Study Guide

All About Eve Art and Culture

Art and Culture

ADDISON (V.O.): The Sarah Siddons Award for Distinguished Achievement is perhaps unknown to you. It has been spared the sensational and commercial publicity that attends such questionable "honors" as the Pulitzer Prize and those awards presented annually by the film society...

Addison DeWitt is the ultimate theatre snob. He believes the Sarah Siddons Award is superior—because theater is superior—and he relishes its relative obscurity, yet at the same time he slyly demeans the audience by talking down to them about this unknown award.

ADDISON: The minor awards, as you can see, have already been presented. Minor awards are for such as the writer and director, since their function is merely to construct a tower so that the world can applaud a light which flashes on top of it and no brighter light has ever dazzled the eye than Eve Harrington. Eve... but more of Eve, later. All about Eve, in fact.

Addison tells us that the writer and director are viewed just as scaffolding for an actress to climb atop. This is Addison's stab at the idea of celebrity, when it's really the writers and directors who create the art but don't get the glory. There are plenty of arguments in the movie about this. Do you know who wrote the screenplay for The Hunger Games or American Sniper?

EVE: There was a Little Theater Group... like a drop of rain in the desert.

Eve is pretty melodramatic. She clearly adores the theater, so this theater group is a small bit of culture for her in what's otherwise a Wisconsin wasteland.

BILL: The Theatuh, the Theatuh—what book of rules says the Theater exists only within some ugly buildings crowded into one square mile of New York City? […] Want to know what the Theater is? A flea circus. […] Wherever there's magic and make-believe and an audience, there's Theater. […] The Theater's for everybody, you included, but not exclusively, so don't approve or disapprove. It may not be your Theater, but it's Theater of somebody, somewhere.

Bill's the opposite of Addison. He loves and respects the theater, but he doesn't see it as an exclusive club. He's fine with accepting Hollywood, or any form of entertainment, as a version of theater in a way because it speaks to someone.

BILL: When you start judging an idealistic dreamy-eyed kid by the barroom, Benzedrine standards of this megalomaniac society, I won't have it! Eve Harrington has never by word, look, thought or suggestion indicated anything to me but her adoration for you and her happiness at our being in love! And to intimate anything else doesn't spell jealousy to me; it spells a paranoiac insecurity that you should be ashamed of!

Bill's comparing Eve's innocence and naïveté to the jaded, narcissistic world of theater people. He thinks this right up until the moment she makes a shameless pass at him.

LLOYD: I shall never understand the weird process by which a body with a voice suddenly fancies itself as a mind. Just when exactly does an actress decide they're her words she's saying and her thoughts she's expressing?

MARGO: Usually at the point when she has to rewrite and rethink them to keep the audience from leaving the theater!

LLOYD: It's about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto!

Oh, snap! Lloyd's famous for his plays, but it must frost him to see Margo getting all the glory delivering lines he's written. This is what Addison was talking about when he said that writers and directors are considered as just building the scaffold for the actress to perch on top. Joseph Mankiewicz had heard prior to filming that Bette Davis was a terrible actress to work with because she brought a yellow pad to shoots and marked up all the dialogue. He was happy to find out that in this case, she left every word just as it was.

LLOYD: A Hollywood movie star just arrived.
MARGO: Shucks, and I just sent my autograph book to the cleaner.

Great example of the disdain that serious dramatic actors had toward their silver screen counterparts. Not worth the time of day. "Real" actors never got a "take two" or "take twenty-two."

KAREN: Nothing is forever in the Theater. Whatever it is, it's here, it flares up and burns hot, then it's gone.

Since Karen's a relative outsider, not a writer, actor, or director, she's not caught up as much in all the quest for fame and adulation she sees around her. She's seen people come and go, and she sees her good friend Margo looking at the end of her career just because she's 40.

KAREN: A part in a play. You'd do all that just for a part in a play.

EVE: I'd do much more for a part that good.

Karen, as an outsider, is shocked to see just how far Eve would go to get a good part. Eve resorts to blackmail and threatens worse. Could she be taking her art too seriously? Is it even about art at this point?