The Opening Scene of AAE

Much about Eve is suggested visually in the opening scene, which takes place at a formal function in which she is about to be awarded for "distinguished achievement" in stage acting. While the master of ceremonies lauds her "humility, her devotion, her loyalty . . . her deep and abiding love for us", the camera cuts to silent expressions on the faces of those who, we soon discover, know her intimately – and the camera is not kind in its observation of cynicism and disgust.

Throughout this opening sequence, what we see and hear is guided by the first-person voice-over narration of the improbably yet suitably named, arrogant and vicious theatre critic, Addison DeWitt. This man sees all and knows all; when Eve rises to receive her prize, it is his point-of-view camera gaze that exposes the seething emotions of her "friends" in the audience.

It is DeWitt's narration that controls the way in which Eve's story is told, and the sequencing of events, for as she extends her hands to grasp the award, DeWitt is granted the power to step out of his role as a character in the story, to freeze the film frame. In so doing, the onward-thrusting movement of narrative – Eve's ever-so-humble acceptance speech one minute later in story-time – is delayed until much later in narration and screen-time, via the "unfreezing" of the frame, shortly before the film's conclusion.

Artistic/Literary References:

Sarah Siddons (5 July 1755 – 8 June 1831) was a Welsh-born English actress, the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. She was most famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character, Lady Macbeth, a character she made her own, and for famously fainting at the sight of the Elgin Marbles in London.[ The Society continues to present the in Chicago every year to a prominent actress (the award was fictional at the time of All About Eve)

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted his famous portrait, "Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse" in 1784.

In 1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz used the portrait extensively in All About Eve. The portrait itself is hung at the top of the entrance staircase to Margo's apartment where it is seen at various times throughout the party scene, from Addison and Claudia's arrival to the close-up of it with which the scene ends. Additionally, he invented the (then) fictitious Sarah Siddons Society and its award, which is a statuette modelled upon the painting. The film opens with a close-up of the award, and ends with Phoebe holding it.

Macbeth

MACBETH

She should have died hereafter.

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.