|The Four Friends|
Bette Davis stars as Margo Channing, a renowned theatrical actress who just reached age 40. She is dating director Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), who is 8 years younger, and playing a 24-year old in a Broadway play written by Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe). Lloyd is married to Margo's best friend, Karen (Celeste Holm).
They're so very close that they're like a family. Or, rather, a group marriage. Each seems completely in love with each of the others.
|Margo and her Lesbian Assistant|
I didn't find any evidence, but Bette Davis's campy, over-the-top delivery made her a drag queen icon, and she was a gay ally in real life.
Margo also has a "companion," a protective mother hen named Birdie, obviously played as a lesbian by character actor Thelma Ritter.
|Eve glares at Marilyn Monroe|
"We all have abnormalities in common. We're a breed apart from the rest of humanity, we theatre folk. We are the original displaced personalities."
Into this close-knit, insular world comes Eve Carrington (Anne Baxter), an ingenue who presents herself as a naive fan, and so enchants the theatre folk that Margo offers her a job as her assistant. Eve's feigned adoration of Margo is overbrimming with breathless lesbian desire.
You know what happens next --it's been remade, revisioned, parodied, and ployed a hundred times since. Even cannily works behind the scenes to take Margo's place, lying, cheating, manipulating, blackmailing, seducing, betraying. She ends up in the starring role in Lloyd's new play, and achieves stardom. But at what cost? She's lost all of her friends among the theatre folk. She's an outsider among outsiders.
Enter Phoebe (Barbara Bates), a devoted fan who ingratiates herself into Eve's life....and so the cycle repeats itself.
|Charles Busch as Bette Davis|
Otherwise it's a marvelously bumpy night, with witty dialogue, gay subtexts everywhere, an overarching gay symbolism... come on, somebody involved in this production must have been gay! Maybe director Joseph L. Mankiewicz? Producer Darryl F. Zanuck? Cinematographer Milton R. Krasner
See also: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane