Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell
Joseph Mankiewicz (director) All About Eve — film
Joseph Mankiewicz’s (director) All About Eve (1950)
The film All About Eve (1950), written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz (who was initially inspired by a short story by Mary Orr) is a satirical exposé of the follies and vices of the Broadway theatre community that has parallels to Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general. Drawing on Mankiewicz’s extensive experience as a professional screenplay writer who could observe the Hollywood scene as an insider, and by his longstanding fascination with the theatre, the film is populated by representations of theatre or entertainment industry types whose interactions and clashes reveal much about these types of people and the industry they populate.
In this context, the film is notable for its portrayal of formidable female characters and their rivalries (in career and romance), as well as their passions, insecurities, aspirations, loyalties, betrayals and resilience. This includes: Margo, the aging star at the peak of her career, grand but vulnerable due to the ageism that ruthlessly cuts short the careers of woman over a certain age; Karen, who is more good-hearted than others due to being attached to the theatre by marriage only, her position in this glamorous world is tenuous since her playwright husband could be seduced away from her due to the temptations frequently placed before him; and, most importantly, Eve, the narcissistic self-obsessed, manipulative, ambitious predator who, lacking empathy, does not concern herself with whomever she hurts on her ruthless climb to the top.
In regards to Eve, the central character, Mankiewicz had observed that the glamour associated with the entertainment industry seemed to attract these kinds of ambitious, ruthless people who preyed on others, and even each other. Motivated by dreams of glory, there is little that a narcissist like Eve is not willing to do to succeed. Set in the theatre, the film presents a more general warning to the cinema audience that the world includes many ‘Eves’ who present a dangerous threat to the unsuspecting.
Other notable theatre types include: the flamboyant, smooth, highly intelligent theatre critic Addison deWitt who wields the power to make or break careers with his columns; Max Fabian, the financial backer whose behind-the-scenes contributions make the industry’s existence possible; and also the important creative people like playwright Lloyd Richards and the director Bill Sampson who, like Addison de Witt and Max Fabian, are also the focus of the attentions of ambitious people who seek to network their way to success.
Mankiewicz was also fascinated by awards and the great meaning that people in the creative community attach to them, noting the behind-the-scenes conniving, soliciting and manoeuvring done to acquire one. However, he also noticed that the obsession for winning an award can be followed, ironically, by anticlimactic feelings upon receiving one.
Importantly, All About Eve is considered to be very much a writer’s film, since it is noted for its stylish, finely-crafted dialogue that gave such power and presence to its richly drawn characters.
Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez
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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal. (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.)
Subject: All About Eve meaning, All About Eve themes, All About Eve analysis, All About Eve notes
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