‘All About Eve’: In the Beginning

As Joseph Owen notes in the Portland Press Herald, All About Eve opened in the US on October 13, 1950. Seventy years on, this classic backstage drama – which gave Marilyn one of her first significant roles, as a naive but ambitious starlet, Claudia Caswell – remains one of the most acclaimed Hollywood films of all time.

In 2019, All About Eve was given a deluxe Blu-Ray release by the Criterion Collection. This year, its 70th anniversary has been marked by the American Film Institute, The Independent, Crazy For You, Closer Weekly, the Los Angeles Blade, plus Classic Movie Hub and Nerd Daily.

Marilyn did not attend the premiere, as she had an early start at work the next day. However, she would present the Academy Award for Best Sound Recording to Thomas J. Moulton in 1951, one of ten Oscars for All About Eve (and the only time Marilyn would attend the ceremony.)

In the Hollywood Reporter, Thomas Doherty reveals how All About Eve was used as part of drive to encourage moviegoers to watch films from the start (rather than walking in at their leisure), although this would not become standard practice for another decade.

“In 1950, Twentieth Century-Fox producer Darryl F. Zanuck and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz learned how difficult it was to change the time clock of American moviegoers. Knowing they had something special on their hands, the pair required exhibitors who wanted to book All About Eve to sign a contract whereby ‘no patron is to be seated after the picture starts’ and ‘at the conclusion of each performance the theater is to be cleared.’ The Fox publicity team assured moviegoers that the ‘utter fascination and charm’ of All About Eve ‘were immeasurably due to the fact that we were seeing it the only way it should be seen — from the beginning.’

The venue chosen for the experiment was the legendary 6,000-seat Roxy Theatre, where All About Eve premiered on Oct. 13, 1950. None other than Spyros P. Skouras, president of 20th Century Fox, was enrolled to encourage compliance. ‘Because the beginning of this picture is the ending, it would spoil any audience’s enjoyment of it not to see it from the beginning,’ he said, guilelessly spoiling the narrative device.

All About Eve drew big crowds and initial public reaction was said to be positive: People enjoyed seeing the flashed-back story from the beginning without having latecomers crawling over them to get a seat.

But after only four days Fox pulled the plug. Located just off the busy Times Square thoroughfare, the Roxy usually drew a huge ‘drop-in trade’ of pedestrians attracted by the lobby displays. The impulse moviegoers simply refused to wait around for the next show and went instead to nearby movie houses, which obligingly let them in when they showed up. A sorrowful Fox statement conceded that ‘you can’t break with one engagement the half-century-old habit of patrons going to the movies when they like, or on the impulse of the moment.'”

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