All About Eve

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for All About Eve. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

Margo changes from a jealous, age-obsessed actress to a woman who has accepted herself at age forty, and is getting married to the younger man she’s refused until now. She wanted to play a woman of twenty in Lloyd’s new play, but changes her mind:
But not for me any more—not a four-square,
upright, downright, forthright married lady. . .
It means I’ve finally got a life to live! I don’t have
to play parts I’m too old for—Just because I’ve
got nothing to do with my nights!

Main Character Growth

Margo has to start believing in herself. She must begin to be comfortable with her age, and accept that Bill loves her for who she is, on the stage and off.

Main Character Approach

Margo is a woman of action: Initially she’s protective of Eve, and takes her into her home the first night they meet; she becomes jealous of Bill’s attention to Eve, chews Bill out about it, and gets drunk at his birthday party; suspicious of Eve’s true motives, Margo asks Max to employ her in his office; upon learning that Eve has secretly become her understudy, Margo immediately accuses Lloyd, Bill, and Max of a conspiracy against her.

Main Character Mental Sex

Margo uses holistic problem solving: When she first becomes suspicious of Eve’s motives, Margo smokes a cigarette and thinks about all that’s been happening; she asks Birdie’s opinion of Eve; her intuition kicks in before Bill’s party, and Margo predicts “a disaster in the air.” After her blowup at the audition, Bill asks her what is wrong:
I—I don’t know, Bill. Just a feeling, I don’t know. . .

Story Driver

Karen decides to introduce Eve to Margo, and Eve’s story gains Margo’s sympathy; Margo decides to take Eve into her home as her secretary, and this allows Eve to begin her manipulations; Max Fabian’s decision to make Eve Margo’s new understudy, without clearing it first with Margo, causes Margo to blow-up at everyone—leading to Bill’s decision to break up with her.

Story Limit

Margo tries convince to Bill, Lloyd, and Karen that Eve isn’t as innocent as she appears. Failing to do that she must bide her time until Eve’s maliciousness is revealed to everyone. One by one, Eve’s manipulations alienate everyone who has befriended her. She’s finally caught in a web of her own deceptions by Addison DeWitt. Eve has no choice but to comply to his demands or be exposed as a liar and lose the acting career she desires above all.

Story Outcome

Eve becomes a successful actress, awarded a prestigious theater prize and is about to make a Hollywood film; Margo is to become a married woman who will no longer be alone with only a career; Bill is to become a groom, having finally won the woman he loves; Lloyd becomes an even more popular playwright with the success of his new play; Karen becomes secure in her marriage to Lloyd and in her friendship with Margo.

Story Judgment

Margo resolves her personal problems: She comes to terms with her fear of aging, especially her fear of being too old for Bill; she’s vindicated for attacking Eve after Eve’s comments are published; she remains secure in her status as one of theater’s most important actresses.

Overall Story Throughline


Overall Story Throughline

The objective characters have different ways of thinking: Margo, Karen, Lloyd, and Bill are snowed by their first impressions of Eve. They can’t believe that she’s anything but an innocent, stage-struck kid. Birdie knows a good storyteller when she hears one, and experience tells her that Eve’s worship of Margo is nothing but a first rate act. Margo, influenced by maternal instincts, takes the stray Eve into her home. Later, feelings of unease cause Margo to become wary of Eve’s perfect attentions. Eve thinks she can manipulate everyone with her innocent manner, especially with her subtle picking at weak spots: Margo’s age obsession, Karen’s fear of losing her husband and Margo’s trust and friendship; Lloyd’s desire to have a young actress play his stage heroines. LLoyd’s manipulated by Eve’s tearful apology for her remarks about Margo. He suggests to Karen that Eve plays the lead in his new play:
Eve did mention the play, you know. But just
in passing—she’d never ask to play a part like
“Cora.” She’d never have the nerve. . .

Eve would ask Abbott to give her Costello.

No, I got the idea myself—while she was
talking to me. . .

Overall Story Concern

Everyone in the story is concerned with becoming something: Margo fears becoming old and ending up alone with only her press clippings to look back on; Bill wants to become Margo’s husband; Lloyd wants to become a more successful playwright by having young actresses play his stage heroines; Karen fears becoming an ex-friend of Margo’s, and thinks she might also become the ex-Mrs. Lloyd Richards when Lloyd pays too much attention to Eve; Max Fabian wants to become the richest Broadway producer ever; Miss Caswell wants to become an actress and uses her looks to get an audition; Eve wants to become a successful actress by simply sliding into Margo’s life on stage and off; Addison wants to become Eve’s lover and mentor for life; Phoebe wants to become the next Eve Harrington.

Overall Story Issue

When Margo refuses to see Eve backstage, Karen tells Margo she can’t turn her away because Eve worships her. Margo justifies Eve’s working in Max’s office when she really wants to get rid of her:
You said yourself my inventory is in good shape. . .
To keep her here with nothing to do—I’d be
standing in her way . . . and you need her, Max.
[. . .] She’d be a great help—read scripts, interview
people you have to see, get rid of the ones you
don’t. . . Think of your health, Max—more time
for the fresh air of the race track.
Lloyd wants to put Eve in his new play right away. He justifies his idea to Karen by using their financial situation as an excuse:
You know, I’ve been going over our financial
condition. . . What with taxes coming up—and
since I’m a playwright and not an oil-well
operator—well, I’ve been thinking. . .

Overall Story Counterpoint

Playwright Lloyd Richards has an obligation to cast Margo in his plays. Her acting abilities have made his past plays big hits, making him a leading Broadway playwright. His next play is also written for Margo, but impressed by Eve’s acting abilities and her youth, Lloyd begins to yearn for a younger woman for its star. He feels that his plays as vehicles for the fortyish Miss Channing are being compromised. Karen reminds him of his obligation to Margo:
For once, to write something and have it realized
completely. For once, not to be compromised—

Margo Channing has not been exactly a
compromise all these years. Half the playwrights
in the world would give their shirts for that
particular compromise!

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Rationalization vs.Obligation

Rationalization is presented, yet it’s obligation that carries the story to its conclusion. Margo is obligated to honor her contract to producer Max Fabian in spite of her anger at him for hiring Eve as her understudy; after Karen causes Margo to miss a performance, she feels obligated to make it up to Margo for the dirty trick and for misjudging Margo’s motives.

Overall Story Problem

The characters use of support causes problems: Karen’s endorsement of Eve causes Margo to take her in as her secretary where Eve starts to pick at Margo’s insecurities; Addison’s praise of Eve’s acting abilities leads Margo to believe she’s been conspired against and she throws a tantrum directed at Bill, Lloyd, and Max; Bill’s support of Eve after the audition launches Margo into a jealous rage; Bill thinks Margo’s behavior is unwarranted and when she refuses listen to “reason,” he breaks off their engagement.

Overall Story Solution

The characters’ use of oppose solves some of the story’s problems: Once Bill has proof of Eve’s malice, he shows his disapproval of Eve efforts to hurt Margo by running to Margo’s side; Karen objects to Lloyd’s plan to star Eve in his new play, thus blocking Eve efforts to push Margo aside; Addison disputes Eve’s plan to run off with Lloyd, and stops her from destroying Karen’s marriage and Lloyd’s professional relationship with Margo.

Overall Story Symptom

The objective characters focus on reconsider: Margo reconsiders her first impression of Eve after the midnight phone call to Bill in Hollywood; When Eve tries to seduce Bill, he has second thoughts about her; Karen has to reconsider her opinion of Eve when she’s blackmailed by Eve; Eve has to reconsider running off with Lloyd when Addison tells her he knows everything about her.

Overall Story Response

The objective character’s efforts are directed toward considering: Birdie considers the fact that Eve is obsessed with Margo as a star, not as a woman, and warns Margo to beware of Eve; Margo ponders the apparent attraction between Bill and Eve, becomes outrageously jealous, and stops supporting Eve’s efforts to become an actress; Karen rejects all notions that Eve is anything but an star-struck girl, and increases her support of Eve by teaching Margo a lesson in humility; Bill weighs Margo’s arguments that Eve is a manipulator, and rejects the idea, continuing to support Eve; After witnessing Eve’s acting talent, Lloyd considers casting her in the lead of his new play.

Overall Story Catalyst

The characters use of obligation moves the story forward: After Margo takes her in, Eve, acting as Margo’s secretary, works to make Margo’s life easier; Karen feels obligated to support Margo, especially after she failed to believe Margo about Eve’s true character; Margo frees Lloyd from his obligation to cast her as young Cora in his new play. Thus, Eve gets the part and tries to steal Lloyd from Karen, which leads to her being blackmailed by Addison.

Overall Story Inhibitor

As an example of how “approach” slows the story down, Margo’s method of dealing with problems is to get drunk and rage at her friends, causing them to think Margo is merely paranoid, and to support Eve even more than before.

Overall Story Benchmark

As the story progresses, the characters come up with ideas of how to make things work for themselves: Eve comes up with the idea to approach Karen in the back stage alley which gives her an introduction to Margo; Birdie quickly conceives the notion that Eve is obsessively studying Margo which leads Margo to suspect Eve’s motives; Margo comes up with the idea that Eve is trying to steal Bill away from her and she hatches the plan to palm her off onto Max Fabian; Eve promotes the idea that she’d be the perfect understudy for Margo; Addison comes up with the idea that he should write about Eve, and his hate-filled column results in stronger friendship between Margo, Bill, Karen, and Lloyd.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

““All About Eve”. . . follows an aspiring young actress as she ingratiates herself with a prominent group of theater people so she can become a Broadway star without the usual years of work. The not-so-innocent babe becomes secretary to aging star [Margo Channing] and ruthlessly uses everyone in her climb to the top, much to Margo’s initial disbelief and eventual displeasure.”
(VideoHound’s, p. 136)

Overall Story Backstory

Margo Channing is the queen of the Broadway stage, surrounded by her friends: playwright Lloyd Richards and his wife Karen, trusted maid Birdie, producer Max Fabian, and her theater director fiancé, Bill Sampson. They have formed a strong support group for her—they even forgive Margo when she behaves like a diva. But Margo’s also an aging star who’s just turned forty, and she’s worried that Bill will eventually leave her for a younger woman. Then one night Karen decides to introduce Eve Harrington to Margo. Eve is an attractive, adoring young actress with the face of an angel and the heart of a cobra. The moment Eve enters Margo’s dressing room everyone’s attention shifts from Margo to Eve.

Main Character Throughline

Margo Channing — Leading stage actress

Main Character Throughline

Margo lives in a warm cocoon created by a successful acting career, supportive friends like Lloyd and Karen Richards, producer Max Fabian, faithful maid Birdie, and her adoring younger lover, Bill. Margo finds herself getting older, yet the women she plays on stage are as young as ever. As an aging star, Margo knows her days as Broadway’s reigning star are numbered. She’s scared to death that when she retires from the theater she’ll be alone, without a career and without a man to love her.

Main Character Concern

Margo is concern about her future: Will she have a man to call her own, namely Bill, or will she have only an album of clippings to share the rest of her life with?
Bill’s in love with Margo Channing. [. . .] but ten
years from now—Margo Channing will have
ceased to exist. And what’s left will be . . . what?

Main Character Issue

Margo represents delay. She puts off giving Bill an answer to his proposals of marriage. She is constantly late causing delays in everyone’s schedules. She keeps waiting to be sure if it’s Margo the woman, not Margo the star that Bill wants. Margo’s a hour and a half late getting to Miss Caswell’s audition which allows Eve to read in Margo’s place. Even after Bill tells Margo he loves her and again offers marriage she puts him off:
Then what would be enough? If we got married?

