best film: All About Eve is not a film I think about when doing my top 100 of all-time so this is a weakness for Davis. However, she has a deep filmography (16 films) and Eve is a masterpiece (at least I thought so the last time I saw it). It’s superbly written and acted. Her trio of films with Wyler are very close behind here and Wyler is a stronger director than Mankiewicz.
best performance: All About Eve. Davis’ Margo has it all as a character and Davis plays her so effortlessly. I think she clearly outclasses not only Anne Baxter (co-lead in All About Eve) but Gloria Swanson’s famous performance in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard. Much of it has to do with the brilliant script and direction from Joseph Mankiewicz but Davis clearly was born to play a star (or royalty or social elite as she did so many times) as she does here. But she’s also a sympathetic star and becomes the viewer’s point of view.
stylistic innovations/traits: Davis had an edge from the very beginning. She was not just a pretty face but a star with clear talent that surpassed virtually all of her peers. The three peaks of her resume are a) All About Eve b) her work with Wyler and c) her later work with Aldrich (that’s a decently distant third). She was in 11 archiveable films from 1938-1943—that’s astounding. She was also nominated a remarkable 11 times for an Oscar.
directors worked with: Wyler (3), Aldrich (2) and once with Curtiz. The partnership with Wyler should not be underappreciated. Those are Davis’ second, third and fourth best probably films and for sure performances.
Top 5 Performances:
- All About Eve
- Little Foxes
- The Letter
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
|1934- Of Human Bondage|
|1936- The Petrified Forest|
|1939- Dark Victory|
|1939- The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex|
|1940- All This and Heaven Too|
|1940- The Letter|
|1941- The Great Lie|
|1941- The Little Foxes|
|1942- Now, Voyager|
|1942- The Man Who Came To Dinner|
|1943- Watch on the Rhine|
|1950- All About Eve|
|1962- What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?|
|1964- Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte|