One of the most well observed and cynical movies about actors and acting is Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, 1950.
Bette Davis plays Margo Channing, an aging Broadway star whose personal life and career are jeopardized by the treacherous Eve Harrington, Anne Baxter, a Machiavellian young fan who cleverly oozes into Channing’s life.
The script is brilliant, filled with cruel in-jokes, swipes at Broadway, Hollywood, and television.
“That is all that television is, dear—just auditions.”
But one of the most painful and honest moments comes when Margo Channing reflects on her career.
Funny business, a woman’s career. The things you drop on your way up the ladder—so you can move faster—you forget you’ll need them when you go back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common whether we like it or not. Being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter what other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis nothing is any good unless you can look up before dinner—or turn in bed—and there he is. Without that you’re not a woman. You’re someone with a French provincial office—or a book full of clippings. But you’re not a woman. Slow curtain. The end.
I imagine that post-modern feminists shudder at this monologue.
Years ago, I received an emergency call to the set of one of my movies. The star, a beautiful woman of a certain age, was having difficulty with some of her dialogue and demanded a rewrite.
Dutifully, I hopped in my car, drove like mad to the location, and a production assistant quickly ushered me into our star’s trailer.
The lady was obviously distraught. But, I soon discovered, her lines were the least of her problems. No, our actress was going through a painful, slow-motion break-up with a boyfriend at least ten years her junior.
“I’m not getting any younger,” she said between gulps of wine, “I don’t want to end up alone.”
I fixed her dialogue—shifted a few commas—and wished her the best of luck.
Last I heard, she was married—to her fourth husband.
To quote from Bereishis, Genesis 2-18: “It is not good that man be alone…“