I wouldn’t want you to marry me just to prove

You’ve had so many reasons for not wanting to
marry. . . Margo, tell me what’s behind all this.

Main Character Counterpoint

Margo finally makes firm choices about her life: She decides to marry Bill right away; finally accepts the age difference between her and Bill; decides that she doesn’t have to play girls twenty years younger than she is any more:
[. . . ] I mean it, now. Grown-up women only,
I might even play a mother—only one child,
of course, and not over eight. . .

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Delay vs.Choice

At first Margo delays making a judgment about Eve’s character until she’s sure Eve is on the make for Bill; she delays marrying Bill until she’s positive he truly loves her. However, once Margo makes a decision about something she sticks with her choice. Nothing or no one will convince her that Eve is anything but a conniving actress on the make. Once Margo chooses to marry Bill, she glows with bride-like enthusiasm, calling her fiancé “Groom” during their announcement dinner with Karen and Lloyd. Margo’s use of choice solves her problems: the age difference between her and Bill doesn’t matter anymore; she doesn’t have to play young girls now that she’s secure as an older woman; Bill’s choice to marry her in three days destroys her concerns that Eve will steal him away.

Main Character Problem

Margo’s efforts to support to Eve, then to get support from her friends causes problems: At first Margo’s maternal instincts drive her to take Eve into her home, thus giving Eve opportunities to upset Margo’s life. Later, when Margo suspects that Eve is just using her, she asks for Karen, Lloyd, and Bill to back her up. But they believe Margo is over-reacting:
[. . .] So when you start judging an idealistic
dreamy-eyed kid by the barroom, Benzedrine
standards of this megalomaniac society—I won’t
have it! [. . .] And to intimate anything else doesn’t
spell jealousy to me—it spells a paranoiac insecurity
that you should be ashamed of!

Cut! Print it! What happens in the next reel?
Do I get dragged off screaming to the snake pit?

Main Character Solution

Ultimately, Margo’s problems are resolved when she ceases her opposition to Bill’s marriage proposals and stops fighting the aging process. In hindsight, Margo’s opposition to Eve was right on the mark. When Karen, Lloyd, and Bill quit opposing Margo and acknowledge that she was right all along, her life becomes happier.

Main Character Symptom

Margo’s use of avoidance creates problems: She dodges the age issue and refuses to commit to a permanent relationship with Bill. She gets drunk at Bill’s welcome home party because she’s terrified that he’ll run off with young Eve. A drunk Margo admits to Lloyd that she’s forty:
That slipped out, I hadn’t quite made up my mind
to admit it. Now I feel as if I’d suddenly taken
all my clothes off . . . And I’m not interested in
whether thousands of people think I’m six or six

Just one person. Isn’t that so? You know what
this is all about, don’t you? It has very little to do
with whether you should play “Cora”—it has
everything to do with the fact you’ve had another
fight with Bill.

Bill’s thirty-two. He looks thirty-two. He looked
it five years ago, he’ll look it twenty years from
now. I hate men.
Margo’s primary evasive tactic is to throw tantrums. But she throws one too many and Bill finally breaks up with her.

Main Character Response

Margo attempts to solve her problems by using pursuit: Although Margo’s reluctant to commit to Bill, she warns him not to fall for a glamour girl while he’s in Hollywood:
You’re a setup for some gorgeous wide-eyed
young babe.
After Margo is convinced that Eve is too dangerous to have under her roof, Margo goes after her producer, Max Fabian, to hire Eve to work in his office.

Main Character Unique Ability

Margo’s friends perceive her tantrums over Eve as just jealous rages, but Margo’s instincts are right on target; she sticks with her gut feeling that something is wrong. Margo’s unwillingness to re-evaluate Eve’s motives saves her from more of Eve’s sly comments and efforts to undermine her personal life and career. Margo ultimately achieves personal happiness, and it’s that happiness that keeps Margo from being bitter and vindictive towards Eve. Margo could have remained intolerant of her rival, but she allows Eve to achieve her goal which leads to the story outcome of success.

Main Character Critical Flaw

Margo’s inability to bring closure to the age issue between her and Bill almost causes her to lose him. In fact, he does break up with her. Margo’s unwilling to come to a resolution with Bill concerning his intentions toward Eve:
Margo, let’s make peace.

The terms are too high. Unconditional surrender.

Just being happy? Just stopping all this nonsense about
Eve—and Eve and me?

It’s not nonsense.

But if I tell you it is—as I just did. Were you
listening to me? Isn’t that enough?

I wish it were.

Main Character Benchmark

Margo judges how things are going in her life by her relationship with Bill. At first she’s obviously love-struck, if yet a little uncertain about him, teasing him about falling for starlets during his trip to Hollywood; she’s lonely and uneasy when he’s been gone a month; she predicts disaster and goes into a panic when she sees Bill in intimate conversation with Eve. After Bill walks out on her, and she’s stuck in the car on a country road with Karen, Margo assesses her situation:
I haven’t been very pleasant this week-end.

[. . . ] You’re Margo. Just—Margo.

And what is that? [. . .] Besides something called
a temperament. . . infants behave the way I do,
you know . . . When they feel unwanted or insecure
—or unloved . . .

What about Bill?

More than anything in this world, I love Bill.
And I want Bill. I want him to want me. But me.
Not Margo Channing. And if I can’t tell them
apart—how can he?

