All About Eve (1950) Screenplay Analysis


All About Eve (1950), written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, ranked #16 on AFI’s list of 100 years… 100 movies.

Script Formatting Notes

  • Draft Read: Unknown
  • Type: Shooting
  • Page Count: 149
  • Reading Speed: Medium
  • Setting(s): NYC, Connecticut, Mid-Atlantic Countryside
  • Plot Structure: Nonlinear, Spanning multiple months
  • Genre(s): Unclear, Mostly drama, Comedy
  • Theme(s): Love, Perspective, Narcissism/Manipulation, interpersonal conflict, Gender roles
  • Protagonist Change: Minimal (debatable)

Overall Thoughts

All about Eve. It took a while to get through it. The screenplay is like an onion. It’s all about perspective. As we delve deeper into the story, we realize who is being honest (basically no one), who is backstabbing who, and who Eve Harrington truly is.

Like many classic films, the screenplay for All About Eve feels dated. That doesn’t mean the characters, the conflict, or the themes are, many of them are not, but the writing, with many one-liners, does. The film came out a decade earlier than The Apartment (1960), and it certainly reads like it is from another civilized and more elegant era.

Script Strengths

Well-developed characters? Check. Witty dialogue? Check. A unique (probably more so at the time) plot structure with ideally placed voiceovers? Check. Deeper themes that a good soul analyzed on Wikipedia? Check.

There are so many back-and-forths that demonstrate Mankiewicz’s master of craft. Here’s one on Page 87:

LLOYD

Karen, let me tell you about Eve. She’s got everything – a born actress. Sensitive, understanding, young, exciting, vibrant-

KAREN

Don’t run out of adjectives, dear.

LLOYD

– Everything a playwright first thinks of wanting to write about…

Script Neutrals

The plot in the first half of the script did, at times, feel somewhat slow. I do wonder why we start with the flash forward since it tells us that Eve rises to the top, which adds to the script’s slower-moving pace. Then again, the film is pure drama (If you want action, watch Extraction 2 (2023)).

Script Weaknesses

There are some lines that don’t hold up all that well, although it may be that they were intentionally gross in 1950, since an ongoing theme is powerful chauvinistic men taking advantage of women. Page 31:

MARGO

I don’t want to be childish, I’d settle for just a few years-

(Later)

BILLL

At this moment you’re six years old…

He starts to kiss her.

Plot

The plot goes full circle and as noted, it’s told in a nonlinear way. Eve replaces Margo only for the former’s fall to commence as Phoebe enters the scene.

Characters

All of the characters, even the minor supporting cast, are clearly well-developed. Eve is perhaps the most complex protagonist I have read in a screenplay. She’s one of those people you are supposed to dislike, but still feel empathy for.

Dialogue & Pacing

The dialogue is witty, edgy and filled with sas. A one-liner on Page 28:

BILL

Real diamonds in a wig. The world we live in…

I covered pacing in the above sections.

Emotional Impact

It’s a relatable screenplay because many of the themes explored are relevant (perhaps even more so) today. There are still powerful evil men and women are sadly still not treated as well as men, both in professional work and many times in their personal lives.

Best Part of The Script

The sequence in which Addison confronts Eve (Page 129, 86% of the way through the script) is worth a read. The dialogue is brilliant as there is a sudden reversal of power and the scenes are filled with intense moments of emotion.


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