“All About Eve” at the Ziegfeld
On March 23 cable channel Turner Classic Movies presented a special screening of the 1950 film “All About Eve” (1950) at New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre. The presentation was part of TCM’s traveling “Road to Hollywood 2010” series of classic films on the big screen. The event celebrated TCM’s first-ever Classic Film Festival in Hollywood which will run from April 22 – 25. When it comes to the words “classic” and “big screen” there is no better example of a real movie palace that still regularly shows films than the Ziegfeld. The plush theatre, huge screen and very good 35mm print of “Eve” made for a special evening for the at least 1,000 movie fans who filled the theatre. Seeing “Eve” with a large appreciative audience that got every joke and gesture made for an experience one cannot get from seeing the movie on TV. TCM host Robert Osborne hosted the event and conducted a pre-screening interview with Broadway veteran Elaine Stritch.
“It’s one of the great movies of all time. I don’t think there’s a moment that doesn’t work,” Osborne said about “Eve,” adding, “I don’t think anybody in the movie was cast better.” Osborne offered the opinion that Bette Davis’ performance as Margo Channing was “the deepest performance she ever gave.” Osborne explained that the role of Channing was originally to be played by Claudette Colbert but that she hurt her back. Davis was brought in on short notice to replace Colbert. Osborne said that although Davis played a diva in the film in real life she was a homebody who preferred to make her own meals. “A hausfrau actually,” Osborne explained. He also described Davis as a “strong Leo” who loved her fans, the film business and was some one who always wanted to do good work.
Osborne described the relationship between Davis and “Eve” co-star Celeste Holm as contentious even though they played friends in the film. In contrast he explained that even though, in the film, Davis’ character is suspicious of Ann Baxter’s character, Eve, “Davis loved Baxter until she died.” He rightfully attributed the two examples to great acting. Concerning Baxter’s performance in the film Osborne described her as a “utility actress” who lacked star quality but that this actually made her perfect for the part of the cold, scheming Eve Harrington.
Osborne then introduced Elaine Stritch. The Broadway , film and TV star entered to a standing ovation. Osborne and Stritch proceeded to have a free wheeling conversation that included answering questions from the audience. When an unfortunate audience member began a question to the 85-year-old Stritch with the phrase “In your day…” Stritch immediately shot back “It’s still my day.” When asked if she thought there were still great actors Stritch replied yes but they need great material. Asked to name any real life “Eve Harringtons” currently in the film business Stritch jokingly replied that “there just too many to mention.” Asked to compare “Eve” to its musical incarnation “Applause” Stritch replied, “As a movie this is giant time what we’re going to see here tonight. As a musical, nice try.”