Wednesday, March 3, 2010

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Casting Coup Month: All About Eve

I toyed for a moment or two with just letting CCM go. A lot has been on my plate this semester, what with a premiere this Thursday, thesis classes starting, and a new 3D project being sprung on us. It's been crazy.

But then I realized that I had promised All About Eve. And dammit, I am going to deliver on that promise.

All About Eve is the definition of A Classic. Popular with critics and audiences alike, it scored a record 14 Oscar nominations, a feat not to be matched until Titanic in 1997. Based on the short story "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr, the film depicts the rise of Eve Harrington in the theatre world, as told by a theatre critic, a playwright's wife, and Broadway legend Margo Channing. Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz takes the story, originally told solely through the eyes of the playwright's wife, and builds a dazzling story about aging, sexism, and the Theatre that has yet to find an equal. Really, he's a lot more understanding of women than Orr, who wrote about a bunch of back-stabbing bitches. Mankiewicz humanizes all the characters -- well, maybe not the dastardly Eve -- while upping the bitchery! A true master of the craft!

And so, instead of smug British windbag Clement Howell, we get charismatic, faithful, patient Bill Sampson, a director who has been Margo's Man for years, though they've yet to marry. Rather than having Margo meeting Eve first, Karen Richards is the one who meets Eve and introduces her to Margo as a gesture of kindness. Then, of course, there are the two characters Mankiewicz created: Margo's companion and confidante, Birdie; and the renowned theatre critic Addison DeWitt. Can anyone imagine the film without these two?

Of its 14 nominations, All About Eve went home with six Oscars, including Best Picture. Surprisingly, though it had five acting nominations, it only won Best Supporting Actor for George Sanders' career-defining portrayal of Addison DeWitt. Vote-splitting is the only reasonable cause for the losses of Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in Best Actress (Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday), and Thelma Ritter and Celeste Holm in Best Supporting Actress (Josephine Hull in Harvey). Mankiewicz won, of course, for Director and Best Writing - Screenplay. And, of course, there are the two technical wins: Best Sound Recording (Thomas T. Moulton) and Best Costume Design - Black-and-White (Edith Head and Charles le Maire). Its technical losses: Cinematography - Black-and-White (The Third Man), Editing (King Solomon's Mines), Set Direction - Black-and-White (Sunset Boulevard) and Best Music - Dramatic or Comedy Score (Sunset Boulevard).

Oh, but do you think that was the end of its run of awesome? No, no, kind sirs and madames. In 1970, Broadway herself saw the premiere of Applause, a musical based on Mankiewicz's film and Orr's short story. Updated to the then-present, the story switches out Birdie for Duane, combines the roles of Addison and producer Max Fabian into producer Howard Benedict, adds a bunch of dancers, gets Margo to a gay bar, and holy shit the FRINGE ON DISPLAY MY GOD THE FRINGE!!! Though Mankiewicz and some others, notably All About "All About Eve" author Sam Staggs, took issue with both these changes and the the sidelining of Eve in favor of more Margo, the show was a hit. And why not? It was, after all, the Broadway musical debut of Hollywood legend LAUREN FUCKING BACALL:

Yes, yes, yes! Of course, she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, and the show itself won Best Musical. It was later made into a TV Movie that was basically the stage show with cut songs and larger sets. And you can watch all of it here.

And why all this attention on the musical? Because after that TV special, it was mostly forgotten. The idea of recasting All About Eve has been bandied about before by many others, including Sasha Stone at Awards Daily (she chose Streep and Amy Adams as Margo and Eve, respectively). Me, I feel it can not be touched...unless one were to adapt the musical. Because wouldn't you kill to see something like this in a movie:

And so, let the great experiment begin!

Who is She: Written for the musical, Bonnie is a dancer who meets Eve through Howard. She spends her time with other Broadway hopefuls at a restaurant where they all mingle, dreaming of making it on the Great White Way.

Songs: Applause, She's No Longer a Gypsy
That happy sound goes over you
And just like that

Everything's bright, this is your night
Love hits you right where you're at
You've had a taste of
The sound that says love
Applause, applause, applause

My Choice:

Julianne Hough ("Dancing with the Stars", Burlesque)
Can she act? Who cares? She's a dancer, she's a singer, there's not really much else required for the role, other than the ability to sell it. And I'm sure she can.

