Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Star Of The Month-Bette Davis



BIRTH: April 5, 1908

DEATH: October 6, 1989

AGED: 81 yrs

DIED FROM: Breast Cancer

REAL NAME: Ruth Elizabeth Davis

MARRIED: 4 times-Harmon Nelson, Arthur Farnsworth(his death), William Sherry, Gary Merrill

AFFAIRS: Anatole Litvak, William Wyler, George Brent, Howard Hughes( he was a slut), Claude Rains, Gig Young, Vincent Sherman

CHILDREN: 1 child by birth, Barbara Sherry,2 adopted, Margo( who was brain damaged) and Michael. Had 4 abortions- 2 with her 1st husband, I with Hughes and 1 with Wyler…where were their “gloves” ‘cos they were just as guilty.

DISPUTES: Miriam Hopkins (loathed this woman whom she thought was very untalented), Celeste Holm, Susan Hayward, Faye Dunaway( she probably deserved Bette’s wrath), Robert Montgomery, Errol Flynn, and, of course, Joan Crawford( didn’t like her but respected her acting ability) 

FAMOUS FRIENDS: Mary Astor ( got Mary to be her co-star after Mary went through a horrible, newspaper-filled divorce), Olivia De Havilland, George Brent, James Cagney

OSCAR WINS: Dangerous-1935, Jezebel-1938

OSCAR NOMINATIONS: Of Human Bondage-1934( the first and only write in Oscar vote), Dark Victory-1939, The Letter-1940, The Little Foxes-1941, Now, Voyager-1942, Mr. Skeffington-1944, All About Eve-1950, The Star-1952, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane-1962

TALENT: being prickly, forthright, challenging, perfectionist 

KNOWN FOR: being the youngest, nominated numerous times for the Oscar. Co-founding the Hollywood Canteen to help the servicemen during the war. These men were served food and waited on by the big stars plus they could dance with many of the actresses. She was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal by the Defense Dept., the highest Civilian award. Being the first woman to be head of the screen actors guild.

This hellfire, in a small frame, 100 cigarette per day smoker, came to Hollywood without any fanfare, in fact, she looked so unHollywood  that the assistant, who had come to pick her up, stated no one looking famous was there. She proved them otherwise by her fierce ambition and determination plus her famous eyes. The esteemed actor, George Arliss, saw something in this young girl and took her under his wing and became her mentor having her costar in one of his premier films. There was no looking back and, with her precious mom beside her, she fought hard to get ahead winning the role of Mildred in “Of Human Bondage” a role many women didn’t want because it was an unflattering portrayal of guttersnipe waitress who abuses a man who falls hopelessly in love with her. She made sure her makeup was how it should by applying the makeup on herself. This was a trait she did more often than not, from this role to “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”. In fact, when she was not nominated for her role, there was a write in vote, the first and only time, for her Oscar but, she did not win. When she won the following year, for “Dangerous” she stated this was compensation for not winning the year before.

After winning an Oscar, Warner Bros. sent her a film to do that she thought was schlock so she put her foot down in which they abruptly suspended her adding that time to her 7 yr contract. She fought this system but lost. When she did return, she started getting much better roles and her best work lay before her. 

Bette battled with directors and stars but could be very helpful to others she thought were less fortunate. She had a slew of affairs and, due to her haughty manner, lost the love of her life, director William Wyler who gave her an ultimatum. She did not show and that was that. She regretted her decision for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she did have more than one abortion, I don't know if they had the same prevention as now but her career came first until she had Barbara. She loved this little girl and wanted to stay home more but, she didn't and, later on, this brat married and berated her mom every chance she could hurting Bette deeply. She knew she may not have been the best mom but she didn't deserve that horrible treatment. The 2 children Bette and Gary Merrill adopted were loved and the son refused to have anything to do with B.D. Hyman( Barbara) after she wrote a scathing book about her mom. Margo, the adopted girl was found to be brain damaged so Bette provided the best of care for her.

Bette could have a great sense of humor when she was in the mood and she admired some actors like Henry Fonda, her favourite leading man and James Stewart who knew how to soften her edges. She had no problem making herself look ugly like in Baby Jane and she didn't see the need for plastic surgery. Later in life, she was beset by ill health having had a mastectomy and 4 consequetive strokes but she carried on with the help of her assistant Kathryn Sermak, who truly was there to help her. Bette found Kathryn to be more of a daughter than her own. 

