Marilyn and Bette: The Starlet and the Diva

Now in its 70th year, All About Eve is featured in the June 29 edition of US magazine Closer Weekly (featuring Neil Diamond on the cover), with reference to Sam Staggs’ book, All About All About Eve. Not to be confused with the British title of the same name, Closer USA is also sold in some UK newsagents. (Incidentally, many Closer articles about Marilyn have been reprinted in the National Enquirer‘s global edition, so watch out for that too.)

“In addition to the Hollywood veterans, All About Eve, which was based on Mary Orr’s short story The Wisdom of Eve, featured a performance from a then little-known blonde named Marilyn Monroe. George Sanders, who won a supporting actor Oscar for playing a sharp-tongued theater critic, claimed Bette took an instant dislike to Marilyn. ‘He said that Bette whispered after a shot, within poor Marilyn’s hearing, “That little blonde can’t act her way out of a paper bag,”‘ recounts Staggs, who doubts the story is true. ‘Marilyn was a starlet at the time, and nobody guessed she was going to become a megastar. I don’t think Bette would go out of her way to insult a young woman who was obviously very timid.'”

Some thoughtful observations from the formidable Miss Davis on Marilyn’s performance and later stardom are featured in Boze Hadleigh’s book, Marilyn Forever.

“She was very good, portraying Miss Caswell, an actress who can’t act. Miss Monroe was a clever comedienne … On the set she didn’t stand out in any way. She just did her job, seemed sweet, and left. Nobody guessed what she would become. I think she was more impressive on camera than in person.”

Bette also commented on the nude calendar for which Marilyn had posed prior to All About Eve. As her star continued to rise, the discovery of the nude photos briefly threatened Marilyn’s career, but Marilyn won over the public by admitting she wasn’t ashamed and had needed the money at the time.

“Miss Monroe had comic talent and developed her camera presence. Initially, she was in that vast category of employability-by-way-of-looks, which most female newcomers fall into. As opposed to the talent category. Talent lasts longer and increases with time. The limited shelf life on the good looks of any actress may lead her to do unwise things that can stall a career or shatter an image. I did think at the time that those nudies would do Marilyn Monroe in … I’m glad they didn’t.”

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