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Bette Davis Overview:

Legendary actress, Bette Davis, was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on Apr 5, 1908 in Lowell, MA. Davis appeared in over 120 film and TV roles. Her best known films include All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Now Voyager, Dangerous, Of Human Bondage, All This and Heaven Too, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Dark Victory, The Little Foxes and Mr. Skeffington. Davis died at the age of 81 on Oct 6, 1989 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born on April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts. She was the eldest daughter to a well-to-do New England family. In 1915 her parents would divorce. She and her younger sister, Bobby were then sent to Crestalban, a boarding school located in Berkshires county. In 1921 she relocated to New York City with her mother and sister. It was there she would realize her dream to become an actress after seeing the film The Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Her mother was extremely supportive of her daughter's dreams, for she too once dreamed of becoming an actress. Davis would next attend another private boarding school, Cushing Academy, located in Ashburnham, Massachusetts.  After seeing a production of Henrik Ibsen'sThe Wild Duck, Bettes dreams of becoming only intensified.

Early Career

Davis auditioned for the Eva Le Gallienne's Manhattan Civic Repertory. She was rejected. Unwilling to let a minor such as rejection hold her back, Davis enrolled at John Murray Anderson's Dramatic School, where she was considered the star pupil. She later auditioned for summer session of George Cukor's stock theatre company in Rochester, NY. There he would give Davis her very first paid acting gig: a chorus girl in the play Broadway. She later landed the role of Hedwig in The Wild Duck, the very play that solidified her dreams of performance. Soon, Davis would perform up and down the east coast. In 1929, she made her Broadway debut in the Broken Dishes to rave reviews. She would follow that up with the equally successful Solid South. It didn't take long before Hollywood took notice of young actress and Universal Studios invited the young actress to Hollywood for a screen.

Hollywood

When Davis arrived in Hollywood with her mother, things did not goes smoothly as she would have hoped. She failed her first screen test and was subsequently used in screen tests for other actors. Although Universal Studios was about to terminate her employment when, cinematographer Karl Freund took notice of her eyes and recommended her for the film The Bad Sister. The film would be her screen debut.  After slew of unsuccessful films that did little to test Davis's talent as an actress, Universal did not renew her contract. After only a year in Hollywood, Davis was ready to pack her bags and return to New York when actor George Arlis took notice of Davis. He thought the young actress displayed signs of stardom and offered a role in The Man Who Played God. The film was a hit with Davis receiving rave reviews. She was rewarded with a five-year contract at Warner Brothers Studios.

Warner Brother Years

Her first years at the studio were uneven at best, often cast in forgettable films with forgettable roles such as Jimmy The Gent, Ex-Lady and the Dark Horse. It would not be until 1934, after being lent to RKO for the John Cromwell film Of Human Bondage, that critics and audiences began to seriously take note of the actress and her flair for the dramatic. In the film Davis played Mildred, a self-destructive waitress whom Lesie Howard falls in love. Davis was given a surprising amount of freedom in her portrayal of the over her character. Unlike other actresses of the era, Davis refused to play poverty stricken, neglectful, drunkard with any hints of glamour, wanting the character to seem as realistic as possible. One critic even stated, "Probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress." Although many thought she was a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination, Warner Brothers was none-too-pleased that her best performance was for a rival studios production and refused to participate in her Oscar campaign.  The next year, however, she was awarded the Oscar for her brilliant performance in the other wise forgetful film, Dangerous. Many consider it a consolation prize for Of Human Bondage.

Lawsuit

In 1936, she was paired with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart for The Petrified Forest. Despite a moving performance, it was Bogart, not Davis, who received the bulk of the films acclaim. As Warner Brothers continued to give the actress roles she felt were beneath her, Davis grew increasingly frustrated. In 1936, left Hollywood to appear in two British films, knowingly breaching her contract with Warner Brothers. She would go on to sue the company, citing the studios control over actors and directors was tantamount to slavery. Such a claim was not well received by the public, who saw her both overpaid and ungrateful. Davis would lose the case, returning to Hollywood to continue her career.

