Sunday, 17 October 2010

It's Like Waves Of Love Coming Over The Footlights...

So far, this is only my second post fully dedicated to All About Eve, which is surprising because it is my favourite film, and is definitely the one I know most about. Thanks to Sam Staggs' book All About "All About Eve" (which I have read many times), I know all about its psychological meanings, on set romances, rivalries and bitchy remarks. Astonishingly, after reading all about the film's chaotic filming schedule and all of the nasty comments that Bette Davis made to Celeste Holm, I don't start to hate the film or its stars, I love them more. Ok. So this post I am going to dedicate to Bette Davis' off screen relationships with her cast and crew. But before I do, here is a clip from one of the most famous scenes from Eve to give yo a feel of it if you haven't seen it before, and remind you if you have.


Bette Davis and Celest Holm:

Bette Davis and Celest Holm didn't get on. From the first morning on set when Celest Holm greeted Bette with a "Good morning!" And Bette, cuddled up with Gary, (see Bette Davis and Gary Merrill) said "Oh sh*t. Good manners." Obviously, this was not the most charming response to such a remark, but you have to understand Bette's situation. She had an abusive husband that she was in the middle of a sticky divorce with, a boyfriend that had a Doris Day look-alike wife and a career stuck in the doldrums. If I was in that situation and Celest Holm (who irritates me so much that no words can describe) came up to me in her angelic way and said "Good morning!", I probably would not have been completely thrilled. When they were filming the scene in "The Cub Room", there was a lull in the filming process and to fill the silence Celeste said "Did you know that when the man who manufactures Pyrex, found out that people where using those Pyrex kettles to make martinis in, he stopped making them?" Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlow chuckled lightly. Bette waited for the laughter to stop. She then looked from Hugh to Gary, then lowered her eyes for effect and drawled "Really I don't know how I could have lived This long without knowing that."

Bette Davis and Anne Baxter:

Bette Davis and Anne Baxter had a wonderful relationship, despite the fact that they were playing arch Nemesis's in the film. In the late 1970s while towling herself dry at Anne's house, Bette discovered a lump in her breast. Anne Baxter was one of Bette's few close friends outside of her family along with Olivia De Havvilland, and Mary Astor.

Bette Davis and Edith Head:

Edith Head designed Bette's wardrobe for the film, but no one Else's. They had a very good working relationship, and one of my favourite costume-department behind the scenes anecdote shows Bette's thoughtfulness and sweetness that Sam Staggs was keen to hide in his book.

Bette Davis looked at herself quizzically in the mirror as she modeled her dress for the all important cocktail party scene (clip above). The scene was due to be shot in about ten minutes time. Someone had measured the top half of the dress all wrong, and from the waist up, the dress just flopped around helplessly about Bette's shoulders. Edith was devastated. "Don't worry, as costume designer, I'll take all the credit for the fiasco." Edith steadied herself and headed for the door, when Bette exclaimed "WAIT! Turn around and look, Edith." She had slipped the dress off her shoulders and the dress hung beautifully. It was a perfect fit. Edith hugged her and started to stitch it into place.

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill:
Bette Davis and Gary Merrill fell in love at the moment they met. From then on it was Bette and Gary against the world. Or the rest of the cast and crew, anyway. Although it was her longest marraige at ten years, it turned nasty towards the end. After they adopted two children, Micheal and Margot Merrill, and Gary adopted B.D. Davis, he started to turn alcoholic and Bette filed for divorce. Margot was disabled and is still institutionalized to his very day.

Bette Davis and Joseph L. Mankeiwicz:

Joseph M. whith Katharine Hepburn on the set of Suddenly Last Summer
They had a pretty stable working experience and had lots of good ideas together. When Bette downs her martini, heads for the staircase and waits before speaking the immortal line, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night!", she said it was to "show the audience that she was collecting more venom." Well, whether it was for that purpose or just for emphasis, it was all her idea. After her stroke of genius they had a conversation that went like this:

Joseph M: I'm still waiting for you to start directing the picture. Eddie Goulding (Bette's director in lots of her films) thinks your a "hideous creature."
Bette D: (Deep laugh. Tosses head back.) Mr. Goulding is a genius movie maker. But he also liked to act. He would act out your part for you. And I was difficult because we disagreed on almost everything. 90% of the time I thought that the way I was portraying the woman I was playing, was better than the way he was.

I hope you enjoyed my War And Peace post,


Anonymous said...

Good stuff here! I was watching the movie earlier and wondered if the pictures in the Cub Room scene are of Bette Davis. I'm impressed by your love and knowledge of old movies. Keep up the good work!

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