Margo Channing played by Bette Davis
As the protagonist of the movie, Margo Channing is a genuine and real actress raised by the theatre since the age of three. She is a vulnerable character who openly displays her strengths and weaknesses; Mankiewicz showcasing the life of a true actress through her. Initially, we see Margo as mercurial and witty, an actress with passion and desire (not motivated by fame but the true art of performing). She is the lead in successful plays and with friends like Karen and Lloyd to rely on and a loving partner, Bill, it seems that she has everything.
However, Margo’s insecurities haunt her; with growing concerns towards her identity, longevity in the theatre and most importantly her relationship with Bill. Eventually, in a pivotal monologue, Margo discusses the problems that have been plaguing her. She battles with the idea of reaching the end of her trajectory, the thought that ‘in ten years from now – Margo Channing will have ceased to exist. And what’s left will be… what?’ By the end of the movie, Margo accepts the conclusion of her time in the theatre and understands that family and friends are what matters most, not the fame and success that come with being an acclaimed actress.
Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter
Antagonist of All About Eve, Eve Harrington (later known as Gertrude Slojinski) is an egotistical and ambitious theatre rookie. With a ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ attitude, Eve is first introduced to the audience as a timid and mousy fan (one with utmost dedication and devotion to Margo). However, as the plot unfolds, Eve’s motive becomes increasingly clear and her actions can be labelled as amoral and cynical, as she uses the people around her to climb the ladder to fame.
Margo is her idealised object of desire and from the subtle imitations of her actions to infiltrating and betraying her close circle of friends, Eve ultimately comes out from the darkness that she was found in and takes Margo’s place in the theatre. Mankiewicz uses Eve’s character to portray the shallow and back-stabbing nature of celebrity culture; Eve’s betrayal extending beyond people as she eventually turns her back on the world of theatre, leaving Broadway for the flashing lights of Hollywood.
Addison DeWitt played by George Sanders
The voice that first introduces the audience to the theatre, Addison DeWitt is a cynical and manipulative theatre critic. Despite being ambitious and acid-tongued, forming a controlling alliance with Eve, Addison is not the villain.
The critic is the mediator and forms a bridge between the audience, the theatre world, and us; he explains cultural codes and conventions whilst also being explicitly in charge of what we see. Ultimately, Addison is ‘essential to the theatre’ and a commentator who makes or breaks careers.
Bill Simpson played by Gary Merill
Bill Simpson is the director All About Eve does not focus on Bill’s professional work but rather places emphasis on his relationship with Margo. He is completely and utterly devoted to her and this is evident when he rejects Eve during an intimate encounter. Despite having a tumultuous relationship with Margo, Bill proves to be the rock; always remaining unchanged in how he feels towards her.
Karen Richards played by Celeste Holmes
Wife of Lloyd Richards and best friend and confidante to Margo Channing, Karen Richards is a character who supports those around her. During conversations she listens and shares her genuine advice, acting as a conciliator for her egocentric friends. Unfortunately, Karen is also betrayed by Eve, used as a stepping stone in her devious journey to fame.
Lloyd Richards played by Hugh Marlowe
Successful playwright and husband to Karen Richards, Lloyd Richards writes the plays that Margo makes so successful. However, as Margo grows older in age, she begins to become irrelevant to the plays that Lloyd writes. Subsequently, this causes friction between the two characters and Mankiewicz uses this to show the audience the struggles of being an actress in the theatre; whilst also adding to the Margo’s growing concern towards her age.
Lloyd is unwilling to change the part for Margo and thus Eve becomes a more attractive match for the part. An unconfirmed romance between the budding actress and Lloyd also adds to the drama within All About Eve.
Birdie played by Thelma Ritter
A former vaudeville actress (which means that she acted in comic stage play which included song and dance), Margo’s dresser and close friend, Birdie is not afraid to speak the truth. Initially she sees right through Eve’s story and she warns Margo to watch her back. Despite not being in much of the movie, Birdie’s critical eye is a foreshadowing for the audience towards what is to come.
Max Fabian played by Gregory Ratoff
Producer in the theatre, Max Fabian is involved in theatre just to ‘make a buck’. He is a hearty character who adds comic relief to a dramatic plot.
Miss Claudia Caswell played by Marilyn Monroe
Aspiring actress, Miss Caswell is seen briefly throughout the movie to show the audience the shallow nature of the world of show business. Unlike Eve, she relies on her appearance to ‘make’ it rather than talent; as seen during her encounter with Max and the unsuccessful audition that followed.
Phoebe played by Barbara Bates
The next rising star to follow in Eve’s footsteps, Phoebe is featured at the end of the film. In this scene there is a foreshadowing of the future, which suggests a repeat of the past, thus, making Phoebe an interesting character to observe. She is a manufactured construction of an actress and illustrates how replaceable a character is in the world of theatre.