Everybody Loves a Villainness

When I was younger, my very favorite Halloween costume -- which I wore two years running -- was an Egyptian pharaoh outfit. It was a white robe with a huge sequined gold collar, matching headband, and gold sandals. I drew heavy black lines around my eyes and wore all the jewelry my mom had with turquoise in it. I felt amazing.

Looking back with grown-up eyes, it's clear I was borrowing this feeling from Anne Baxter's sizzling Nefretiri in Selznick's The Ten Commandments. Baxter smoulders around the Egyptian palace in clingy silks and lusts after Charleton Heston's Moses. She is loyal to those she loves. She is outspoken about how she feels. She might in fact be a little evil. If you really make trouble for her, she will push you right off a building.

She is awesomesauce.

Years later, I discovered another film: All About Eve. The young ingenue (who eventually turns out to be EVIL) was naggingly familiar. She spends most of the film being so sweet and self-effacing that it makes your eyeballs hurt, and only Bette Davis is suspicious of such a paragon. And then, in the span of one scene, she morphs into a figure of such naked ambition and malice that the viewer gets the kind of existential vertigo normally only experienced by astronauts looking back down at a distant Earth.

But why was her face so familiar?

Finally, the shoe dropped: Anne Baxter!

There she is with George Sanders, who plays the venomous film critic Addison DeWitt (swoon!) and who is also the voice for Shere Khan in the old animated Jungle Book.

In both films, the Baxter character is ambitious and opinionated. She lusts after a good man (Moses/Bill) but winds up with an evil man (Ramses/Addison). She plays by nobody's rules except her own.

I want so badly to figure out how to give her the happy ending she deserves.