All About Eve

by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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What are the main themes in the film All About Eve?

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All About Eve was a movie produced in 1950. It is the story of an aging Broadway star, Margo Channing, and a younger actress, Eve Harrington, who is scheming to achieve success.

The first theme of the film is the role of women. In general, female power and agency are portrayed negatively, and true happiness for women is shown as subordination to men in marriage. It is particularly telling that despite the fact that movies were one of the few roads to wealth and power for women in the 1950s, the movie seems to assert that rather than using their sexual appeal to benefit themselves, women should only use it to please their husbands.

The next theme in the movie is the role of age in theater. Although age is not viewed as a negative for men, women are portrayed as being powerful and attractive only in so far as they are young and sexually attractive to men. Margo, in particular, is portrayed  an object of the male gaze who is supplanted as she ages rather than as a skilled and talented artist- an issue that is still seen in the movie industry.

The final theme is that of artifice or self-fashioning. The point of theater is the construction of artificial selves. While the movie approves of people doing this on stage, it condemns such behavior offstage as duplicity and condemns especially the women of the play as inauthentic.

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