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

Margo Channing, a five-foot-two package of energy, is an acclaimed actress with the talent and timeless beauty that allows her to play twenty-year-olds at age forty.
“An attractive, strong face. She is childish, adult, reasonable, unreasonable—usually one when she should be the other, but always positive. She pours a stiff drink.”
(Mankiewicz, p. 9)

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

Margo Channing is a successful actress who’s spent decades building her career. She has everything she wants except a man of her own, meaning marriage. She loves Bill Sampson, but he’s eight years younger than her, and she’s worried he really wants a young woman. Kind-hearted, Margo takes in her avid fan, Eve. After a month Margo suspects Eve isn’t as innocent as she appears. Margo has to fight her friends when she drops her support of Eve. Margo loses Bill because of her jealous rages over Eve. Margo tries to put her situation in perspective, admitting that she regrets dropping her personal life for a career. Margo gets Bill back; decides to marry him right away and spend more time being a wife than being an actress.

Main Character Backstory

Margo Channing is a Star of the Theatre. She
made her first stage appearance, at the age of four,
in Midsummer Night’s Dream. She played a fairy
and entered—quite unexpectedly—stark naked.
She has been a Star ever since.

In spite of her less than auspicious debut, Margo achieved stardom but is still self-conscious about her humble beginnings:
Please don’t play governess, Karen. I haven’t
your unyielding good taste; I wish I’d gone to
Radcliffe too but Father wouldn’t hear of it—he
needed help at the notions counter. . .

Influence Character Throughline

Eve Harrington — Conniving Aspiring Actress

Influence Character Throughline

Eve’s total being is focused on becoming an stage actress, particularly playing a lead role in one of Lloyd Richard’s plays, replacing Margo Channing as Broadway’s reigning actress. Eve never wavers from her goal: She travels alone to New York to meet her idol; learns the names of Margo’s friends; learns the background on Margo’s favorite playwright; attends every performance and waits at the stage door night after night to catch a glimpse of Margo; charms Margo’s best friend to get an introduction; becomes Margo’s personal secretary; asks Karen Richards to sponsor her as a replacement for Margo’s pregnant understudy. Everything that Eve does is aimed toward one end only, to become in actress in a Broadway play.

Influence Character Concern

Eve strives to fulfill her desire to be a stage actress. She equates the basic need for love with audience applause for a performance.
[. . .] Why if there’s nothing else—there’s
applause. I’ve listened, from backstage, to people
applaud. It’s like—like waves of love coming
over the footlights and wrapping you up.

Influence Character Issue

Eve hopes to meet Margo by standing night after night at the stage door, until one night Karen Richards speaks to her and brings her into the theater; once inside Margo’s household, Eve hopes to get on stage as an actress by ingratiating herself to Margo’s theater friends; once in the position of Margo’s understudy, she hopes to have an opportunity to show everyone her acting ability.

Influence Character Counterpoint

Although Eve is an amateur actress who works as a personal secretary, she dreams of one day standing on a theater stage accepting audience applause:
[. . .] Imagine. . . to know, every night, that
different hundreds of people love you. . . they smile,
their eyes shine—you’ve pleased them, they
want you, you belong. Just that alone is worth
anything . . .

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Hope vs.Dream

Eve’s hopes that through her manipulation of Margo and Margo’s friends she’ll get a part in a Broadway play. Her dream of one day accepting applause is illustrated when she takes Margo’s costume, holds the gown up to herself, and practices bowing in front of a backstage mirror. It’s Eve’s dream to become a stage star that is realized in record time.

Influence Character Problem

Eve’s relentless use of pursuit causes problems for Margo Channing. She attempts to seduce anyone who can advance her acting career, and goes after director Bill Sampson, who is Margo’s lover:
Don’t run away, Bill.

From what would I be running?

You’re always after truth—on the stage.
What about off?

I’m for it.

Then face it. I have. Since that first night—here
—in this dressing room. [. . .] When you told me
that whatever I became, it would because of
you. . . and for you.
You’re quite a girl.

You think?

I’m in love with Margo. Hadn’t you heard?
. . . I’m only human, rumors to the contrary.
And I’m as curious as the next man. . .

Find out.

Influence Character Solution

Eve lies about her background to escape her sordid past. Then when it’s obvious that Margo is angry at Eve for reading in her place at Miss Caswell’s audition, Eve tries to prevent Lloyd from telling Margo how good she was, knowing that it would make Margo even more furious:
How was Miss Caswell?

Back to the Copacabana. But Eve. Margo,
let me tell you about Eve—

(breaking in) I was dreadful, Miss Channing,
believe me—I have no right to be anyone’s
understudy, much less yours. . .

Influence Character Symptom

Eve’s use of reconsider causes problems for Margo: Once Eve realizes that Margo is suspicious of her, she rethinks her options and gets Karen to sponsor her for the understudy position, which leads Margo to make a scene when she finds out, and eventually causes Bill to break up with her; Eve reconsiders her “subtle” approach to getting what she wants, and openly smears Margo in Addison De Witt’s column. That column hurts Margo deeply and reduces her to tears.

Influence Character Response

Eve doesn’t take into consideration that Margo will notice her manipulations, thinking she will be so pleased with her as a secretary:
I get a party, don’t I?

Of course, birthday and welcome home . . .
Who’ll I ask?

It’s no secret, I know all about the party—
Eve wrote me . . .

She did. . . ?

She hasn’t missed a week since I left—but you
know all that, you probably tell her what to write
. . . anyway, I sent her a list of people to ask—
check with her.

Yeah. . . I will.

Influence Character Unique Ability

Eve’s use of denial causes Margo problems. She’ll never give up on her goal of becoming a stage actress. She relentlessly uses her position with Margo to meet and cultivate anyone who can help her. Eve denies being anything but a sweet young thing who adores and idolizes Margo. This puts Margo in a dilemma; is she truly obsessing over the age difference between her and Bill, or is there really an evil twin hiding under Eve’s innocent, smiling mask? Margo has to battle her friends over her negative opinion of Eve while the young woman denies doing anything wrong:
Don’t get up. And please stop acting as if I were the
queen mother.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—

Outside of a beehive, Margo, your behavior would
hardly be considered either queenly or motherly!