I find this lady difficult and one I probably would not want to know, but I have to admire her tenacity.


1. Petrified Forest-1936

2. Juarez-1939

3. The Old Maid-1939

4. Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex-1939

5. All This and Heaven Too-1940

6. The Great Lie-1941

7. The Man Who Came To Dinner-1942

8. Old Acquaintance-1943

9. Watch on The Rhine-1943

10. Pocketful of Miracles-1961

11. Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte-1964

12. Death On The Nile-1978

13. Strangers: The Story f a Mother and Daughter-1979- TV Movie, won an Emmy

14. Right Of Way-1983-TV movie

15. The Whales Of August-1987


  1. Hi, Birgit!

    I'm thankful to be on active blogging duty today so that I could read and comment on your Bette Davis essay. Just last night, Mrs. Shady and I watched another episode of Feud: Bette and Joan. The episode was centered on the Academy Awards show that handed the award for 1962 Best Actress to Anne Bancroft for her performance in The Miracle Worker, thereby crushing Bette's hopes of winning an Oscar for her amazing performance in Baby Jane. At the show, Joan Crawford accepted the Best Actress award on behalf of absentee Anne Bancroft and relished the chance to bask in the stolen limelight as she posed for photos with Best Supporting Actress winner Patty Duke and the night's other winners. The Feud series accurately depicts Bette (played by Susan Sarandon) as a heavy smoker and an actress willing to take unflattering roles for the sake of her craft. When Bette walked out of her dressing room having created her own makeup for Baby Jane, jaws dropped, co-star Joan was disgusted, but the film's director, Bob Aldrich (brilliantly played by British actor Alfred Molina) was delighted with the look and allowed Bette to go with it. Feud also covers the testy relationship between Bette and her daughter B.D. who lands the role of a neighbor girl in Baby Jane. B.D. Merrill is played by Kiernan Shipka, who was Sally Draper, Don and Betty's daughter, on Mad Men.

    I enjoyed watching the clip from All About Eve, a movie I have seen a couple of times. That film and Anne Baxter are referenced in Feud, as are many other notable actresses that either Bette or Joan (or both) perceived as having stolen their glory or robbed them of awards along the way. I hope you will be able to watch Feud, seasons 1 and 2.

    Thank you for profiling Bette Davis this week. I hope you are feeling better by the hour, and I'm so glad you and Harley watched the video I sent about Arthur, the lonely, abandoned shelter dog. I am on active blogging duty today and tomorrow and hope you can swing by and take a peek at my April 1 post before I fade back into the woodwork for the month. Bless you, dear friend BB!

    1. I do want to see Feud which would be meaty roles for both actresses. I know Olivia DeHavilland was not happy snd sued the show, unsuccessfully a year before she died. I'm gladyou love All About Eve which is one of my favourite films.
      I'm slowly getting better and Harley is happy laying on my shoulder getting tons of kisses. Glad yo see you here always

  2. Howard Hughes WAS a slut. lol I feel like Bette should've won more Oscars, but she will always be famous, so she doesn't need them.

    1. Hughes was a big slut..lol. she was so good in so many roles and her ability shines through.

  3. 100 cigarettes a day, how is that even possible? I first saw her in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte in the theater. I was pretty young then and that movie gave me nightmares!

    1. I know! You wonder about her teeth and fingers. That movie was good eerie.

  4. Fascinating info on Bette. You should think about writing bios.
    Sandra sandracox.blogspot.com

  5. Yeah, she was definitely a character. I have seen so many of her films.

    1. She was a big character that she shines throughout hr many films

  6. I loved Bette Davis and her "take no shit" attitude! ☺ Interesting to learn more about her.

    1. She did have this attitude and it worked well.

  7. What an excellent choice for the month Birgit!

    Adore Bette (she is right up there in my top five classic actresses along with Linda Darnell, Ida Lupino, Susan Hayward and Ruth Roman…Joan Crawford is sixth 😊) in all her complicated, persnickety fury and color. Always sure of who she was and willing to fight tooth and nail for what she felt was right, sometimes to her detriment but usually in the interest of bettering whatever project in which she was involved.

