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Actress Mary Orr


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'All About Eve' Author/Actress Mary Orr

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Mary Orr

NEW YORK CITY, New York -- Mary Orr, an actress and writer whose first published short story, "The Wisdom of Eve," was the basis for the Academy Award-winning movie "All About Eve" and the Tony award-winning musical, "Applause," died of pneumonia on September 22 in New York City. She was believed to be 94, although various biographical sources give conflicting information.

She began her stage career as an actress and with director, Reginald Denham, coauthored a number of Broadway and off-Broadway plays starting with "Wallflower" in 1944. The play was made into a movie, with Orr and Denham among the film's four scriptwriters, in 1948. The couple married in 1947.

Orr was born on December 21, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York, but her family moved to Canton, Ohio in 1926. She was raised in Ohio, attended Syracuse University for two years and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City. She wrote a number of short stories that were published in popular magazines, but her first became a classic.

The story was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1947 and tells of a seasoned Broadway actress who is betrayed by the fledgling actress she tries to help. "All About Eve" premiered in 1950. Twenty-one years later, Lauren Bacall starred in the Broadway musical, "Applause," based on Orr's story.

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Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in 'All About Eve'

"All About Eve" was not produced on a small budget, however, nor was it void of big-name stars. Bette Davis played the aging actress Margo Channing and Anne Baxter played the young conniving ingenue Eve Harrington. It also was the screen debut of a young Hollywood talent known as Marilyn Monroe.

The 1950 film was noted for its witty dialogue and nominated for 14 Academy Awards. It landed six Oscars: director Joseph L. Mankiewicz won for direction and screenplay; George Sanders and Celeste Holm picked up Best Supporting Acting Oscars and the film was chosen as for the Best Picture Honor.

Although 20th Century Fox's eastern office promised Mary Orr screen credit, the western office didn't make good on the agreement and her name appeared nowhere on the film. In trying to explain the omission, Mary guessed: "For the last few decades, it has been the delight of Broadway to lampoon Hollywood unmercifully. 'Eve' was Hollywood's chance to strike back."

Orr continued, "But if it were publicly acknowledged that the basic idea for the satire originated in the mind of a Broadway actress and playwright, then the impression of Hollywood's brilliance at knifing Broadway in the back would be dissipated."

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Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders in

the 1950 film, 'All About Eve,' based on a Mary Orr short story

"I should like to make it quite clear that I have no chips on my shoulder whatsoever," Orr said. "I was perfectly happy to accept the money and conditions under which I sold it at the time and I consider myself extremely fortunate that one of Hollywood's most brilliant men has handled the story so cleverly and built it into such an outstanding picture."

Still, Orr couldn't help but add, "It is an ironic contrast that I received $75,000 for [the film adaptation of] my successful Broadway play, 'Wallflower,' and full credit, yet that was only made into a small B picture with no famous names in it."

Mary Orr finally got a bit of credit for "All About Eve" when Random House decided to publish a book version of the film scenario late in 1950. At first they offered her a flat $500 for the rights, plus a casual reference to her authorship in the preface, to be written by Mankiewicz.

However, this time, Orr didn't settle so easily. The final terms gave her one third of the book's royalties, plus full credit on the title page. Orr was the author of five books, fourteen plays and about forty television scripts.

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