Margo Crane is a big star on Broadway, and she never expects that the quiet, mousy girl named Eve who worms her way into Margo’s confidence is actually an aspiring actress prepared to run over anyone who stands in her way.
A couple years ago, I saw the movie All About Eve and really enjoyed it. The movie was based on a short story by Mary Orr called The Wisdom of Eve, a short story which was also the basis for this play. Of the three formats, the story came first (1946), then the movie (1950), and then this play adaptation (1964). While I haven’t read the short story, both the movie and the play are very similar, and I enjoyed them both.
Eve is one of the best villains I’ve ever read (though not quite as horrific as Cathy from East of Eden or Count Fosco in The Woman in White). She is absolutely without a conscience, willing to do whatever it takes, to step on whoever she can step on, to get ahead in the acting world. As she says herself, “There’s no use in trying to appeal to my better nature…I haven’t one.”
What’s interesting to me, however, is less what happens to Eve, and more what happens to the people she touches. Not just as in they get squashed under her, no. Of course they’re going to get squashed; that’s the whole point of the play. What I love, though, is that there seems to be a very specific statement here: those without any moral compunctions may rise in life, but those who are good people will fall when they are seduced by temptation. Eve, as befitting to her name, is the ultimate seductress. Characters all around her fall prey to lust, greed, vanity, and spite, and thus they all end up under Eve’s feet. Only the characters who stand steady in the face of temptation are not trampled over. They may not always win, but at least they don’t lose their integrity or character.