Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Gene & Madra: All About Eve
This Trunk Set was one of my Holy Grails; finally, I was able to acquire it for my own collection. It is a very faithful recreation of some of the iconic wardrobe pieces from the classic “All About Eve” film starring Bette Davis. From the official story card:
All Hollywood could sense that there was something special about “All About Eve” from the minute the project was announced by 20th Century-Fox. And when The Star (Claudette Colbert) had to bow out due to an accident, Madra Lord was CONVINCED that she was destined to play the part of Margo Channing—after all, hadn't she been upstaged by an up-and-coming young actress nearly ten years before at the premiere of her film, “Deep Devotion”? And hadn’t that same young starlet gotten a big break when Madra herself had had to bow out of the lead in “Blonde Lace” due to an accident?
So off Madra went to 20th Century-Fox on a bright, sunny day. It took a minute or two (and lots of foot tapping by Madra) for the guard at the gate to find her name on his clipboard, but soon her limo was rolling through 20th Century-Fox lot, on her way to the cavernous soundstage where Madra’s test was to be shot.
In Wardrobe, the wardrobe mistress opened a trunk with Madra’s name carefully stenciled on the front. “Here you go, Dearie,” said the wardrobe mistress. “These are the two outfits you’ll need for your test. Start with the cocktail dress, then the suit—and be sure to take along the coat…”
With the help of two costume assistants, Madra slipped into her screen test wardrobe: first, a sleek number for Margo’s birthday party for Bill (Madra particularly loved snapping out the “Fasten your seat belts—it’s going to be a bumpy night!” line); then an outfit (the one with the mink) that Margo wore for a scene in the theater lobby at Miss Casswell’s audition.
As a token of their appreciation, 20th Century-Fox sent Madra her personalized trunk (and the costumes) by messenger the next day. What she DIDN’T receive was the part. In a lovely letter, the studio explained that, while Madra’s test had been brilliant, the director just had another vision of the character of Margo.
“Well,” thought Madra as she put the letter aside with a resigned flourish. “At least I got to keep the trunk and the clothes—and the mink…” Then she sighed and picked up a pen and a piece of her personalized stationery to jot yet another nice “Thank You For The Opportunity” note to the heads of 20th Century-Fox. Maybe next time…
(NOTE: The trunk and costumes were put into storage by Madra shortly after “All About Eve” cut a swath through the 1950 Academy Awards®—film buffs and collectors have looked for this rare Madra souvenir (unsuccessfully) for years.)
I always thought it was weird that Madra was just quickly removed from the project. I figured that there must have been something to the story that was left out. And sure enough there was. These photos were recently found and explain…the rest of the story.
Apparently when Claudette Colbert had to bow out of the project, it was also decided to run further tests for the Eve Harrington role as well. Here, you can see the moment that Madra accidentally walked in on Gene Marshall preparing for HER screen test as Eve, the young schemer who wants to take over Margo’s throne.
Apparently, the shock was too much for Madra, who lashed out with all her anger at Gene. The memory of being upstaged in real life by Gene many years before was too much for the emotional Madra to handle. The pictures that followed were just too brutal to publish!
Now you know...the rest of the story. Fortunately, Anne Baxter & Bette Davis were able to play the roles...WITHOUT this type of tension on the set!
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