47 FILMS: 49. ALL ABOUT EVE

In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams, we present the acidic and hilarious All About Eve.

All About Eve is a delicious satire on fame, a kind of Sunset Boulevard – which was released the same year – for the theatre. Betty Davis plays the celebrated diva Margo Channing. The actress has reached the age where she can credibly play the young roles with panache. Enter Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter); the swooning mega-fan ushered into the presence one evening. She wins over the jaded theatre types with her tale of honest woe. Before you know it, she’s the factotum and best pal of Margo. But things sour when Eve herself gradually reveals her own ambitions on the other side of the curtain.

The sharpness of the dialogue written by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz reaches Wildean (both Billy and Oscar) in its acidic burning of egos. The ensemble cast are towering. George Sanders is the rascally theatre critic Addison deWitt who Svengalis Eve towards fame with serpentine charm. A cameo by a young Marilyn Monroe fairly burns a cigarette hole in the celluloid. My favorite is Thelma Ritter’s Birdy, Margo’s waspish dresser. But the film obviously belongs to the two female leads who go from affection to a smouldering hatred which never actually gets a cathartic blow out on screen. It’s ironic that despite their brilliance both joined relatively late in the production. Davis turned up practically at the last minute.

Just as Sunset Blvd delivered a fond kick in the pants to the silent era, so All About Eve sees theatre as the waning beauty overtaken by the young brash newcomer cinema. Hollywood represents an elsewhere to which everyone aims. The presence of the soon to be mega famous Monroe haunts the film like Banquo’s ghost.

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DID FRANK SINATRA KILL JFK?

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the estate of the late Dean Martin sensationally released a signed document which they claim is the dictated deathbed confession of the former lounge singer and actor.

The document, which is still awaiting official verification, contains several allegations including Jerry Lewis’ secret donations to The Baadar-Meinhoff Gang and Sammy Davies Jnr’s links to the Israeli Intelligence service Mossad. The most explosive passage of the confession, however, is Martin’s suggestion that Frank Sinatra was the infamous ‘Man on
the Grassy Knoll’, who conspiracy theorists have long alleged was responsible for the assassination of former US president John F Kennedy:

I was at my suite in The Tropicana in December 1963 and Sinatra came over with a bottle of Scotch. We polished that off pretty swiftly and, halfway through the next, Frank suddenly asked me what I thought about the assassination. I told him I was sorry for his family but after what that son of a bitch did to Marilyn – I had no personal love for the man. Suddenly, Frank started laughing like a maniac and when I asked him what he was laughing about, he said he had a confession to make; but if I ever told anyone about it I’d end up in a hole in the desert. I thought he was just drunk and boasting so I said, “Sure Frank, spill your guts and I won’t tell another living soul.”

Well what he said next has been eating away at my conscience for over 30 years. He told me that the wrong man had been accused of killing the president and ole Harvey Oswald had been set up to take the fall. Still thinking he was just kidding around I said “Sure Frank, how come you know so much about it?”. Suddenly Sinatra approached me, put both hands firmly on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. “I know about it Deano because I was the man who shot JFK”.

Now Frank was known for talking all kinds of bull and, at first, I thought he was just taking a joke too far – but then he told me how he had been at a card game on November 19th with Mickey Rooney, Tony Curtis, Peter Lawford and Mob boss Sam Giancana. He said everyone was pretty drunk and Sam got talking about how he rigged the New York vote to get Kennedy elected but the President was still busting his balls left, right, and centre. Then the conversation turned to what that son of a bitch did to Marilyn; Giancana got angry and exclaimed, “Will no-one rid me of this turbulent President?” With that, Frank said he excused himself from the table to take a leak and decided he was going to charter a plane to Dallas and assassinate Kennedy.

“It was easy Deano”, he told me, “I borrowed a rifle from Lauren Bacall and jumped on a plane to Dallas. Next thing I know it’s lunch time and I’m stood behind this grassy knoll holding half a bottle of tequila and a 6.5 mm Carcano. I saw the Presidents Limo go past, fired off a couple of shots and then wandered off to find a 7-Eleven.”

I asked Frank how Oswald got caught up in the mess and he said he had “No idea,” but it was – “Probably something to do with the Cubans”.

