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Bette Davis was Hollywood royalty, so respected that she was named the very first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was also so independent that she resigned when the Academy wouldn’t let her open the 1942 Oscars to the public and donate the proceeds to British war relief. After her resignation, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck said she would never work in Hollywood again. But there he was, eight years later, signing her to play the lead role of Margo Channing in All About Eve. It was a risky project, untouched for years by studios who were uneasy about its unflattering presentation of showbiz as a world of lying, opportunistic, backstabbing scum. No business like it, indeed.
The film was fittingly released the same year as Sunset Blvd., where Billy Wilder cast just as cynical a lens on the film industry. Thus 1950 will forever stand as the year that show business was its most self-reflexive and its most self-critical. While Sunset Blvd. usually ranks slightly higher on best lists today, it was All About Eve that dominated in 1950, garnering a record 14 Academy Award nominations (tied with Titanic for the most in history) and winning six, including Best Picture (Zanuck), Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay (Mankiewicz) and Best Actor (George Sanders). Continue reading