Although I was not that impressed by the first choices of directors in this new SKY ARTS series – Sydney Pollack and Otto Preminger – I certainly was by the third Joseph Mankiewicz.
From this distance of time I do not recall when why or where I saw his masterpiece All About Eve (1950) but I do remember the effect this had on me.
Before or after there has never been a better film study of fame and the ruthless way some will attain it.
It featured a star Margo Chaning (Bette Davis) cresting at the height of her fame and a young supposed ingenue but actually ruthless arriviste Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter.
As my late mother with her customary bottom line intelligence observed:
“She started taking her clothes and then took everything else.”
It has a strong supporting cast of George Sanders as the catty theatre critic Addison deWitt, the always effervescent Celeste Holm and the young Marilyn Monroe.
Mostly though the film is remembered for the Bette Davis line when she realises the danger that is Eve:
“Hold onto your seat belt it’s going to be a rough evening.“
Each great director brings a special skill to the job … Stanley Kubrick was a brilliant photographer and cameraman, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) a make-up artist, hence his creative use of fantasy.
Mankiewicz’s – brother of scriptwriter Herman Mankiewicz – was brilliance with dialogue.
He directed many films, notably Cleopatra – largely to rescue the fortunes of 20th Century Fox under Darryl F. Zanuck – but he was best at dialogue play/films like Sleuth, the Anthony Schaffer play with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier.
The usual band of Ian Jarvis, Neil Norman and Steven Armstrong on SKY ARTS ensured proper respect and praise was lavished on this Hollywood colossus.