“All About Eve” Isn’t a Film. It’s Life. Met Her/Him?
Getting ahead in any field, for some women and men, doesn’t take guts. It takes deception and a certain personality type.
As it happens, there are particular aspects of my life to which I would like to maintain sole and exclusive rights and privileges. — Margo Channing
The storyline is alive and active today, not merely in the theatre (the film's setting) or the creative arts. These individuals are in medicine, publishing, hedge funds, computer programming, and any other field where success means recognition and money. Mostly, they hunger for recognition and a type of fame.
You’ve met them. They are both women and men. I certainly have. Gender is the only point where the film departs from real life in that it’s exclusively a domain of females with cunning men thrown in, too. George Sanders (who in real life committed suicide), plays the cunning theatre critic who knows the Eve type and lays it out for her in a powerful scene.
Dissecting the Film Personality and Those in Real Life
The famed TV film critic, Roger Ebert, when reviewing “Eve,” noted that it was closer to Davis’ real-life persona; an aging actress who could no longer play the ingenue. Davis admitted she never cared for those roles, anyway. Sour grapes?
“Her veteran actress Margo Channing in “All About Eve” (1950) was her greatest role; it seems to show her defeated by the wiles of a younger actress, but in fact marks a victory: the triumph of personality and will over the superficial power of beauty. She never played a more autobiographical role.”
Both, Crowther noted, are about women of a certain age who have seen their careers sliding or ending. Gloria Swanson snagged William Holden as her savior — didn’t quite work out the way his character had imagined.
It was art imitating life. The moral of either story is that there may be someone waiting in the wings to undermine or use the lead actor (manager, director, producer, coder, whatever) and step into the lead. Caesar was warned to “beware the Ides of March,” and he failed to do so. How did that end?
Eve Harrington, the scheming young woman Margo Channing mistakenly takes under her wing, uses her guile to ingratiate herself. In so doing, she is preparing her own ascent to greatness. It’s office politics in action, not a scriptwriter’s imagination.
I experienced that one myself in another field. My assistant was super helpful and raced out to find a lipstick I needed; I hadn’t asked. She had another agenda behind my back, and when I resigned for another job, she slid into my old office.
Helpful Helpers in Medicine and Politics
Medicine and pre-med college courses are prime locations for male and female “Eves” who are always helpful. One had a habit of stealing other students’ structures from their specimen boxes as he helped put them away and another, I believe, stole a pair of my stainless steel scissors. But this was small potatoes compared to researchers.
I once knew a genius physician who told a group of us how researchers prowled the hallways in the research lab areas. If a researcher weren’t careful, they stole samples or partially destroyed their work. This was especially rampant in important clinical areas where they took credit for having discovered something. In actuality, they had stolen the work.
Were they unique in their unethical behavior, or was it the lure of the fame that awaited those who caught the golden ring? Was it an incentive or personality? Was the pressure to keep publishing to retain a university appointment what pushed them?
They don’t say “publish or perish” for nothing. Universities have a policy that you must publish within the first two years of an appointment, or you will not be retained.
It was the same when I was in clinical research where I knew the incredible compliments I received would be followed by probing questions into who was doing add-ons in their clinical trials. Pirating staff was a way of life, too.
Some of the deviously motivated are driven by fear that they can’t accomplish something on their own. They fly on other’s coattails as it were and readily accept honors they never deserved. Look at how many politicians indicate on their resumes that they won medals in the military, which they never did earn, or held positions they never had.
Or consider the highly noted case of Mina Chang, who embellished her resume to the point of absurdly and roped in a high-level job in the State Department. Not an “Eve,” but we have to wonder. Would you call a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it going too far?
The recent college admissions scandals tell a tale of money, privilege, and brokering with false high school accomplishments. Coaches and brokers were willing to put their reputations on the line for money. When they were caught, there was job loss, fines, and jail sentences.
The Eves and Evans fool no one but themselves. Sooner or later, the jig is up, and the piper will have to be paid.