Saturday, March 30, 2013

Applause: The Bitch Review

Dear Muse,

I never thought I would loathe another character as much as I loathe Carrie Meeber (see Thoroughly Modern Millie rant). That is, until I saw All About Eve. Thank you, Eve Harrington, for proving me wrong. You are a total bitch.

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

By now, you've probably read my Applause star review, and thus know the plot of All About Eve. What I didn't elaborate on in my last post was the horrible things Eve does to betray Margo. First, she makes herself an assistant to Margo so that she can study her behaviorisms and acting, and replace her as a younger, more beautiful understudy in her shows. After upstaging (no pun intended) her mentor, she slanders her in every newspaper. Then she tries to steal Margo's lover and blackmail her friends. And even that's not as bad as she gets. Did I mention the parts involving family abandonment, seduction and adultery? No? Watch the movie to find out more about those. She's as evil and unrepentant as they come.

Needless to say, I have anger issues with Miss Eve Harrington.

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

Eve's bitchiness doesn't change that much when adapted for the musical Applause. Does this mean I hate the movie and musical versions of Eve equally? Welllll.... there actually seems less to hate about Applause's Eve. Why is that?

For one thing, I'm a sucker for anyone who sings well. Unfortunately, Eve has one really nice solo ("The Best Night of My Life"). Yes, I know that what she's saying is done to kiss up to Margo. Yes, I know that none of it's sincere. But she's got such a good voice, dammit. Point goes to her musical seduction.

Another thing that makes Applause's Eve more sympathetic is the tiny backstory she presents in "One Hallowe'en." In All About Eve, I never really understood why Eve did such rotten things. She had no sad history; the only cause for her evil behavior seemed to be her ambition. That's not good enough to make me feel sorry for her. (I only felt sorry for her at the end of the film, after Addison gave her a Breaking Lecture. After, mind you, not during - watching him break her down was immensely satisfying.)

In "One Hallowe'en," however, Applause's Eve suggests that her father's scathing criticism of her 9-year-old self on Halloween turned her into a rebel. She became highly ambitious because she wanted to defy her father; to prove to him that dressing up and acting can make you successful. Sadly, her drive to succeed pushed her way beyond moral limits. So, in Applause, Eve wasn't an all-natural bitch: she was the warped result of a troubled childhood.

There's just one problem with the song. It's a big problem, because without this one aspect the song might have encouraged me to forgive Applause's Eve of her sins. That problem is the song's context.

See, Eve sings "One Hallowe'en" right when she's at the peak of success: she's become an overnight star, has fame and fortune, and has snared one of Margo's friends to help her in her rising career. And, just as she did when she studied Margo before, Eve imitates Margo in the second half of her song. While the first half of "One Hallowe'en" slowly describes a bitter childhood memory, the second half bursts into a rapid, gloating echo of Margo's earlier "But Alive" (see previous post). Unlike Margo's lyrics, which were about breaking loose and enjoying a night on the town, the lyrics here are distorted into a queen bee's victory crow:

Well damn you daddy
Look at your little girl now!
She feels twitchy and bitchy and manic
Calm and collected, no sign of panic
She's alive, she's alive, she's alive
So alive
Everybody loves a winner but nobody loves a flop
No one worries how you got there once you're standing on the top
So I feel up and together and steady
Eager, excited, so come on I'm ready
Ready for the climb
Baby it's my time
You believe it! I'm alive
                                                                              Source: via Ariel on Pinterest
(Full lyrics transcribed here.)

Eve's reference to Margo in the line, "Everybody loves a winner but nobody loves a flop," after everything Margo has done for her, is like a backhanded slap in the face to her mentor. How dare she steal Margo's song and twist it with her nasty words!! The whole second half of "One Hallowe'en" is downright insulting. If I felt sorry for Eve in the earlier part of this song, I hate her again after hearing this part. It reeks of all the unbridled ambition her corrupted film self exposed in All About Eve.

Ultimately, I can feel a little sorrier for the Eve in Applause than the one in All About Eve - but not too much sorrier. Not even Penny Fuller's pretty voice can excuse the musical's character. At least I can agree with Eve on one point - when she talks about being "twitchy and bitchy and manic," she couldn't be more right.


                                                                                       Until next time's non-showtunes discussion,

P.S. Bit of random trivia: Anne Baxter, who played Eve in All About Eve, later replaced Lauren Bacall as Margo in the 1971 run of Applause. Isn't that ironic? The actress who originally played a girl who replaces an aging actress, actually replaced an aging actress to become the star of the show. Kind of like Eve's rising-star story was finally realized in Baxter's becoming Margo... except not really... but don't think about it too hard, or you'll get dizzy.


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