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All About Eve and Now, Voyager Criterion Blu-ray Reviews

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“All About Eve” and “Now, Voyager” contain two of the best Bette Davis performances.

November’s Criterion releases celebrate the legendary Bette Davis with two of her best known works- “Now, Voyager” and “All About Eve.” In “Now, Voyager” the story centers around a quiet, spinster aunt (Charlotte) who lives with her suffocating and overbearing mother. Charlotte is suffering from a nervous breakdown and decides to receive treatment at a sanitarium. As part of her rehab, she travels on a cruise ship where she meets an unhappily married man named Jerry. The two fall for one another which revitalizes Charlotte. When she comes back home she hopes to turn her life around, but she continues to quarrel with her mother and struggle with her feelings for Jerry.

Directed by Irving Rapper, “Now, Voyager” is very much an old Hollywood weepy romantic melodrama. It’s the type of movie you just don’t see anymore. While not quite my cup of tea, the drawn out story about forbidden love and finding yourself has a few major highlights- Bette Davis, Gladys Cooper and the score. However you may feel about the content of the movie, there’s no denying the fact that Bette Davis carries it with a layered performance. The way she transforms her character both physically and emotionally is nothing short of astonishing. It’s not hard to see why her performance as Charlotte is often cited among her best if not the best. Likewise, Gladys Cooper gives a commanding performance as Charlotte’s mother. She’s such a great foil to Charlotte, but she also makes this the type of character you love to hate. Finally, Max Stiner’s score must be mentioned here. It’s such a sweeping and emotional music score that elevates everything happening on screen.

Writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “All About Eve” is frequently cited as one of the cinematic greats and it’s hard to argue. Not only does it work as an acting showcase, but it’s an engrossing backstage movie (with snappy dialogue) about fame and backstabbing. The story, of course, involves the titular character who is an adoring fan of stage star Margo. Eve is a quiet young woman who dreams of being an actress herself. However, Eve is not quite what she seems as she tries to worm her way into Margo’s life to become a star herself.

“All About Eve” is not just about Eve though as the movie is essentially an ensemble piece. Other main characters include playwright Lloyd Richards and his kindhearted wife Karen, the aforementioned Margo who is an aging diva, Bill (an actor who loves Margo), and Addison (a powerful and conniving theater critic).

As I mentioned above, this film is truly an acting showcase. Obviously, Bette Davis has the showiest and most notable role here as she fully embraces the part of the insecure Margo. Not to be forgotten is Anne Baxter who is quite underrated as Eve. She gives such a believable performance as a woman who acts innocent, but is extremely manipulative. She will do anything to become a star. The always reliable George Sanders makes a big impression here as the egotistical Addison. Celeste Holm is also worthy of praise as Karen. In other movies, Karen would be a thankless supporting role, but she plays a major role in the story and is essentially the moral center of the tale. Thelma Ritter has a scene stealing role as Magro’s maid/assistant Birdie (although her screentime is limited). Last, but not least keep your eyes peeled for a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role.

Note: The hubbub over the “All About Eve” packaging is justified. It’s very poor and flimsy. Hopefully, we won’t see packaging of this like again.

Now, Voyager Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? As per usual, Criterion delivers another wonderful restored 4K digital transfer.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? A crisp and clean track.

Now, Voyager Extras:
* 2 radio drama adaptations (one starring Ida Lupino and one starring Bette Davis)
* A booklet containing credits, photos, and essays by scholar/author Patricia White and Bette Davis.
* Commentary on Max Steiner’s score in 6 scenes by film scholar Jeff Smith
* A new interview with costume historian Larry McQueen about the partnership between Bette Davis and her costume designer Orry-Kelly
* A newly recorded 31 minute interview with film critic Farran Smith who talks about Bette Davis (her career, acting and star power), “Now, Voyager,” film history and more.
* A 1980 TV interview with actor Paul Henreid.
* A 53 minute 1971 episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” with guest Bette Davis who talks about her acting and filmography.

All About Eve Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration of this B&W film contains a nice clean print.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? The Mono track has a lot of depth.

All About Eve Extras:
* A booklet featuring credits, photos, an essay by author Terrence Rafferty, “The Wisdom of Eve” short story by Mary Orr
* A 1951 radio drama adaptation.
* 2 2010 commentaries. One with Celeste Holm, Christopher Mankiewicz and author Kenneth L. Geist and the other by author and “All About Eve” expert Sam Staggs
* A promo of Bette Davis on the set of “All About Eve.”
* A 1980 episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” with actor Gary Merrill and an excerpt from a 1969 episode with Bette Davis.
* “The Real Eve”- A 2010 documentary about the short story “The Wisdom Of Eve” and the people that inspired the tale.
* “Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey”- A near half hour 2010 documentary made by 2 of Joseph’s sons about their father’s life.
* “Hollywood Backstories: All About Eve”- A half-hour documentary about the making of “All About Eve” with a plethora of interviews.
* “Directed By Joseph L. Mankiewicz”- Another 2010 documentary by Christopher and Thomas Mankiewicz this time about their father’s career.
* “The Secret Of Sarah Siddons”- A featurette on a real-life Sarah Siddons Society.
* “All About Mankiewicz”- A 1983 feature length documentary with film scholar Michel Ciment interviewing Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
* “Larry McQueen”- A brand new interview with costume historian/collector Larry McQueen about some of the wardrobe in “All About Eve.”

December 2, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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