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ALL ABOUT EVE – Alfred Newman

October 19, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1949 renowned director Joseph Mankiewicz envisioned for his next project a story about an aging actress. By chance he came upon a short story “The Wisdom of Eve” by actress Mary Orr, published in the May 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan, which piqued his interest. He contacted 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl Zanuck who was receptive, and was given the green light to proceed with the project. Zanuck agreed to produce the film and provided a generous $1.4 million budget. Mankiewicz would not only direct, but also write the screenplay, which was significantly edited to incorporate numerous suggestions for improvement offered by Zanuck. Casting the lead role was challenging to fill with Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrude Lawrence and Claudette Colbert all considered before Mankiewicz finally selected Bette Davis. Joining her would be Anne Baxter as Eve Harington, Gary Merrill as Bill Sampson, George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, Celeste Holm as Karen Richards, and Hugh Marlowe as Lloyd Richards.

The story concerns aging Broadway star Margo Channing who has just turned 40 and wonders if her best days are behind her. An aspiring actress Eve Harrington, who masquerades as an adoring fan, cleverly maneuvers herself into Margo’s inner circle, which includes her director boyfriend Bill Sampson and playwright Lloyd Richards and his wife Karen. She becomes Margo’s personal secretary in the guise of her most adoring fan. Eve is manipulative and utterly unscrupulous, using Margo and her friends as mere tools to advance her career. She becomes Margo’s understudy, and eventually succeeds through blackmail in landing the lead role in a Broadway play. She causes discord in both Margo’s and Karen’s marriages by making sexual advances on both husbands. Thanks to Karen, Eve finally realizes her ambition and becomes a Broadway star. Yet what goes around, comes around, when a young, adoring fan Phoebe worms her way into Eve’s life, with the film ending revealing her donning Eve’s award-winning gown and posing with her award in front of her bedroom mirror. The film was a massive commercial success, earning 20th Century Fox $8.4 million, more than six times its production cost of $1.4 million. It received universal critical acclaim, resurrected Bette Davis’ career, and secured an astounding fourteen Academy Award nominations including; two for Best Actress, two for Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Film Score, winning six for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Supporting Actor. The film’s legacy is assured as it was selected by the United States Library of Congress as one of the first 50 films deemed worthy of preservation. In 1998 it was ranked 16th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films list.

Mankiewicz had enjoyed each of his three previous collaborations with Alfred Newman, Dragonwyck (1946), A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and Now Way Out (1950), and so he was the natural choice for the project. Newman understood that this was a character dialogue driven drama with potent overt and covert emotional drivers. The dialogue and sardonic humor would drive the film with his music spotted judiciously. His leitmotifs were attuned not so much to the character, but rather their emotional drivers. To support his soundscape, he composed five themes. The Theatre Theme supports the central focus of the film’s narrative, the coveted stage for which Margo, Eve and Phoebe aspire. Newman varies its articulation and attunes it to the scene’s emotional dynamics. In the Main Title it presents as grand fanfare, in Exit Music it unfolds as a processione maestoso, while in Encore it is vibrant and celebratory.

Eve’s Theme offers perhaps the scores most beautiful theme. It’s repeating five-note phrasing by solo violin tenero with woodwind adornment is exquisite. Yet it speaks to her persona, the face she presents to the world, not the ruthless and unscrupulous woman underneath the veneer. Margo’s Theme serves as her identity, though unlike Eve’s Theme it is forthright and genuine. Woodwinds gentile and soft strings delicato unfold with a tender beauty. Sometimes the strings take up the melody with woodwinds gently attending. Karen’s Theme emotes with an ever-present intangible tinge of sadness. We discern in the film that this sadness becomes more pronounced as Eve blackmails and almost breaks up her marriage to Lloyd. Oboe or flute doloroso carry the melody attended by soft strings gentile. Lastly, we have Phoebe’s Theme, which is derived from, and kindred to Eve’s Theme, shorn of one note. It is string borne and emotes with the same sensibilities as Eve’s Theme, which is unsurprising as she covets what Eve is. I observe that all four melodies for Margo, Eve, Karen and Phoebe are kindred by Newman’s design as they all share a common love for the stage.

The film opens with “Main Title” a wonderful score highlight, where Newman introduces three of his primary themes. As the 20th Century Fox studio logo displays the Theatre Theme resounds as grand fanfare declarations, which are kindred to, and replace Newman’s iconic 20th Century fanfare. There follows spirited thematic interplay with Eve’s Theme as we see the roll of the opening credits. At 0:51 we conclude with a brief quote of Karen’s Theme’s that end the credits with a bold flourish.

In “Prologue” acerbic narration by George Sanders supports a close up of “The Sarah Siddons Award” statuette, engraved with Eve Harrington’s name, which is given to the stage actor of the year for distinguished achievement. A stately, and reverent rendering of the Theatre Theme supports his narration. At 0:48 we transition to a danza esotica as we hear a history of the awards. At 1:11 a discordant oboe emotes Eve’s Theme as Sanders speaks of the award recipient Eve Harrington. Yet its consonance returns and we are graced by a violins romantico as credit is offered to the team that helped create her success. At 1:37 a pretentious woodwind interlude supports the narrator introducing himself as Addison DeWitt, a renowned theater critic. At 1:54 a solo flute tenero emotes Karen’s Theme as he describes how she came to be playwright Lloyd Richards wife. The music shifts and becomes sour as the play’s producers are introduced. As Sanders speaks of Margo at 2:39, a warm rendering of her theme with metallic accents supports as he extols her talent and rise to stardom. We close with a proud rendering of the Theater Theme and a profound juxtaposition as the president extols the talent and achievement of Eve Harrington, as the camera shifts from one face to another in the audience, all ranging from at best incredulous, to outright disgust. Newman’s nuanced scoring of this scene was masterful.

“The Award” reveals a grateful Eve being presented the award as most of the audience claps, with Margo and Karen obviously not supportive. Newman supports the moment with a sumptuous rendering of Eve’s Theme, but all is not right as a contrapuntal flute weaves a subtle discord. At 0:28 we shift to Karen who thinks back to when Eve first came into their lives supported by her theme now tinged with regret. As we hear her thoughts, we flashback to that day when Eve and Karen met. In “Eve’s Narration” we see the theater billboard displaying “Margo Channing in Aged in Wood”. Karen runs into Eve, who relates that she adores Margo and has seen every performance. Karen makes a fateful decision to bring her back stage and introduce her. Margo and Lloyd are fascinated by her devotion to her and his plays. They ask about her background, and as she speaks of her life in Wisconsin, Eve’s Theme enters on sumptuous strings. At 0:32 her theme becomes beleaguered as she relates a difficult life working as a secretary in a brewery. The music brightens at 1:06 when she says she met a man named Eddie, a radio technician whom she married. He soon shipped off to war and when he finally got shore leave approved, she went to San Francisco to meet him. Yet the music becomes plaintive at 1:27 when she receives word that Eddie died in action. Her theme enters at 1:41 to support the ray of hope that came into her life, Margo’s performance in “Remembrance” at the local theater. Her story moved Margo to tears and made a sympathetic impression on Karen and Lloyd. Newman’s music was perfectly attenuated, reinforced her storytelling emotionally, and made the scene poignant.

“The Friendship Begins” reveals Karen asking Eve to think of her as a friend as she and Lloyd depart for the night. A prelude of happiness ushers in Karen’s Theme on warm strings to support their departure. As Eve sits with Bill, waiting for Margo to dress, a gentle woodwind rendering of her theme speaks of her contentment. In “Margo” she relates that Eve has moved in and become her assistant. A warm rendering of Margo’s Theme supports her narration. The music sours at 0:10 as Birdie has to maneuver around Eve with the breakfast service. Strings of happiness enter at 0:19 as Eve answers the phone and screens the caller for a thankful Margo. Birdie, who believes she has been marginalized, looks on perturbed. We end on a diminuendo of disquiet as a visibly upset Birdie stomps off. “Exit Music” offers a score highlight, which reveals Margo completing another performance as an adoring Eve looks on from side stage. Eve offers effusive praise and they return to Margo’s dressing room. Eve has installed new curtains, which Margo loves and offers to take her dress to wardrobe, which Margo allows. After she departs Birdie reminds Margo of union rules and Margo leaves to find Eve. She discovers her holding her dress pressed up against her taking encore curtsies in a mirror. We see that Margo views this as innocent as she takes back the dress. Newman supports the scene featuring Margo’s royalty as queen of the stage with a majestic extended rendering of the Theater Theme in all its splendor, ending in a fanfare flourish.

“The Party” reveals Birdie disclosing to Margo that she does not like Eve, who she feels is studying her for her own designs. Margo is not receptive, and the conversation ends when Eve arrives with the daily errands. When questioned, Eve admits to arranging on her own initiative the midnight birthday call to Bill and to sending him telegrams. As she departs, we see for the first-time concern in Margo’s eyes, which Newman supports with repeated disquieting statements of Eve’s Theme, which ends with a four-note tension motif. Before the party Eve becomes jealous that Bill stayed with Eve downstairs rather than come see her in her room. She sends Eve to check on the hors d’oeuvre and proceeds to argue with Bill who takes offense with her paranoia. The guests arrive supported by “A Theme for Piano”, which offers diegetic piano music that supports the party ambiance. We flow seamlessly into “Liebestraum 1 & 2” where Newman interpolates the Franz Liszt piece first on piano and then on violin, again as diegetic party music.

“Eve’s Dream” reveals Eve voicing her aspirations for the stage, of the crowds adoring eyes, of feeling a sense of belonging. We see that she is not speaking to the other guests but instead as though she was in a trance on a stage acting. Newman supports with a gorgeous repetition of Eve’s Theme, with the melody passed from strings and flute, to violins and contrapuntal strings, to flute and strings. “The Audition” reveals Eve has had a stunning audition for the position of Margo’s understudy. A flowery, embellished rendering of her theme supports the moment. At 0:10 the music sours as Margo finds out from Addison that Eve gave a riveting performance and is now officially her understudy. “Margo & Bill” reveals Margo has had enough and tears into Eve, Lloyd, Max and finally Bill. They all depart save Bill on bad terms. Bill then does all in his power to convince Margo to relent from her paranoia regarding him and Eve. He fervently compliments her, professes his love, even offering to marry her if she would only believe him. Yet she will not relent and so he ends their relationship and sadly departs. A molto tragico rendering of Margo’s Theme enters in the aftermath of Bill’s departure as she weeps in the empty theater. At 0:18 we change scenes to Karen’s home, where she is painting, supported by a solo flute tenero emoting her theme.

“Karen’s Decision” offers a fine score highlight with splendid thematic interplay. It reveals Karen advising Lloyd that they are joining Bill and Margo for a weekend getaway in the country. He expresses his frustration with Margo, yet agrees to go. Karen believes that Margo needs a good kick in the butt to bring her to her back to her senses and hatches a plot with a phone call to Eve. Newman supports the scene with beautiful interplay of Karen’s and Eve’s Themes with woodwinds gentile and warm strings tenero. “Beau Soir” reveals their car running out of gas and Lloyd hiking to the nearest gas station. While he is gone Margo bears her heart to Karen; her fear of aging, and love for Bill. Newman supports the moment with Claude Debussy’s sumptuously romantic “Beau Soir” played diegetically from the car radio. In “Eve’s Success” she gives a sterling performance praised by the critics and audience alike. Karen’s deliberate draining of gas from the car caused Eve to miss her curtain call, thereby giving Eve her chance – Margot’s kick in the butt. With Karen the architect of this performance, Newman supports Eve’s success with interplay of Karen and Eve’s Themes which entwine in a tender woodwind pastorale.

“Karen’s Guilt” reveals Karen at a restaurant waiting to have lunch with Margo when Addison and Eve show up. He gives her a copy of his article on Eve’s performance and departs. The column praises Eve’s performance and offers a searing rebuke of aged actresses who continue to play younger parts. Karen is devastated and Newman supports with a plaintive entwining of her and Eve’s Theme’s. In “Margo & Bill’s Reconciliation” Karen has gone to Margo to comfort her. Margot is raging at Addison’s affront and plots revenge against both him and Eve. Bill enters and states he came to her as soon as he read Addison’s filth. They embrace and reconcile supported by a lush, string borne romantic rendering of her theme. Margo, Bill, Karen and Lloyd are dining to celebrate Bill’s proposal to Margo when Karen receives a letter to meet Eve in the lady’s room. At Margo’s insistence she agrees. Eve apologizes for Addison’s column, which Karen initially rejects, but is eventually won over. At that moment Eve demands a favor, that she get the role of Cora in Lloyd’s new play “Footsteps On The Ceiling”. She then threatens to have Addison publish the story of how she caused Margo to miss her performance thus giving her, her big break. Karen is devastated by the blackmail as a confident Eve departs. Back at the table Karen is stunned and relieved when Margo declares that she does not want to play Cora as she is too old for the part. This crucial scene was unscored.

“Karen’s Resignation” offers another score highlight. It reveals Bill directing Eve in Lloyd’s new play with angry conflicts arising between the two men. Karen, who is in attendance, witnesses the drama and the music emotes from here perspective, again supported by beautiful interplay of plaintive statements of her theme and dark renderings of Eve’s Theme. In “The Real Eve” Karen is in bed and her thoughts are sad, believing that Lloyd no longer loves her. The phone rings and Karen picks up the phone to hear a neighbor of Eve tell her that Eve is very distraught and crying uncontrollably. Lloyd gets on the phone and when she describes how distraught Eve is, he states that he is on his way. We see Karen’s jaw drop in sad acceptance of her worst fears being realized. The we see a calm, calculating Eve pat her neighbor on the back for her subterfuge. For the scene we have interplay of a plaintive Karen’s theme and a diabolical rendering of Eve’s Theme.

At her hotel room Eve informs Addison that Lloyd was leaving Karen and will marry her, which will ensure he career. “Eve’s photo” supports the aftermath of Addison’s devastating revelations of Eve’s past, her blackmail of Karen, and the countless lies she has used to advance herself at the expense of others. She sobs, seared by the knowledge that he could expose her and destroy her career. Her theme emotes molto tragico as he departs with the parting words that she will give the performance of a lifetime at tonight’s opening. At 0:15 a refulgent rendering of Eve’s Theme supports her receiving the Sarah Siddons Award, which is followed by her insufferable acceptance speech, where she offers effusive praise for Max, Karen, Margo, Bill and Llyod.

In “Phoebe’s Arrival” Eve refuses to go to Max’s party and instead goes home. A weary rendering of her theme supports her arrival. At 0:35 unbeknownst to Eve, we see Phoebe asleep on a chair as Eve walks to the bar and mixes a drink. Phoebe’s Theme supports the scene until it is abruptly severed by her discovery by Eve. Phoebe’s genuine charm disarms Eve’s impulse to call the police and she allows her to stay, taken in by her adoration. “All the Eves” offers a wondrous score highlight of exquisite beauty. It reveals Addison delivering Eve’s statuette and surprise meeting with Phoebe. When he asks her if she wants one of those someday, she answers yes. He instructs her that Eve is a master and will tell her how to get one. He departs, and when Phoebe informs Eve, she has the statuette, she is told to pack it for her. A gorgeous rendering of Eve’s Theme by solo violin and flute opens the scene, and blossoms into a sumptuous exposition. At 0:30 as Phoebe dons Eve’s ornate robe, hoists the award statuette and takes some bows, Eve’s Theme transforms into Phoebe’s Theme, which swells with pride. We close with a triumphant rendering of the Theater Theme as Phoebe revels in her fantasy as the trifold mirror displays dozens of images of Phoebe. We close gloriously upon Eve’s Theme, which ends the film with a flourish. “Encore” supports the roll of the End Credits and is empowered by a final celebratory rendering of the Theater Theme.

I would like to thank the late Nick Redman, Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly for this the first offering of Alfred Newman’s masterpiece “All About Eve” on CD. Although the recording provides monaural sound except for cues 25 and 26, I commend the digital mastering by Daniel Hersch. I believe despite this limitation, the beauty of Newman’s compositions still shines through. This was one of the finest characters, dialogue driven dramas ever made. Newman understood that his music should speak to the many overt and covert emotion drivers unfolding on the screen without being intrusive and distracting to the dialogue. I must say that he found the perfect balance and his music in scene after scene achieved a perfect confluence, which allowed Mankiewicz to realize his vision. The Theater Theme proudly established the foundation of the score, representing the stage, which was the setting of the drama. But it was the themes for the four actresses where the score shines. They are all kindred, emoted by strings and woodwinds, but also by their shared love of the stage. Masterful is as Eve’s and Karen’s character arcs changed in the course of the film, so too did their themes, with Eve’s becoming sinister, and Karen’s, more plaintive. Folks, this score is one of the finest in Newman’s canon and a masterpiece of the Golden Age. No one in Hollywood history could conduct like Alfred Newman, which is one of the reasons I recommend this album despite its monaural sound. Enjoy this fine score, but also take in the film where its genius is fully revealed.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a wonderful four minute suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhOxX2dnTjA

Buy the All About Eve soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:04)
  • Prologue (3:24)
  • The Award (1:13)
  • Eve’s Narration (2:43)
  • The Friendship Begins (0:27)
  • Margo (0:41)
  • Exit Music (1:48)
  • The Party (0:47)
  • A Theme for Piano (0:48)
  • Liebestraum 1&2 (written by Franz Listz) (1:16)
  • Eve’s Dream (0:45)
  • The Audition (0:22)
  • Margo & Bill (0:29)
  • Karen’s Decision (1:51)
  • Beau Soir (written by Claude Debussy) (2:02)
  • Eve’s Success (0:42)
  • Karen’s Guilt (0:32)
  • Margo & Bill’s Reconciliation (0:45)
  • Karen’s Resignation (1:21)
  • The Real Eve (0:36)
  • Eve’s Photo (0:25)
  • Phoebe’s Arrival (1:00)
  • All the Eves (1:38)
  • Encore (0:46)
  • All the Eves (Stereo) (1:39) – BONUS
  • Encore (Stereo) (0:46) – BONUS

Running Time: 30 minutes 43 seconds

Film Score Monthly FSM-0207 (1950/2000)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Edward Powell. Score produced by Alfred Newman. Album produced by Nick Redman and Lukas Kendall.

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