Natalie Haynes: All about evil... nasty beats nice at the cinema every time

Notebook: Virtually every line of All About Eve zings out of the screen and thwacks you right in the solar plexus

Share
Related Topics

I don't usually subscribe to the view that things were better in the old days. Some things undoubtedly were (house prices, mammoths), yet many things certainly were not (painkillers, Batman films). But this weekend, a combination of crummy weather and an unusually adhesive sofa pushed me into my annual re-watch of All About Eve. Then yesterday came the sad news that its sole surviving star, Celeste Holm, had died. And I couldn't avoid thinking that they really don't make them like that any more.

Because they just don't. Virtually every line of All About Eve zings out of the screen and thwacks you right in the solar plexus; the most innocent question is weighed down with subtext. "What would you like to drink?" Bill asks Eve, the ingénue working for his wife. "A milkshake?" purrs Bette Davis, just to be sure that Bill, Eve and we know that she is feeling every day of her age – and Eve's youth.

I have long believed that a person could learn everything they need to know about the arts, friendship, rivalry, ageing, acting, and the opposing claims of love and a career from All About Eve. Joseph L Mankiewicz's classic won six Academy Awards, though neither Davis in the lead role of Margo Channing, nor Anne Baxter, in the title role of Eve, won: in a pleasing instance of life imitating art, Baxter demanded that she be nominated in the Best Actress category, which neatly split the vote between her and Davis, allowing Judy Holliday to win for Born Yesterday.

I watch an alarmingly large number of films in a year, and I can't imagine a movie like Eve being made now: smart-mouthed men and women smacking one-liners at each other as though their lives depended on winning that particular argument at this particular moment. And no one is likeable, either. Margo is a monster, Lloyd is an adulterer, Karen a schemer, and the glorious Addison DeWitt (on whom almost every theatre critic since has based both his writing style and his bitchiness) is so Machiavellian that even Eve is outwitted by him.

Crucially, no one is goofy, incompetent and lovable, which is the besetting sin of comedies made now. Niceness is the primary requirement for a comic hero these days, and that is redoubled for a comic heroine. Sure Kristen Wiig's character in Bridesmaids gets a little bitchy when she's drunk, but that's because she's failed in her cupcake business, which makes a woman bitter-sweet, apparently. Or maybe bitter-saccharine.

So, here's my plea – in honour of Celeste Holm, could we have a comedy for grown-ups, in which no one is adorable at all? And everyone is clever and good at stuff? Don't worry about sales, I'll come twice, at least.

You can still have a cheap day out

The charity, Family Action, has discovered that 54 per cent of mothers are planning to cut back on day trips, because of the expense. They reckon that a day out costs about £80, which I find extremely easy to believe given how high ticket prices are for amusement parks, zoos and aquariums. And, heck, I'm only buying two tickets, rather than four or five.

So this seems like the right time to mention that plenty of art galleries and museums are still free. And the days of museum fatigue are over, because free entry means you don't have to go to every corner of every room to feel you're getting your money's worth. Travel is still not cheap, but you could take a packed lunch. You will have to dodge the gift shop as you leave, but that is a small price to pay.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape