This post is part of a fun experiment in which I watch a movie from each release year from 1941 to 2016 to see how movies, and our world, have changed. You don’t have to read the previous entries to understand this one, but if you’d like to see the progression, click here to see the full list as it stands or click the “75 Years of Film” category and go to the last page. Enjoy!
It’s not because of Bette Davis, it’s not because of that famous line “Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night,” it’s not because it’s a classic you have to see before you die. I wanted to watch this movie because it has George Sanders, the voice of Sher Khan in The Jungle Book.
Don’t judge me, his voice is awesome! And this movie was pretty famous, too, so okay, we’ll give it a shot.
Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is a theater superstar who takes a shine to the sweet and naive young Eve (Anne Baxter) and invites her into her life. But Eve begins to weave a web around Margo and all her friends in order to claim her one desire: Margo’s spotlight.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
Extremely. It’s been highly applauded by countless critics, and it’s Bette Davis’s defining role. Snappy dialogue, intrigue, suspense, and great acting all around. Davis is intimidating yet fragile, Baxter is creepy, and yes, George Sanders’ velvety bass provides for some great moments when he becomes a strange sort of hero-villain.
When writing these posts, I think about what makes this film unique to this time period. What would prevent it from being remade today with the same fanfare?
Here, that answer is…the snoot factor.
Have you ever notice how older movies are just a tad…haughty? The way they talk, the way they carry themselves, it all seems just one shade above normal. Like they have their noses up unintentionally.
Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying they’re all arrogant tools. In fact, I kind of like this film snootiness. It gives them a sort of class that you couldn’t duplicate in a modern film. Everything would be more…well…common, and it wouldn’t be the same.
Bette Davis would not be the same as a down-to-earth girl. She’s flippant, snappy, and proud, all things that give her character the perfect edge. Anne Baxter is eerily calm and doe-eyed, masking a sinister nature, and George Sanders is so composed he almost needs a monocle.
Today? Davis would be a fast-talking, insufferable wench; Baxter would be a mouth-breather; and Sanders would be a terrifying hipster. It just plain wouldn’t work.
Lightning never strikes twice, they say, and great movies sometimes work because of the time period in which they were made. Maybe people and actors simple talked that way back in 1950, who knows? But you can’t replicate it today without seeming stuffy…or rather, snooty.
And in my opinion, this un-repeatable “snoot factor” gives this movie a classy edge and makes it timeless.
MAJOR EVENTS IN 1950 (source):
Jan 26–India becomes its own republic.
Mar 17–Element 98, Californium, announced (and poorly named).
Jun 25–Korean conflict begins with North Korea invading South Korea.
Aug 19–ABC begins Saturday morning kids’ shows.
Sep 22–Nobel Peace Prize awarded to first black winner, Ralph Bunche.
Oct 2–First “Peanuts” comic strip appears in papers.
Oct 16–First edition of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe debuts.
Oct 26–Missionary Mother Theresa founds Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India.
Various–Red Scare already in effect as communists across the globe are discovered and removed.
OTHER MOVIES RELEASED IN 1950 (source):
In a Lonely Place
PREVOUS: 1949–The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
NEXT: 1951–African Queen