How much did you know about a film that once held the record for number of Oscar nominations?
Did you know that 1950’s All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six Oscars including for best picture?
Or that virtually the movie’s entire female cast — Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter — received Oscar nominations, still a record for a single picture?
How much else did you know about this durable classic? If we’ve whetted your appetite for more, why not check out author Sam Stagg’s All About ‘All About Eve’? It’s all there.
In the meantime, let’s get to the answers to Memorial Day Monday Quiz.
1) Question: Which one of the following actresses was first choice for the role of Margo Channing, which eventually went to Bette Davis? a) Tallulah Bankhead; b) Claudette Colbert; c) Barbara Stanwyck; or d) Marlene Dietrich.
1) Answer: b) Claudette Colbert was first sought to play the Margo Channing role, but the actress ruptured a disc in her back during the production of director Jean Negulesco’s World War II drama, Three Came Home, and was not available. Enter Bette Davis.
2) Question: Who was the real inspiration for the tempestuous character of Margo Channing? a) Bette Davis; b) Joan Crawford; c) Tallulah Bankhead or d) Rosa Stradner.
2) Answer: d) Rosa Stradner was the true inspiration for Margo Channing. Stradner, a Viennese stage and movie actress, came to Hollywood in 1936. Three years later she married Joseph L. Mankiewicz. By the time he wrote and directed All About Eve, the marriage had deteriorated, and was marked by fights, insults, slammed doors — a tempestuous setting that fits Margo Channing to a T.
3) Question: When 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck first approached Bette Davis about taking the Margo Channing role, Davis pretty much blew him off as an imposter. a) True; b) False?
3) Answer: a) True. Davis received a telephone call from 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck offering her the Margo Channing role. The actress was convinced that it was a phoney phone call, and she just jollied him along. When it became clear that it really was Zanuck, Davis recovered her composure — and accepted his offer immediately.
4) Question: Which of the following competed with George Sanders for the role of theater critic Addison DeWitt? a) Jose Ferrer; b) Clifton Webb; c) Claude Rains or d) Vincent Price.
4) Answer: Sorry, another of our trick questions. All four actors — Jose Ferrer, Clifton Webb, Claude Rains and Vincent Price — were considered for the part of theater critic Addison DeWitt. Fortunately, George Sanders emerged with the role.
5) Question: What explains the throaty, raspy quality we hear when Bette Davis speaks her lines as Margo Channing? Did the actress deliberately lower her voice to achieve this effect? a) Yes; b) No.
5) Answer: b) No. Bette Davis came by her throatiness in All About Eve naturally. Just before production started, she got into an argument with her then third husband, William Grant Sherry, and damaged her vocal chords. (That five year union ended in 1950.) The resulting effect pleased director Mankiewicz who insisted that Davis preserve the throaty quality. By the way, the end of Davis’ marriage permitted her the wherewithal to woo and eventually marry fellow Eve cast member, Gary Merrill.
6) Question: All About Eve had several incarnations prior to the Mankiewicz movie version. Which of the following did NOT precede the film? a) The Wisdom of Eve short story; b) The Wisdom of Eve radio play; c) All About Eve radio version; or d) Applause stage musical.
6) Answer: c) the All About Eve radio version aired a year after the movie came out, and (d) Applause opened on Broadway two decades after the movie.
7) Question: Which All About Eve cast member received the biggest career boost from appearing in the picture? a) Marilyn Monroe; b) Thelma Ritter; c) Gary Merrill; or d) Celeste Holm.
7) Answer: According to author Staggs, a) Marilyn Monroe is the only one of the Eve cast (she played George Sanders’ arm candy, Miss Caswell) whose career was to ascend…Marilyn Monroe went up, up and up, but for (the rest of the cast) a long descent began the day ‘All About Eve’ was in the can. If not for this movie, half the cast would be forgotten.
8) Question: Ronald and Nancy Reagan had a connection to the casting of All About Eve that even they didn’t know about. Can you guess what it is? (Hint: They were not married at the time the movie was made.)
8) Answer: Unbeknownst to them Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were quietly considered by Fox execs as potential All About Eve cast members: Reagan for the role of Bill Sampson played by Gary Merrill, and Davis for the Celeste Holm role of Karen Richards.
9) Question: The cast of All About Eve boasts the inclusion of one of America’s foremost Shakespearean stage actors. Who was he? a) Gregory Ratoff; b) Hugh Marlowe; c) Walter Hampden; or d) George Sanders.
9) Answer: c) Walter Hampden.
10) Question: How did Anne Baxter manage to play BOTH Eve Harrington and Margo Channing?
10) Answer: Anne Baxter played Eve Harrington in the movie, and replaced Lauren Bacall in the role of Margo Channing on Broadway in Applause in 1971.