The allure of fame in Mary Orr's short story the Wisdom of Eve

Categories: Short Story

The allure of fame and fortune could be as strong as an addiction to a drug. It's like this insatiable desire that many wish they had. For most, it's a fantasy, and only in that dream could they begin to imagine what it would be like to be known and cherished by all. While majority of people don't get to play out the famous role, there are few who do. When the temptation is strong, people are ambitious to get what they want.

There is this saying from Macbeth that "fair is foul is foul and foul is fair" which is the idea that looks can be deceiving especially when there's an ambition for power or in this instance, fame. This idea is conveyed in Mary Orr's short story the Wisdom of Eve and its movie adaption All about Eve. Both work depict Eve who as the embodiment of manipulation and drive. She will do just about everything to make her way to the top, to be a star.

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While sticking to the original story, the director of the movie, Joseph Mankiewicz does an amazing job with his film interpretation and is able to show his audience the full world of theatre from all of its glamour to the underhanded deception. When it comes to the movie, I believe it is that first scene, the opening is pivotal to the movie. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come that none would suspect and leaves viewers on the edge of their seats.

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The movie all starts at the Sarah Siddons Award ceremony. An old man is presenting Eve with an award. She is recognized as a young girl who has accomplished what is known as success in the world of theater. It's important to notice that though Eve was being awarded she is not seen right away. What the audience initially sees, besides the old man talking, are people sitting at tables, dressed up and drinking champagne. The awards ceremony is set as a place where everyone is successful and entitled. With that role comes a sense of snobby-ness. The narrator is revealed via voice over as Addison DeWitt. Right away he is there to lead the narration of the story and entices the audience to come into this world and see it for what it really is. He is a high up theater critic as he states in the opening how he "is essential to the theater". It's important to take note the way he says this, because his voice and tone in addition to the famous people in the background and the awards give the viewers on the pretentious environment that is being introduced. DeWitt's tone is cynical and gives an insight into this private world. The tone he uses makes it seem like a joke. With this sarcastic tone, the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, aims that his movie delves into the absurdities that is the theater world. He does so in a satirical way that make us want to be involved in the story while also being aware of all of its exclusive craziness.

As before every award presentation there is a speech usually talking about the meaning of the award and success of its recipient. This happens in the first scene of All About Eve. As introduced by Dewitt, there is an old man (who happens to be an actor) doing his duty in presenting the Siddons award. In his speech he quotes Macbeth, "he says a poor player ... that struts and frets his hour upon the stage" as well he specifically mentions in his speech that Eve is young "Such young hands. Such a young lady". This is interesting because soon after the camera zooms into a pair of youthful looking hands. These hands belong to the young lady, Eve. For those who have read Orr's short story, they are aware that Eve is manipulative, young, beautiful and has that strong ambition where she will get her hands dirty to achieve her goals.

With that knowledge, there is a connection to be made on the symbolism of the zoomed in hands in addition to the Macbeth reference in the speech. In Shakespeare's novel Macbeth, there is big connection with hands. Here, the director might've added that line from Macbeth and put the hands as a Macbeth reference to suggest a connection between Macbeth and Eve. The young hands are symbolic of Lady Macbeth. She was a lady who did whatever she must to get what she wanted, going as far as murder. It can be assumed that like Lady Macbeth with her ambition and deceitful ways, so too the person here, Eve, would also share those qualities. Furthermore, if you know the play then you would know that what that actor quoted is from a soliloquy that Macbeth says at the end of the play. He is saying that actors strive for the spotlight and they worry so much about being there and staying there, but sooner or later it'll cease to exist. With Macbeth being a prominent theme in the movie it can be assumed that the director chose those words to hint at the future of this actress and all others. From this scene both references are a foreshadowing for what's to come of Eve's true nature.