You’re in a beehive, pal, didn’t you know? We’re
all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey
dayand night—
(to Eve)
—aren’t we honey?

Margo, really. . .

Influence Character Critical Flaw

Eve’s use of openness threatens her chance of becoming a stage actress. Eve’s willing to use any underhanded act that will advance her career: She lies about her background to make Margo, Lloyd, and Karen befriend her, but the cunning Addison De Witt uncovers a mistake in her story; tips her hand when she boldly invites New York’s theater critics to see an understudy’s performance when no one should know in advance that Eve would even go on:
[. . .] All of us—invited that afternoon to attend
an understudy’s performance. . . about which
the management knew nothing until they were
forced to ring up the curtain at nine o’clock.
Coincidence. Also every indication of intrigue,
skullduggery and fraud. . .
Eve has no qualms about trashing Margo in Addison’s column, and she finally sets everyone who had supported her against her.

Influence Character Benchmark

As the story progresses Eve knows how her actions will hurt Margo, but she doesn’t hesitate doing what ever leads to a great role in a Broadway play: When it becomes obvious that Margo has turned against her, Eve approaches Karen to ask the producer of “Aged in Wood” to consider her as Margo’s understudy; Reassured by the fact that Lloyd, Bill, and Max were impressed by her reading during the audition, Eve invites theater critics to her “surprise” performance which leads to favorable reviews on her acting; To Eve it’s a sensible move to seduce director Bill Sampson because he can help promote her career; Rejected by Bill, Eve contemplates marriage to playwright Lloyd Richards. With every scheme Eve implements, she moves steadily towards getting on stage as an actress.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“She wears a cheap trench coat, low-heeled shoes, a rain hat stuck on the back of her head. . . her large, luminous eyes seem to glow up at Karen in the strange half-light.”
(Mankiewicz, p. 18)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Eve Harrington is a poor girl who’ll do anything to achieve success as a stage actress. She ingratiates herself to Margo Channing, a famous actress. Margo takes Eve in as her secretary. Once on the “inside” of Margo’s life, Eve sets out to fuel Margo’s insecurities and fears. When Margo realizes what Eve is up to, she very openly and loudly questions Eve’s character and motives. But Eve has all of Margo’s friends and her fiancé totally fooled. They side with Eve against Margo, who’s feeling more alone and fragile than ever. Eve goes too far when she smears Margo in a newspaper column, exposing her true nature to everyone. Margo’s friends, ashamed for not believing her, run to her support and unite against Eve.

Influence Character Backstory

Raised in Wisconsin as an only child, Eve developed an interest in acting and make-believe. She became a secretary in a brewery and joined a Milwaukee theater group where she met her husband, Eddie. During WWII Eddie was shipped to the South Pacific. Eve planned to meet him on leave in San Francisco, but upon arriving there she learned that Eddie was killed in action. She decided to stay in San Francisco where she saw Margo Channing in a play and became star-struck. When the play closed and Margo returned to New York, Eve went to New York, too. But this is all a fabrication; Eve has never been married and has never lived in San Francisco. In reality she’s just poor and ruthlessly ambitious.

Relationship Story Throughline


Relationship Story Throughline

Margo goes on a rampage against her friends and Eve during a party, increasing conflict between the young woman and herself. Eve wages a campaign to use Margo to advance her career as an actress: She goes behind Margo’s back to get the understudy job; So that she’ll have a theater director for a boyfriend, Eve tries to seduce Bill away from Margo; In Addison’s column, Eve infers that Margo is too old for the parts she plays, potentially damaging Margo’s career and her hurting her deeply.

Relationship Story Concern

Margo Channing fights to keep what she’s got: Her status as Broadway’s leading actress, her professional relationship with the playwright who’s supplied her with one hit play after another, her man, Bill Sampson.
I don’t want to be childish, I’d settle for just a
few years—

And cut that out right now.

Am I going to lose you, Bill? Am I?
Eve wants an acting role in a Broadway play. During Bill’s birthday party he muses about theater life and articulates the things Eve wants for herself:
[. . .] I’ll agree to this—that to be a good actor,
actress, or anything else in the theater, means
wanting to be that more than anything else in
the world. . .

Yes. Yes, it does. . .

Relationship Story Issue

Eve’s method of problem solving is to be deceitful and underhanded. Margo uses the direct and honest approach to problem solving.

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Eve’s attitude is to present herself in ways that will get her what she wants: she’s shy and flattering when she first meets Karen Richards because Karen can introduce her to Margo—and does; Eve’s gracious and polite when she meets Margo, earning Margo’s sympathy and protection; Eve acts the seductress when she goes after Margo’s lover, Bill, but this results in a temporary setback. Margo Channing’s attitude is to be direct: she asks her maid point blank why she doesn’t like Eve, and begins to draw her own conclusions; she bluntly chides Bill when she believes he’s falling for young Eve; she loudly attacks Bill, Max, and Lloyd for not telling her that Eve has been her understudy for a week, pouncing for a moment on Lloyd:
You have a genius for making a barroom brawl
out of a perfectly innocent misunderstanding at

Perfectly innocent! Men have been hanged for less!
I’m lied to, attacked behind my back, accused of
reading your silly dialogue inaccurately—as if it
were Holy Gospel!

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Approach vs.Attitude

Margo and Eve have very different approaches; they are completely diverse. Eve’s rapacious method of getting what she wants leads to personal heartbreak. It’s Margo’s up front attitude while fighting to keep what she has that ultimately leads to her happiness. She’s getting married, has loyal friends, and achieves self-acceptance.

Relationship Story Problem

It seems logical that Eve should place the midnight call to Bill for his birthday, acting in Margo’s behalf. It even seems logical to Margo that Eve would emulate her in every way, because she’s Eve’s idol after all. It seems logical that Eve would make the perfect understudy for Margo. But even though all of the above seems logical, everything Eve does causes serious problems for Margo.