Who is This Person: Margo's assistant and confidant/e. S/he is the only person who suspects Eve of ulterior motives from the very beginning. Birdie/Duane is also sharp-tongued and quick-witted, but who isn't in this story?

Songs: Fasten Your Seat Belts, She's No Longer a Gypsy
Fasten your seat belts
It's gonna be a bumpy night
Eh, eh, eh, eh
Margo in action
Critics have called an awesome sight

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (All About Eve, The Mating Season, With a Song in My Heart, Pickup on South Street, Pillow Talk, Birdman of Alcatraz), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (All About Eve, The Mating Season, Boeing (707) Boeing (707))

Thelma Ritter (Miracle on 34th Street, Rear Window)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Dreamgirls)

Keith Robinson (This Christmas, Dear John)
Hell of a presence, this guy. He sings magnificently, he can dance, and imagine him palling with...but no, I won't tell you who Margo is yet.

Who is He: Benedict combines Addison and Fabian. He is a successful Broadway producer who is tired of working with Margo. He does take an interest in Eve, however, and even checks up on her story. What he learns about her is rather interesting...but he's willing ot keep quiet for a price.

Songs: Fasten Your Seat Belts
Thanks for the party
Wow what a blast

Get your coat

Where's the door

Man it's been
Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh
A bumpy night

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (All About Eve)

George Sanders (Village of the Damned, The Jungle Book)

Gregory Ratoff (What Price Hollywood?, I'm No Angel)

My Choice:

Martin Short (Mars Attacks!, Prince of Egypt)
Short has played the skeezy suit many, many times before this. He is also a theatre vet himself, what with that Tony Award for Little Me, touring in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, playing Leo Bloom in The Producers in LA, doing Godspell in Canada in 1972, with Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy and Gilda Radner. Above, he's the skinny guy; Steve Martin is the fat one.

Who is He: Buzz in the musical, Lloyd in the movie and story, Mr. Richards is a playwright. He is Karen's husband, Bill's friend, and Margo's sparring partner. Eve selects him as one of her many conquests as she climbs the ladder of success. He is a bright and kind man, but feels unappreciated.

Songs: Fasten Your Seat Belts, Inner Thoughts, Good Friends
Good friend, who could care less
If you're a failure or a success

They're there, whatever you do

They like you for you
Not your money or your gorgeousness

Originally played by:

Hugh Marlowe (Twelve O'Clock High, Come to the Stable)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Kinky Boots), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Talk to Me), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (American Gangster)

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, 2012)
Ejiofor is such a classy guy. I can see him as the frustrated smart guy who thinks he isn't being taken seriously (2012), or as the guy who is more naive than he should be (American Gangtser). Plus, I just like watching him act.

Who is She: Buzz's wife and Margo's best friend. She is the only one without a career in theatre. Karen sees Eve waiting outside the theatre, and it is she who introduces the girl to Margo. She tries to help the girl in her career and against Margo, not for any malicious reason, but because Karen is just so damn nice.

Songs: Fasten Your Seat Belts, Inner Thoughts, Good Friends

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Gentleman's Agreement)

Celeste Holm (Champagne for Caesar, High Society)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble and Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Dreamgirls)

Anika Noni Rose (From Justin to Kelly, The Princess and the Frog)
A great singer who deserved more credit than she got for Dreamgirls. This Tony Award-winning actress is usually stuck playing second banana in most of her films, and while that would also be the case here...she's just so damn good at what she does with her characters. Plus, I believe she could have chemistry with anyone, so seeing her with our Margo would be dee-lightful!

Who is He: A great director, Bill and Margo have been an item for a while...though she still refuses his marriage proposals. Bill leaves to direct a motion picture in Rome, but he returns to find Eve living as Margo's assistant, and Margo growing increasingly suspicious of her. Suspicious and drunk. Bill is younger than Margo, but that doesn't lessen his passion for her. He is often the most sensible person in the room.

