'Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!' Or so says Margo Channing, Broadway diva extraordinaire and, as played by Bette Davis, one of the most memorable characters in the history of motion pictures. But for the fortunate moviegoer, All About Eve is anything but bumpy.
The darkly humorous drama in which Margo meets her match in Eve Harrington, the supposedly innocent ingenue brilliantly played by Anne Baxter, is Hollywood's most scathing behind-the-scenes look at the theatrical world and among the best-acted, most intelligently scripted and eminently quotable productions of all time.
Lest such claims sound like the kind of hyperbolic hackery an artist like Margo would find beneath contempt, examine the facts. The film received almost unanimous critical and audience praise upon its release in 1950, garnered an unprecedented 14 Oscar nominations - five in the acting categories alone - and walked off with six statuettes, including best picture and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's wins for best director and screenplay.
A half-century after its premiere, the movie was restored to much acclaim and fanfare, and this 'new' print is being shown as part of the Hong Kong Film Archive's Restored Treasures series next Sunday.
Unlike many other so-called classics, Eve's reputation has not dimmed with the years and in the internet age still garners a 100 per cent rating on aggregate review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. Though the screen has provided us with countless dramas dealing with love, hate, ambition, and betrayal, none has yet surpassed Mankiewicz's wit, nuance and insight.
Six decades on, the leads' combined fame would paradoxically pale in significance to that of a fledgling starlet essaying the small role of Miss Caswell. A blonde bombshell acidly described within the film as 'a graduate of the Copacabana School of the Dramatic Arts', she is Marilyn Monroe before the onslaught of Marilyn-mania.
That Monroe's presence is now considered nearly as noteworthy as that of All About Eve's nominal stars is an irony of celebrity that Mankiewicz would probably have found hilarious, even though it is doubtful Eve and Margo would have been inclined to join in the laughter.
All About Eve, June 3 and 10, 2pm, Hong Kong Film Archive