All About Eve (1950) **

This is, of course, the Bette Davis film that rounded off her golden Hollywood period. It is a very good movie rather than a great one: as always with Mankiewicz it is at least half an hour too long and only perfunctorily filmed; the dialogue is the thing, though even this could do with judicious pruning.

It survives mainly on account of a few waspish one-liners, a generally convincing evocation of the solipsism of the theatrical community and fine performances. As well as Davis's superlative Margo Channing, a great actress facing middle age and usurpation by the insufferable Eve, there is George Sanders as venemous critic Addison DeWitt, against whose absurdly rapturous description of one of Eve's performances as "a thing of music and fire" Davis characterises herself as "an old kazoo and some sparklers". It is to Sanders that Mankiewicz donates the film's best and truest line: when Marilyn Monroe's lousy aspiring actress asks "Do they have auditions for television?", Sanders replies "That's all television is, my dear: nothing but auditions." But it's Thelma Ritter who comes close to stealing the show as the wisecracking Birdie, the humblest but wisest person in the room when Eve makes her first move, and the only one to instantly see through her act.