Although Davis lost the case, she returned to Hollywood with a newfound respect from her the Studio. Davis received a pay increase and better roles. In 1938, Davis won her second Academy Awards for the film Jezebel for playing a spoiled southern belle. The role was considered compensation for losing the opportunity to play Scarlett O'Hara. In 1939, Davis stared in the Box Office hits, The Old Maid with frenemy Miriam Hokins, Juarez with Paul Muni, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Errol Flynn, and Dark Victory with Humphrey Bogart. For her work in Dark Victory, Davis would receive her third Academy Award. Soon, Davis would become Warner Brothers Biggest Star. She continued to play mostly head strong and often unsympathetic roles, taking parts most stars of her stature would refuse. In 1941, Davis became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Feeling as if the position was nothing more than acting as a figurehead, Davis resigned soon after. That year she also received yet another Best Actress Oscar for her role as Regina in William Wyler's southern gothic drama The Little Foxes. 

World War Two

During WWII, Davis aided the war effort by selling war bonds. At one event, she sold two million dollars worth of War Bonds in two days. In 1942 she opened the Hollywood Canteen, a nightclub were Hollywood's biggest stars volunteered to entertain servicemen. Later in life, Davis stated The Canteen as one of her most proud accomplishments. Along with the war effort, Davis continued acting. Among the films she made during WWII include Now, Voyager, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Mr. Skeffignton.  The years immediately following WWII, however, would not be as kind to Davis. Her effort at being her own producer was met with disappointment. She was both widowed and divorced, and after a string of disappointing films, her contract ended at Warner Brothers. Bette Davis was now a freelance actress and columnists told the public her career was all but dead. However, that would all change thanks to an offer from Producer Darryl F. Zanuck.

The Comeback

In 1950, Davis made the comeback of lifetime, replacing an injured Claudette Colbert to play Margo Channing in All About Eve. The film was a massive hit for both audiences and critics. Davis, once again loved by the public, was nominated for her eighth Academy award. Davis continued to work on film of varying success through the 50's, despite suffering from a bone disease that required her jaw to be partially removed. By the 60's, however, her career stagnated and offered stopped. After famously taking out a job-wanted as in the trade papers in 1961, Davis would begin a new chapter in her career.

The Gothic Years

Understanding the career longevity is more dependent on audience popularity than critical acclaim, Davis accepted the roll of a delusional, psychopathic child star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  It was one of the most finally successful films of 1962 and Davis was nominated for an Oscar. Critics agreed that although Davis gave a stellar performance, the overall film was not worthy of an award as prestigious as an Oscar. It was her tenth and final nomination. The film is also remembered for starting one classic Hollywood's most deliciously notorious feuds: Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis.

Davis continued the trend of gothic horror with 1964'sHush...Hush Sweet Charlotte opposite Olivia de Havilland and Joseph Cotton. The two films allowed her to remain relevant to contemporary audiences. By the time the 70's rolled around, Davis appeared with fellow actresses Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Lana Turner, Sylvia Sidney and rival Joan Crawford in Great Ladies of the American Cinema. The week-long stage presentation featured a different female star each night as they discussed their careers with an audience before participating in a Q and A session. Davis was so well received that she was inviting to her very one-woman show titled Bette Davis in Person and on Film. In 1977, Davis received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute ; an award for a woman who put her career above all else.

Later Years

Davis continued working on stage, screen, and television until her death in 1989. Her final film was The Whales of August, in which she co-starred with fellow Classic Hollywood veteran Lillian Gish. Davis died at the age of 81 on Oct 6, 1989 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France . Bette Davis was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).

BETTE DAVIS INTERVIEW ON DVD:

The Dick Cavett Show - Hollywood Greats 4-DVD Set includes a marvelous interview with Bette Davis -- she is a rip! The set also includes Cavett's interviews with Katharine Hepburn (2 shows), Fred Astaire, Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds, Kirk Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, Mel Brooks, Frank Capra, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Mitchum, John Huston and Orson Welles.