You know I’ve kept that secret for so long but now I’m on my way out, I thought it was high time the truth came out.

Obviously Martin’s revelations are already sending shock waves around the world and we will keep you updated on the fallout, as it happens.

SIR EDWIN FLUFFER REMEMBERS MARILYN MONROE

HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall the actress they called the ‘blonde arse’: Marilyn Monroe.

You’ll be surprised at how many people still think that Marilyn Monroe invented the telephone, but it’s simply not true. In all fairness she was a dab hand with a screwdriver, but that level of technical knowledge was simply beyond her. Rather unfairly this added to her reputation as a ‘ditzy blonde’, but if I needed a set of shelves putting up, Mags was always the first girl I’d ask.

‘Measure twice, cut once,’ was her motto, and it served her well. I’ve never seen dovetail joints like Marilyn’s, and that’s coming from a man who got Lee Marvin to mend the skirting board in his spare room. 
And despite her superstar status, she was really quite affordable: Danny Kaye wanted some fencing put up in his back yard and she did it for $250. That included the paint and materials! 
Of course, Sidney Poitier was furious. He thought she was deliberately undercutting his prices, and ended up with a garage full of chipboard that he couldn’t get rid of. In the end he cut his losses and sold the lot to Dickie Burton at a knock down price, and he used it for the sets on Cleopatra. I think Marilyn got fed up with it all when Sammy Davis Jnr complained about the door frame she did in his dining room. It did stick sometimes, but nothing like as much as Sammy said it did. In the end she just put her tools back in the van and there they stayed. I begged her not to give up, but her mind was quite settled. 
‘I’m just going to do the acting from now on Neddy,’ she said, and bless her heart she was true to her word. 
Of course carpentry’s loss was Hollywood’s gain, but even when Betty Grable needed sanding down on How To Marry A Millionaire she just went back to her trailer and let the crew get on with it. 
I did once see her chiseling Tony Curtis, but that’s another story…

THE ORSON WELLES DIARIES III

October 21st , 1957
 
I had dinner with Dietrich and Chuck Heston to discuss my latest project Touch of Evil. I’d also invited Janet Leigh but she said she had plans to go to the theatre with Tony Curtis to catch some ramshackle, post modern production of the Threepenny Opera

As usual Marlene spent the evening smoking endless cigarettes and becoming increasingly Gin sodden and Heston insisted on trying out a variety of Mexican accents and asking me which one he should adopt for his character. After an hour or so of his incomprehensible babbling I took him by the hand and said “Chuck dear. Forget about the accent. If we put a sombrero on your head and a moustache under your nose as far as the audience is concerned, you’re a Mexican”.
 
The main course was so nondescript and dreary it doesn’t even deserve a passing mention but I must confess I was rather fond of the chocolate roulade.
 
 
November 5th, 1957
 
Jack Kennedy invited me over for a late supper and I was delighted to find that Frank Sinatra was also in attendance. We chatted about politics, civil rights and the untimely but amusing passing of Senator McCarthy but when Jack made a crude reference to a sexual liaison with Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra rose from his chair and wagged a threatening finger at Kennedy. “One day you’re going to be sorry you said that Jack” said Frank menacingly and with that he grabbed his coat and slammed the door behind him as he left.
 
I regretfully ordered the John Dory when any sane man would have clearly opted for the Monkfish
 
 
December 23rd, 1957
 
Last Thursday after a particularly savage rum session, Jack Warner proposed a wager. He said that if I could survive on nothing but brandy and mince pies from now until Christmas day he would finance my next picture and give me complete creative autonomy. I immediately agreed to the bet but after five days on my limited diet, I’m beginning to think I might have been a little hasty in accepting his challenge. My bowels are no longer functioning as they once did and whenever I sit down I can feel a hot mulch of fruit, pastry and brandy bubbling away in my stomach like the foul contents of a witches cauldron.
 
I believe it was the Greek Tragedian Aeschylus who said “ The reward of suffering is experience” and although once upon a time those words might have brought me comfort, if that ancient sage was stood before me now I’d ring his damn neck for a fat blood orange and a tall glass of cold water.
 
I had two mince pies for lunch, followed by brandy.