Relationship Story Solution

Once Margo can trust her feelings about Eve, she’s on her way to deal with the situation. When Margo is feeling happy and content as a woman, she forgives Eve for making her life hell, because she was forced to realize what she needed most emotionally in her life. Margo’s able to cope with Eve in her usual direct way as in after the awards ceremony:
. . . You can always put that award where your
heart ought to be.

Relationship Story Symptom

Margo questions her conclusion that Eve is just a wholesome, stage-struck kid and begins to review Eve’s actions of the past few weeks. She asks her maid’s opinion of Eve:
You don’t like Eve, do you?

[. . .] Let’s say she thinks only about you, anyway. . .

How do you mean that?

. . . like she was studyin’ you, like you were a play
or a book or a set of blueprints. How you walk, talk,
think, eat, sleep—
Although Margo doesn’t agree with Birdie at first, she reviews Eve’s demeanor and actions, and adjusts her conclusions about her young secretary.

Relationship Story Response

Margo weighs the pros and cons of keeping Eve around:
She works hard.

Night an’ day.

She’s loyal and efficient—

Like an agent with one client.

She thinks only of me . . . doesn’t she?
Margo’s contemplation of Eve leads her to conclude:
And I’ll have you know I’m fed up with both the
young lady and her qualities! Studying me as—
as if I were a play or a set of blueprints! How I
walk, talk, think, eat, sleep!

Relationship Story Catalyst

Margo’s and Eve’s attitude moves the subjective story along: Eve lies to everyone who wants to help her, tries to steal Margo’s boyfriend, and goes behind Margo’s back to get the understudy job, all of which causes Margo to retaliate. Margo’s injured diva way of behaving toward Eve, including publicly insulting Eve during the party, causes many repercussions that moves the story forward.

Relationship Story Inhibitor

Just when conflict is about to escalate Eve uses rationalization to diffuse the situation. She justifies everything she does as being helpful, as when she “forgets” to tell Margo that she placed the coast-to-coast birthday call to Bill Sampson:
Oh, golly. And I forgot to tell you—

Yes, dear. You forgot all about it.

Well, I was sure you’d want to, of course, being
his birthday, and you’ve been so busy these past
few days, and last night I meant to tell you before
you went out with the Richards—and I guess I
was asleep when you got home . . .

Yes, I guess you were. It—it was very thoughtful
of you, Eve.

Mr. Sampson’s birthday. I certainly wouldn’t
forget that. You’d never forgive me. As a
matter of fact, I sent him a telegram myself. . .
Eve’s smoke screen of rationalization makes it hard for Margo to discover Eve’s true nature until it’s almost too late for Margo to recover her professional status and her personal life.

Relationship Story Benchmark

As time goes by Margo learns more and more about Eve’s strategy to advance her career: From a phone call Margo learns that Eve is slyly ingratiating herself in with Bill in the guise of being helpful; charmed her way into the understudy’s job without Margo knowing; achieved an amazingly impressive cold reading at Miss Caswell’s audition; publicly trashed Margo in Addison’s column.

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

Eve’s a young actress taken in as personal secretary to Margo Channing, a middle-aged stage star. Eve insinuates herself in with Margo’s theater friends, particularly Margo’s fiancé, Bill. Once Margo realizes what Eve is doing, she ends her sponsorship of the young woman. But Eve has already charmed her way to a job as Margo’s understudy. After discovering that Eve has been her understudy for a week, and no one has told her of this, Margo accuses Bill of lusting after Eve. This sets off a big fight between Bill and Margo which results in him breaking up with her. Margo is left feeling old, lonely, and unloved while Eve continues to use Margo’s friends to jump-start her acting career. Eve finally goes too far, exposing her malice to everyone, most importantly to Bill, who runs back to Margo’s side.

Relationship Story Backstory

Margo started acting at age four. Now she’s at the peak of her career; she’s respected, wealthy, and surrounded by friendly supporters. But Margo feels past her prime at the age of forty. She’s afraid that her lover, Bill Sampson, will be tempted by a younger woman. His reassurances can’t stop her worries. Eve Harrington, a pretty young actress, leaves Milwaukee where she had an affair with her boss, and was given $500 by his wife to leave town. Eve has come to New York determined to become a great actress by way of deception. She has carefully constructed a sob-story to soften her intended victim, Margo Channing. Margo falls for the bait and takes Eve into her life. Eve does everything in her power to undermine Margo’s personal life and stage career.

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

Everyone is concerned with transforming Eve from a pitiful, lonely waif into a young woman with purpose. First, it’s Eve becoming Margo’s secretary; next, it’s becoming Margo’s understudy; lastly it’s Eve becoming a stage actress.

Overall Story Consequence

If Eve fails to become an actress there’s only a dismal life as a nobody for her; if Eve doesn’t get the part of “Cora” in Lloyd’s new play, Karen could lose her best friend and possibly her husband.

Overall Story Cost

On the way to the story goal, Margo’s obsession with aging costs her major anxiety when she thinks that Bill is falling for the younger Eve; Bill’s loves Margo deeply, but his disappointment at her rejection of him costs him their relationship, if just temporarily; Karen’s fear of losing her oldest, dearest friend forces her to agree to blackmail; Eve’s lies and manipulations almost costs her her deepest desire, becoming a great stage actress.

Overall Story Dividend

Margo gains a husband and a more fulfilling future of dining with Bill and waking up beside him in the mornings. Eve gains the life of an adored and successful stage actress. Bill gets the woman he loves and admires. It is assured that Max Fabian will produce hit plays with Eve as the star. The lead roles in Lloyd’s future plays will be played by a talented, young actress.