HONORS and AWARDS:

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Bette Davis was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning two for Best Actress for Dangerous (as Joyce Heath) and Jezebel (as Julie Morrison) in 1935 and 1938 respectively.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1934Best ActressOf Human Bondage (1934)MildredNominated
1935Best ActressDangerous (1935)Joyce HeathWon
1938Best ActressJezebel (1938)Julie MorrisonWon
1939Best ActressDark Victory (1939)Judith TraherneNominated
1940Best ActressThe Letter (1940)Leslie CrosbieNominated
1941Best ActressThe Little Foxes (1941)Regina Hubbard GiddensNominated
1942Best ActressNow, Voyager (1942)Charlotte ValeNominated
1944Best ActressMr. Skeffington (1944)Fanny Trellis SkeffingtonNominated
1950Best ActressAll about Eve (1950)Margo ChanningNominated
1952Best ActressThe Star (1952)Margaret ElliotNominated
1962Best ActressWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)Jane HudsonNominated
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She was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Motion Pictures and Television. Bette Davis's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #92 on Nov 6, 1950. In addition, Davis was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2008.

BlogHub Articles:

and Miriam Hopkins

By Amanda Garrett on Sep 23, 2017 From Old Hollywood Films

Today, I'm writing about two old Hollywood films starring and Miriam Hopkins. The photo above shows the two leading ladies in the 1939 woman's picture The Old Maid. This article is part of The Duo Double Feature Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Th... Read full article


On FEUD, Feuds, and Joan Crawford

By Lara on May 7, 2017 From Backlots

and Joan Crawford share a laugh. The first season of the FX bio-series Feud came to a close on April 23, capping off 8 weeks of exploration into the famous rivalry between and Joan Crawford. With Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford, Susan Sarandon as , and Catherine Zet... Read full article


TCM Classic Film Festival Day 1: 7 Seconds of in JEZEBEL (1938)

By Lara on Apr 6, 2017 From Backlots

This afternoon, classic film fans from around the country and the world descended upon the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard that runs from the Roosevelt Hotel to the Egyptian Theater for the opening of the TCM Classic Film Festival. For much of the day, the street was completely blocked off for the re... Read full article


Top of the World: , Gregory Peck and Spencer Tracy in Tops Five

By Virginie Pronovost on Apr 6, 2017 From The Wonderful World of Cinema

April 5 is an important date on our calendar as three major movie stars were born on this day: , Gregory Peck and Spencer Tracy (and also Melvyn Douglas, Frank Gorshin and Walter Huston). To pay a tribute to them, I’ve decided to present you 3 little top 5 of 1- my favourite Bette D... Read full article


How Mesmerizes us in The Letter

By Virginie Pronovost on Mar 27, 2017 From The Wonderful World of Cinema

was one of the most iconic and talented actresses to ever grace the silver screen. She’s remembered for her strong personality, her impressive tact, her unique eyes and, of course, all those classics she starred in such as Jezebel, All About Eve, Now Voyager and many others. Except... Read full article


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Bette Davis Quotes:

Mildred Rogers: Good riddance to bad rubbish.


Kit Marlowe: Cheer up, there's always what's left of the ice.


Carey Jackson: You don't mean to tell me that you think you an do something with this funeral parlor?
Linda Gilman: Wait, you'd be surprised. Why the sour darling smirk?


read more quotes from Bette Davis...



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Sun. 26 Nov. 01:30 PM EST

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Bette Davis Facts
Bette Davis had been nominated for Best Actress in her film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which also starring Joan Crawford. If Bette had won, it would have set a record number of wins for an actress. According to the book "Bette & Joan - The Divine Feud" by Shaun Considine, the two had a life long mutual hatred, and a jealous Joan Crawford actively campaigned against Bette Davis for winning Best Actress, and even told Anne Bancroft that if Anne won and was unable to accept the Award, Joan would be happy to accept it on her behalf. According to the book - and this may or may not be 100% true, but it makes a good anecdote - on Oscar night, Bette Davis was standing in the wings of the theatre waiting to hear the name of the winner. When it was announced that Anne Bancroft had won Best Actress for The Miracle Worker (1962), Bette Davis felt an icy hand on her shoulder as Joan Crawford said "Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept".

Each of her four husbands were Gentiles, while her friend Joan Blondell's husband Michael Todd was Jewish. Blondell called Davis' brace of husbands the "Four Skins.".

Mother of Barbara Merrill (aka B.D. Hyman) and grandmother of J. Ashley Hyman. Marion Sherry was B.D.'s nanny until William Grant Sherry left Davis for her.

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