    She would have been a fascinating person to have met. Friendship might have been another thing although her long-time friends like Olivia de Havilland and Mary Astor said she was unfailingly loyal. So, once you had gained her trust, she may have been different than the face she showed the world.

    I know she had the deepest regard for Claude Rains, but I’ve never heard they were involved beyond professional boundaries. With Miriam Hopkins it wasn’t so much that she thought she was untalented (she wasn’t, a very skillful comedienne and a fine dramatic actress) but that she was so consistently unprofessional, always trying to upstage other performers. She was not the only one who felt that way either, among so many others Edward G. Robinson got so fed up with her tricks that in a scene they were playing where he was supposed to stage slap her, he did so for real and the crew broke into applause. Bette even said “Miriam is a perfectly charming woman socially. Working with her is another story!”

    On balance I would say she made more good films than bad though she was often savage on her opinion of her early films and there are some real dillies in that mix, but her presence makes them at least interesting to see even if they are borderline terrible otherwise.

    Over the years I’ve managed to see all her work with one exception, her second film the maddeningly elusive “Seed” which she made during her brief time at Universal; I’ve pretty much given up hope and the fact that she said her role was so small she should have been paid by the extras union lets me know I’m not missing much. Still, I would jump at the chance if I could track it down!!

    You didn’t say which your favorites were of her work, but I recall you are fond of The Little Foxes, a fine film though it wouldn’t make my top ten.

    Usually for these I make a top ten of my favorites but for Bette I think a top twenty is called for!

    In order of preference:
    Dark Victory-Her personal favorite of her work and mine too!
    All About Eve
    Now, Voyager
    The Sisters
    Pocketful of Miracles-I know she and Glenn Ford fought bitterly on set and Capra was disappointed with the finished film, but I think it’s a charmer.
    The Letter
    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
    Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter
    Marked Woman
    It’s Love I’m After
    The Catered Affair
    June Bride-she was probably right in wanting Jack Carson to play opposite her but the spikiness between Robert Montgomery and she feeds their onscreen chemistry.
    Kid Galahad
    The Little Foxes
    The Anniversary
    Watch on the Rhine-I love this film, but her role is subdued, the picture is much more Paul Lukas and Lucile Watson’s, which is why it’s lower on the list.
    Fog Over Frisco-The picture itself isn’t much but she’s electric in it.
    The Bride Came C.O.D.-I know she hated it, but I think it’s fun.
    Connecting Rooms-A lovely, quiet underknown gem.

    1. I'm so glad you love this choice. I have not seen all her pics like you but I will let you know my favs. Apparently, with Rains, she admitted to a short dalliance with him which surprised me. I, too, only thought they were friends and one of the few actors she admired. She was fiercely loyal to her friends and the underdog.
      Poor Miriam was a real challenge to work with and Bette couldn't stand her. From what I saw Bette say, she did not hold Miriam In high regard as an actress. Bette could respect Joan Crawford's ability but could not stand her.
      My favourite films, that I saw( obviously) are
      1. Now, Voyager..I just love her transformation
      2. All About Eve
      3. Dark Victory
      4. The Little Foxes
      5. The Letter
      6. Jezebel
      7. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane
      8. Right of Way
      9. The Bride Came C. O.D.i too, like this movie
      10. Dead Ringer..I like this film and thought she did well

    2. Our top three are the same just with one and three flipped, but I could watch any of them at the drop of a hat.

      Dead Ringer is a terrific chance for Bette to do some subtle character work mixed in with some showy dramatics. Right of Way is an intriguing choice. It's very grim but it's wonderful to see she and Jimmy Stewart act together. It's too bad they didn't work together when they were younger, but to be honest I have a hard time envisioning how their very individual styles would have meshed particularly in their youth. It's not quite so difficult after WWII when Jimmy's boyish naivety had been coarsened by his war service and his personality became flintier.

      I also want to say I LOVE the picture you chose to headline the post! It's uber-glamorous and not the way Bette was often presented. She really didn't mind looking like hell on screen if it was what the character required, something she shared with Barbara Stanwyck and Olivia de Havilland at least within the confines that the studios would allow them to look less than bandbox pretty.