The origin of Joseph Mankiewicz’s legendary screenplay ALL ABOUT EVE is a true story the actress Elisabeth Bergner told author-actress-playwright Mary Orr about a stage door waif, Martina Lawrence, who insinuated herself into Bergner’s life to a threatening degree. In Orr’s fictional telling, the faux-naïf schemer—Eve—takes over the great actress’ career, husband, and stardom, ending the tale with a thousand-dollar-a-week contract from a Hollywood studio.
Since studio Code dictated that villains must always be punished, 20th Century Fox couldn’t film that version in 1950. So Mankiewicz devised a brilliant ending: the star—Margo Channing—wouldn’t lose everything to the interloper, and Eve ends up with her own Eve to thwart.
Ivo van Hove—the European avant-gardist-turned-unlikely Broadway powerhouse—and his designer Jan Versweyveld have transformed ALL ABOUT EVE for the London stage. Gillian Anderson pulls out all the stops, playing Margo at 50—not the film’s 40—and more obsessed with surface aging as a harbinger of irrelevance than Bette Davis was in her indelible star turn. The essential difference between EVE‘s sparkling 1950s urbanity and its 2019 iteration may be explained by Ben Brantley’s take on van Hove’s sensibility:
“He is a tragedian, first and foremost, though I think we can make room for tragedians in a time when they’re a rare breed among directors… What I think fascinates him, and what often works for me, is the idea of monolithic personalities, damned to suffocate under their own passions (or egos).”
The National Theatre production of ALL ABOUT EVE co-stars Lily James in the title role. Monica Dolan is Margo’s best friend Karen, Rhashan Stone is her husband, playwright Lloyd Richards, Julian Ovenden is Margo’s lover-director Bill, Stanley Townsend is critic Addison DeWitt, and Sheila Reid is Birdie, Margo’s dresser (played in Mankiewicz’s film by Thelma Ritter). PJ Harvey composed the score.
This weekend, L.A. Theatre Works presents the NTLive screening of ALL ABOUT EVE at UCLA.
Sunday, June 23, at 3 pm.
James Bridges Theater
Melnitz Hall, UCLA
235 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles.
From top: Gillian Anderson in All About Eve, Noël Coward Theatre, London, 2019; Sheila Reid (left), Anderson, and Monica Dolan; Lily James; Julian Overden and Anderson; Rhashan Stone and Anderson; Anderson and Dolan; Overden and James; Anderson. Photographs by Perou, courtesy and © the photographer, the performers, and the National Theatre.