Bette Davis vs.Tallulah Bankhead (Radio Shows Embedded)

Bette Davis recreated her famous film role as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950) for Lux Radio Theater in 1951. (Hear it or download it below.)

Among the actors originally considered for Margo in the film is Tallulah Bankhead. Ms. Bankhead also stepped into the part of Margo for a radio show - Theater Guild on the Air in 1952. (Hear it or download below.)

It's one of the rare times you can hear a movie character peformed by an earlier casting choice.

All About Eve tells the story of a Broadway actress panicked about losing her career and her beau to an interloper.

Both Ms. Davis and Ms. Bankhead play the character with the ferocity and abandon for which they are each known.The biggest difference between the two performances is Ms. Bankhead's tendency to speak quietly where Ms. Davis roars.

These occasional hushed tones lend Bankhead's Margo a steely resolve. You get the idea that were she to lose her career and her beau, she'd still be fine, perhaps even better off without them. This gives the audience a feeling of relief.

Unfortunately, that means Bankhead's Margo has less to lose, no skin in the game. Sometimes she seems so annoyed with Bill you'd think she would prefer to live without him. That would be interesting take on the character, but that would be a different play.  The tone here sometimes goes against a central conceit of the plot - that Margo cannot imagine her life without Bill or the theater.

Bette Davis' Margo, on the other hand, weeps uncontrollably, practically bursts a blood vessel shouting. There are other ways to showcase grief or fear, but this is how Davis does it. She stands to lose everything, that's why you empathize with her, even when she's throwing a loud, childish tantrum.

Or maybe I'm just accustomed to Bette Davis' performance in the film. Decide for yourself. Listen to or download the performances below. Enjoy!

Listen Now to the Lux Radio Theater production of  
All About Eve (with Bette Davis from October 1, 1951):
(Flash player required) (Duration: approximately 60 minutes)

Or save for later by right clicking this link:

Listen Now to the Theater Guild on the Air production of  
All About Eve  (with Tallulah Bankhead from November 16, 1952):
(Flash player required) (Duration: approximately 60 minutes)


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