Overall Story Requirements

In order to achieve the story goal the objective characters come up with ideas: Karen comes up with the idea to introduce Eve to Margo; Upon boarding the plane to Los Angeles, Bill suggests that Eve look after Margo and not let her get lonely; Margo conceives of the idea to take Eve into her home and make her her secretary. Eve invents reasons why she would make the perfect understudy for Margo.
[. . .] I know the part so well, and every bit of the
staging, there’d be no need to break in a new girl. . .

Overall Story Prerequisites

Eve has to learn which people will be most beneficial to her career; Addison must learn about the real Eve in order to blackmail her and get what he wants, the scheming young actress.

Overall Story Preconditions

Although with her calculating and ruthless ambition, Eve would have certainly become a star, Addison De Witt is a powerful man who makes sure it happens, especially on his own terms. He is the only one who knows all about Eve Harrington: He consciously sets a trap to catch Eve in a lie about her past; he befriends her and then watches her play out one scheme after another, all the time considering how he is going to get what he wants from her later.
Do you know, Eve—sometimes I think you
keep things from me.

. . . I confide in you and rely on you more than
anyone I’ve ever known! To say a thing like that
now—without any reason—when I need you
more than ever . . .

I hope you mean what you say, Eve. I intend to
hold you to it. We have a great deal in common,
it seems to me.

Overall Story Forewarnings

Margo worries that Bill will leave her for a younger woman; her rages over Eve does causes him to leave her, although not for the reasons she thinks. Eve worms her way into Margo’s life for the sole purpose of stealing Margo’s career; on awards night she meets a deceitful young actress who will surely use her like she used Margo.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Eve becomes Margo’s secretary; Margo becomes a mentor; Karen becomes Eve’s friend and sponsor; Bill Sampson is transformed from a stage director to a movie director during his stay in Hollywood.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Becoming to Conceptualizing

On the way to his Hollywood-bound plane Bill envisions how he can protect the woman he loves by asking Eve to watch over Margo while he’s gone:
Hey—junior . . .
Margo turns to look at him with Eve.
Keep your eye on her. Don’t let her get lonely. She’s a
loose lamb in a jungle. . .

Overall Story Signpost 2

Miss Caswell envisions that by flirting with producer Max Fabian she can get an audition; Max envisions he can get out of a “situation” with Miss Caswell by giving her an audition for a part he’s replacing in his current production; Margo envisions getting rid of Eve, and agrees to read with Miss Caswell at an audition as a favor if Max will give Eve a job in his office; Karen imagines that if she helps Eve become Margo’s understudy, Margo will cheer the appointment, so she plans to talk Lloyd and Max into the idea:
Do you think Miss Channing would approve?

I think she’d cheer.

But Mr. Richards and Mr. Sampson—

They’ll do as they’re told.

Overall Story Journey 2 from Conceptualizing to Being

Karen’s plan to make Eve Margo’s understudy backfires and Margo throws a major tantrum. Karen finally has enough of Margo’s behavior. She envisions yet another idea of how to fix things, and at the same time moves into the role of teacher. During their weekend in the country, Karen drains the car of gas, causing Margo to miss her train and a performance. But Karen regrets her prank after Margo shares her darkest fears with her.
There are tears in Karen’s eyes.
(she hesitates)
Margo, I want you to know how sorry I am
about this. . .
(Mankiewicz, p.157)

Overall Story Signpost 3

Bill adopts the role of the groom when he asks Karen and Lloyd to stand up with him and Margo at their wedding; Eve adopts the lifestyle of an actress by rehearsing the lead of Lloyd’s new play; Lloyd adopts the role of Eve’s mentor, running out in the middle of the night to soothe her nerves before the try-outs in New Haven.

Overall Story Journey 3 from Being to Conceiving

When Karen drops her role as Eve’s guardian angel, Lloyd adopts the role of Eve’s mentor and advocate during the rehearsal of his new play.
[. . .] I’ve never known Lloyd to meddle as much
with Bill’s directing—as far as it affected Eve,
that is. . .
Karen realizes the shift in roles and the idea comes to her that she may be losing her husband to Eve.
It seemed to me I had known always that it would
happen—and here it was. I felt helpless, that
helplessness you feel when you have no talent
to offer—outside of loving your husband. How
could I compete?. . .

Overall Story Signpost 4

Eve comes up with the idea that Lloyd should leave his wife and marry her, so he can write plays for Eve to star in; Addison invents his own scenario in which Eve will be his mistress, or he’ll reveal her real name and sordid past; the young, obsessive fan, Phoebe, invents the idea to sneak into Eve’s apartment to meet her and worm her way into Eve’s life just like Eve invaded Margo’s life.

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

It’s established that Margo has had a long, successful relationship with the stage and her friends in the theater:
. . . You’re talented, famous, wealthy—people
waiting around night after night just to see you, even
in the wind and rain . . .

Main Character Journey 1 from Past to Progress

Margo has had an open, adult relationship with Bill:
I had no idea you were even here.

I ran into Eve on my way upstairs; she told me you were dressing.

That never stop you before.

But now things seems to have changed when Bill praises Eve to Margo too often:

She’s a girl of so many interests.

She’s a girl of so many rare qualities.

So she seems.

So you’ve pointed out, so often. So many qualities,
so often. Her loyalty, efficiency, devotion. . . So
young and so fair. . .

Main Character Signpost 2

At first Margo feels things are going great with Eve acting as her secretary and giving her a life of leisure; slowly the situation slides downhill when Margo suspects Eve is stealing Bill away from her and she goes on a drunken rampage during the party:
We know you, we’ve seen you before like this.
Is it over—or just beginning?

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy

Main Character Journey 2 from Progress to Future

Margo’s life deteriorates when she discovers that Eve has been her understudy for a week, and no one has told her. She accuses Bill of being part of the conspiracy against her. She’s so unhappy and insecure, not even a marriage proposal convinces Margo that he wants her, not Eve. Having had enough Bill breaks off with her and walks away.
Bill. . .
(he stops)
. . . where are you going? To find Eve?

