adoring lover and director of her plays, but who has the bad luck of being ten years Margo’s junior, a fact that she never lets him forget and threatens to work her into an early grave or worse, an early retirement; Anne Baxter in the title role, Eve Harrington, the young woman with stars in her eyes so brilliant they blind everyone else to her true designs (everyone but Birdie, Margo’s dresser, played by Thelma Ritter, who sees through Eve like she were cellophane). Then there’s George Sanders as the critic Addison DeWitt, the voice that walks like a man, a voice so acerbic and patronizing, you don’t know whether to swoon like bobbysoxer or melt like the Wicked Witch; and Celeste Holm, with skin as luminous as her name, as the writer’s wife, always on the lookout for new material or, in this case, a new character for her husband’s next play – did I say “character”, why not “actress!”  I close with a nod to Marilyn Monroe as Miss Caswell, the very personification of Betty Boop.  Need I say more!


         


Image : 8/9

I found Fox’s two-disc Cinema Classics Collection DVD to be quite satisfying despite the  occasional artifact.  The new Blu-ray betters it at every turn in addition to the expected improvement in resolution and sharpness: absence of artifacts, a more extended greyscale, better judged contrast.  Overall the image is brighter, which suits my personal taste well as my projector’s custom settings for black & white movies calls for a reduction in both contrast and brightness for a near-perfect theatrical look.  At times faces struck me as a trifle polished, but since Miss Holm always looks sensational, I took that to be the result of lighting or filtration at the source.


         

 

Audio & Music : 6/8

Once again, it passes understanding this idolatry of 5.1 for movies that were recorded in mono and never intended for surround sound.  It’s bloody idiotic.  Why not fill the 16x9 frame while we’re at it!  I wouldn’t mind all that much if it weren’t for the fact that the original English mono (here presented, properly I think, in 2.0) is not given the uncompressed, lossless treatment that a studio like Criterion has the good sense to provide.  On the other hand, it is a plus that a number of foreign language dubs are available here, even if in 5.1, along with even more subtitlings.


         

 

Extras : 9

Excepting the “Restoration Comparison,” which would have needed updating in any case, all the Extra Features that appeared on the most recent Cinema Classics DVD are here once again.  Even though they are still in 480i I found them easy on the eyes.  If you didn’t catch them on the first go around, I heartily endorse both commentaries, both features on Mankiewicz plus the AMC Backstory.  The photos and brief essays in the Digibook are also new, and very worth the money.


         

 

Recommendation : 9

All About Eve is a benchmark film in many ways. The movie won back to back Oscars for Mankiewicz, who took home the statue for Writing and Direction for this movie and A Letter to Three Wives just the year before.  And in a year that included films that would wipe the floor with many Oscar contenders of the past couple decades, movies like Sunset Blvd., Born Yesterday, King Solomon’s Mines, Harvey, The Asphalt Jungle and The Third Man, All About Eve won more Oscars in six categories and won international awards in another twelve.


         


The lack of a lossless dialogue track aside – and for a brilliantly written talking picture such as this is, that oversight is careless at best – this is an outstanding Blu-ray release.  The Bonus Features, all of which have seen life on DVD, have not been enhanced for high definition yet still look pretty good.  I cannot imagine All About Eve looking this good in any of today’s art houses, whose business it is to show classic films at their best.  Fox should be commended for their Digibook presentation as well: there’s even some photos and a few essays tossed in for the icing.


And the answer to the question: Who won the Oscar for Best Actress, Bette Davis or Anne Baxter, is: Neither!  That year the statue went to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday!


         

  

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 31, 2011



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