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.
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.
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.
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."Â 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.
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.
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.
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:.
|1934||Best Actress||Of Human Bondage (1934)||Mildred||Nominated|
|1935||Best Actress||Dangerous (1935)||Joyce Heath||Won|
|1938||Best Actress||Jezebel (1938)||Julie Morrison||Won|
|1939||Best Actress||Dark Victory (1939)||Judith Traherne||Nominated|
|1940||Best Actress||The Letter (1940)||Leslie Crosbie||Nominated|
|1941||Best Actress||The Little Foxes (1941)||Regina Hubbard Giddens||Nominated|
|1942||Best Actress||Now, Voyager (1942)||Charlotte Vale||Nominated|
|1944||Best Actress||Mr. Skeffington (1944)||Fanny Trellis Skeffington||Nominated|
|1950||Best Actress||All about Eve (1950)||Margo Channing||Nominated|
|1952||Best Actress||The Star (1952)||Margaret Elliot||Nominated|
|1962||Best Actress||What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)||Jane Hudson||Nominated|
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.
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Mary Donnell: I'm going to sell youan idea. Lay off! You'll wake up one day and find your hat floating in the lake. Who do you think will be under the hat?
Joyce Arden: I think I'm going to scream!
Basil Underwood: Now, Joyce...
Joyce Arden: I'm sure I'm going to scream! Ahhhh!
Basil Underwood: Now Joyce remember your glands!
Joyce Arden: You leave my glands out of this!
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