(smiles grimly)
That suddenly makes the whole thing believable.
(Mankiewicz, p. 144)

Margo, left alone on the empty theater stage, begins to cry.

Main Character Signpost 3

Margo, stuck on a country road in a car with Karen, is certain to miss a performance for the first time ever. Her golden record is broken, a bad omen for the future. For the first time she’s quits avoiding what’s truly troubling her and talks honestly to Karen:
Bill’s in love with Margo Channing. . . but ten
years from now—Margo Channing will have
ceased to exist. And what’s left will be . . . what?

Bill is all of eight years younger than you.

Those years stretch as the years go on. I’ve seen it
happen too often.

Main Character Journey 3 from Future to Present

Having lost Bill after another fight over Eve, Margo fears she will never have a man of her own, and she regrets trading marriage for a career.
. . . funny business, a woman’s career. The things
you drop on your way up the ladder, so you can
move faster. You forget you’ll need them again
when you go back to being a woman. [. . .] in the
last analysis, nothing is any good unless you can
look up just before dinner or turn around in
bed—and there he is. Without that, you’re not a
woman. . . Slow curtain. The end.

Main Character Signpost 4

Margo is happily getting married to Bill and plans to scale down her acting career to accommodate her marriage.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

Eve recalls her personal history to Margo, Lloyd, and Karen:
I guess it started back home. Wisconsin, that
is. . . I was the only child, and I made believe
a lot when I was a kid—I acted out all sorts of
things . . .

influence Character Journey 1 from Memory to Preconscious

Eve wants so much to live Margo’s life as an adored actress, she impulsively rushes out of Margo’s dressing room with her stage costume. Instead of returning it to wardrobe as she promised, Eve goes to a backstage mirror, holds the gown up to herself, and bows as if she were accepting the audience’s applause, instead of Margo.

Influence Character Signpost 2

When asked if she’s happy Eve responds immediately:
There should be a new word for happiness. Being
here with Miss Channing has been—I just can’t
say, she’s been so wonderful, done so much for

Influence Character Journey 2 from Preconscious to Subconscious

During Bill’s party Eve expresses her deepest desire:
Why, if there’s nothing else—there’s applause.
I’ve listened, from backstage. . . It’s like—like
waves of love coming over the footlights and
wrapping you up. Imagine. . . to know, every night,
that different hundreds of people love you. . .
you’ve pleased them, they want you, you belong.
Just that alone is worth anything. . .

Influence Character Signpost 3

Eve wants to play the lead in Lloyd’s new play to fulfill her deep desire to be a great actress. She’s driven by her desire to the point of blackmailing Karen Richards:
“Cora” is my part. You’ve got to tell Lloyd it’s for me.

I don’t think anything in the world could make me say

. . . Addison knows how Margo happened to miss
that performance . . . If I play “Cora,” Addison
will never tell what happened—in or out of print. . .
Your friendship with Margo. . . what would
happen to it, do you think, if she knew the cheap
trick you’d played on her—for my benefit?

Influence Character Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious

Eve is forced to consider her options when she’s blackmailed by Addison. Having no choice Eve relents to his terms, but she’s heartbroken at the bitter turn of events. She considers giving up what she worked so hard to for, playing “Cora” in Lloyd’s new play:
And you realize—you agree how completely you
belong to me?

Yes, Addison.

Take your nap, now. And good luck for

I won’t play tonight. I couldn’t. Not possibly.
I couldn’t go on. . .

Influence Character Signpost 4

Eve, knowing everything she’s done for success and the price she’s paying for it, considers not going to the awards party Max is giving just for her.
No, it’s not.
(she holds up the award)
It’s for this.

It’s the same thing, isn’t it?

Exactly. Here. Take it to the party instead of me.

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

Eve understands the importance of Karen’s introducing her to Margo:
Mrs. Richards . . . I’ll never forget this night as
long as I live. And I’ll never forget you for
making it possible . . .
Eve understands how much Margo needs to be alone with Bill at the airport. She arranges for them to have a few minutes together; Eve’s thoughtfulness instantly endears her to Margo.
. . . isn’t it silly, suddenly I’ve developed
a big, protective feeling for her [Eve]. . .

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Understanding to DoingMargo begins to understand the meaning of Eve's model behavior, suspecting that Eve is trying to wreck her lovelife. Margo goes on the warpath, and fights back: MARGO Stop calling her a kid! It so happens there are particular aspects of my life to which I would like to maintain sole and exclusive rights and privileges! BILL For instance what? MARGO For instance -- you!
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Eve begins to execute her plan to become an actress as she performs duties as Margo’s personal secretary; screens Margo’s phone calls; decorates Margo’s dressing room; carries scripts to the Actor’s Guild for Margo; asks Karen to sponsor her for the understudy job. Margo insults Eve during Bill’s birthday party; gets rid of Eve by making a deal with Max Fabian to hire Eve to work in his office.

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Doing to Obtaining

Margo arrives at the audition an hour and a half late, allowing Eve to give an impressive reading and earn praise for her acting. This leads to Margo throwing an impressive temper tantrum that loses her Bill.

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Eve gets the job of Margo’s understudy; gets a chance to perform Margo’s part in “Aged in Wood;” achieves praise from theater critics on her acting. Margo loses Bill because of her latest jealous rage over Eve; loses the chance to perform in her play when she’s stuck in the country with Lloyd and Karen.

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Obtaining to Learning

Margo has gone through a painful learning experience because of Eve. She learns to forgive Eve for her malice.
Do you know why I forgive Eve? Because she
left good behind—the four of us, together like this.
It’s Eve’s fault—I forgive her. . .

Relationship Story Signpost 4

Margo learns there’s no limit to what Eve will do to make it as an actress; learns that Eve called theater critics to view her understudy performance; learns that Eve slandered her in Addison’s column.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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