As well as there being the comparison between Eve and Lady Macbeth if you think deeper there is the origin of the name Eve. It is mentioned by DeWitt that "you'll learn all about Eve, in fact" This is a reference to the first Eve. Her story is that she was knowledgeable and tricked her husband into eating from the tree of knowledge when that was the one thing she wasn't supposed to do. Her story didn't end well as she was caught in the act. When hearing how Eve is all knowing its symbolic to her first of its name and it should be a hint that like the first Eve this one will also have done something bad. The scene ends with Dewitt commenting on Eve. "You all know all about eve, what is there to know that you don't know" He insinuates that there's way more to the story. If you were to compare the Eve's then perhaps, like the original, the rest of Eve's story would include trickery and deceit.

When anyone receives an award there are the usual flashes from the cameras, people clapping with their support and the excited faces of the audience. While this may be true, there is a clear difference in how Eve's award was presented. When the old man talks about Eve, she is not shown until the end of it. What is shown are the other main characters as introduced my DeWitt. When the old man presenter describes Eve, and "her deep and abiding love for us", the camera then goes to Margo. She didn't have any expression on her face and instead looks down at her drink. It's like shes trying to conceal what she really feels about what this guy is saying. When the old actor finally finishes his speech, everyone starts clapping and the camera finally shows Eve.

She looks radiant and sweet, obviously overjoyed to be receiving this nomination. At the same time the camera shows everyone clapping at the tables, the waiters took their part , the presenter and even the critic himself. Everyone seems happy until, the camera goes back to Margo and Karen, both of whom seem to be the only ones not clapping. Instead they both seem to be looking at Eve, with deep thought. The way the film makes a point to close up on the faces of Eve's friends is disconcerting. If the viewers were to really think about the faces initially, you would realize how odd it is for the friends of someone who was receiving a prestigious award to look so unfriendly. The way the camera stops to show this, it is another foreshadowing of Eve's character, because friends would be happier for their friend, not display no emotions at all, unless they had been hurt by her or weren't really friends at all. The close- ups of everybody gives the watchers an insight onto how everyone feels about Eve.

As the scene comes to a close with Eve about to receive her award, shes about to have it in her hands everything freezes, it turns into a still picture. The screen becomes an image of Eve about to receive her award, its merely inches away and its quiet for just a moment until Addison DeWitt starts to talk again. When this happens, it's clear to the viewers that they don't know everything. They would have to learn what happened through flashbacks all of whom led up to that point. The director makes it clear that the audience doesn't know as much as they think they know. When the screen pauses on Eve accepting her award and it shows the audience that we don't really know Eve, but the voiceover suggests that we shouldn't trust her.

From just the first couple minutes of the film, the audience learns quite a lot. They are introduced to all the characters and are able to learn a little about how the story will be told. It isn't exactly the way Mary Orr's story plays out. Instead of being in a car and speaking of the story, Joseph Mankiewicz has his movie play out the events of that story. Characters are not exactly the same and the award scene itself is not even in The Wisdom of eve. Yet, I think for the way Mankiewicz reinterprets the play it's a pivotal scene. He starts with the last scene and circles back to it. He wants the audience to believe they know what's going to happen, yet the entire time he is able to keep them on their toes. His use of narratives and the ways the camera shots were setup really bring the audience into the movie. It's as if they can be there watching it as it happens. He has this was of keeping his audience in suspense the entire time. In this first scene, he does that with the close ups of everyone, Dewitt's cynical voiceover and the Macbeth parallels. It suggests there is more to the story, but it may be more sinister then they can anticipate.

This awards ceremony is pivotal to understanding the rest of the movie. It's that first scene that really sets the stage for the movie and draws the audience in. Even from the beginning the way that Mankiewicz tells his story is through multi narration. We are told the story through different narratives, this means that those views are subjective to each individual pertaining to how it was the Eve affected them. The camera shots seem to want to convey the message that the audience isn't completely submerged into their world and that the watchers should be careful when watching. It shows to be understood that the movie should be watched with the idea that there's more than meets the eye. Things aren't as black and white as they seem, and the audience should be watching and keeping and mind that there is a lot of grey area that can't be understood at first glance

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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The allure of fame in Mary Orr's short story the Wisdom of Eve. (2019, Nov 25). Retrieved from

The allure of fame in Mary Orr's short story the Wisdom of Eve essay
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