Songs: Think How It's Gonna Be, Fasten Your Seat Belts, One of a Kind, Something Greater
Dry your pretty eyes, come on
And let me have a smile
Think how it's gonna be
When we're together again
I don't wanna go
But planes come back, you know
Think how it's gonna be
When we're together again

Originally played by:

Gary Merrill (Twelve O'Clock High, Mysterious Island)

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (Chaplin) and Best Supporting Actor (Tropic Thunder), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actor (Chaplin), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Sherlock Holmes), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Tropic Thunder) and Best Ensemble (Good Night, and Good Luck.)

Robert Downey, Jr. (Heart and Souls, Lucky You)
Downey is young enough, I think. Oh, he may not be 35, but he is still younger than our Margo and quite sexy, if I say so myself. He has a rascally charm, and though he rarely gets the opportunity to play just a nice guy, I would love to see him in this role. Really, it's either him or George Clooney, and Clooney doesn't sing. Downey does.

Who is She: Why, it's all about her! Eve shows up outside the theatre with a tale of woe: a dead husband, small-town dreams, "everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end." Eve soon manages her way into Margo's life, and it is only too late that everyone realizes what a clever schemer she is. The modesty and fragility masks a ruthless woman out to become a Big Star. And hey, she gets that Tony, doesn't she?

Songs: The Best Night of My Life, One Hallowe'en
Drop dead, Daddy
Look at your little girl now!
She feels twitchy, and bitchy, and manic
Calm and collected, no sign of panic
She's alive, she's alive, so alive!

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (The Razor's Edge)

Anne Baxter (I Confess, The Ten Commandments)

My Choice: Academy Award/BAFTA Award/Golden Globe/SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Brokeback Mountain), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Ensemble (Synecdoche, NY), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain)

Michelle Williams (The Baxter, Blue Valentine)
She's beautiful, but in a way that would allow her to appear mousy. Apparently, she can sing, too. Michelle is probably the best actress under thirty working today. It's hard to believe she's as young as she is, what with her mastery of comedy, drama, and dramedy.

Who is She: The Grande Dame of Broadway. Margo is always putting on a show, whether on stage or off it. She is conscious of her aging, which causes her to erupt at Eve more flamboyantly than she should. But she also initially trusts Eve, leading her into the trap. Margo may have mood swings, but people love her anyway. And truly, what's not to love? Who the hell else would say, "You have permission to breathe!" What an awesome lady.

Songs: But Alive, Who's That Girl, Hurry Back, Fasten Your Seat Belts, Welcome to the Theatre, Inner Thoughts, Good Friends, One of a Kind, Something Greater, Finale
A theatre full of strangers adoring you blindly
There's something greater
There's something greater
The friends who know you're lonely and treat you too kindly
There's something greater
There's something greater

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Jezebel, Dangerous), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actress (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Drama (All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) and in a Musical/Comedy (Pocketful of Miracles)

Bette Davis (Of Human Bondage, The Whales of August)

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (American Beauty, Being Julia) and Best Supporting Actress (The Grifters), BAFTA Award/SAG Award Winner for Best Actress (American Beauty), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (Being Julia), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (American Beauty)

Annette Bening (Mars Attacks!, The Women)
Yes, Andrew, cheer away! Annette is truly the only actress of our time who could do Margo justice. She's got the spunk, the attitude, and the age. Although I've never seen the evidence myself, I hear she can sing, too - I've yet to see Love Affair, apparently she sings in The Kids Are All Right, and she was once considered for Sweeney Todd when it was a Sam Mendes project. The best thing is, there really is no such thing as Too Big with this role.

Love it? Hate it? Either way, make sure you take a look at the TV special on YouTube. It's an interesting piece...

1 comment:

TomS said...

Wow, what a great job! I totally agree with Annette Bening. She is a terrific actress, and would be convincing as a Broadway star. She also has the bite to pull off the more "bitchy" moments. Yes, she could handle "Fasten your seat belts...."

I love Michelle Williams. Since "Brokeback" she hasn't had a real showcase role. This could be it (although, is she devious enough?) I think she cou;d do it... what an idea!

Martin Short.... I wonder if I can see him oozing venom. George Sanders was positively frightening...George C. Scott would have been great... I'll have to give that some thought.

All in all, it would be an interesting remake!