Theme Times – Bette Davis

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Ruth ElizabethBetteDavis April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television and theatre. With a career spanning 60 years and 100 acting credits, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first thespian to garner ten nominations.

After appearing in Broadway plays, the 22-year old Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930. After some unsuccessful films, she had her critical breakthrough playing a vulgar waitress in Of Human Bondage (1934), although, contentiously, she was not among the three nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress that year. The next year, her strong performance as a down-and-out actress in Dangerous (1935) did land her her first Best Actress nomination, and she won the award.

In 1937, she tried to free herself from her contract with Warner Brothers Studio; although she lost the legal case, it marked the start of more than a decade as one of the most celebrated leading ladies of US cinema, known for her forceful and intense style. Her portrayal of a strong-willed 1850s southern belle in Jezebel (1938) won her a second Academy Award for Best Actress and was the first of five consecutive years she received a nomination. The others were for Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941) and Now, Voyager (1942). Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative and confrontational with studio executives and film directors as well as with her co-stars. Her forthright manner, idiosyncratic speech, and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona that has been often imitated.

She is perhaps most known for her role as a Broadway star in All About Eve (1950), a Best Picture Academy Award winner, for which she received another Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her last Oscar nomination was for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) also starring her rival Joan Crawford. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite a long period of ill health she continued acting in film or on television until shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1989. She admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships, as she married four times, divorced three times, raised her children as a single parent and had a daughter, B.D. Hyman, who wrote the tell-all book My Mother’s Keeper.

Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, a club venue for food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen during World War II, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In 1999, Davis placed second behind Katharine Hepburn on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of the Classic Hollywood cinema era.

This episode is dedicated to  Grace of Broadway Matron and Angie of King Ben’s Grandma and Kristian – Tales of the mind of Kristian

In my teens and by this l mean in the later 70’s and early 80’s whilst still living at home and being in school, l used to love watching B&W movies on the weekend. One lady l loved to watch was Bette Davis! Below are my top 12 favourites which include favourites also from Angie and Kristian too.

1What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?1962

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a 1962 American psychological horror thriller film produced and directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The plot concerns an aging former actress who holds her paraplegic ex-movie star sister captive in an old Hollywood mansion.

2Now, Voyager1942

Boston heiress Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is a neurotic mess, largely because of her domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). But after a stint in a sanatorium where she receives the attention of Dr. Jasquith (Claude Rains), Charlotte comes out of her shell and elects to go on a cruise. Aboard ship she meets Jerry (Paul Henreid) and falls in love, despite his being married. They enjoy a brief tryst in Rio before returning to the States, where Charlotte struggles to forget him and find happiness.

3All About Eve1950

Margo, an established theatre actress, appoints Eve, an aspiring actress, as her personal assistant. However, Margo is unaware of Eve’s intention to take over her career.

4Jezebel1938

A beautiful and free spirited girl loses her fiance due to her domineering ways, stubborn vanity and pride. But she vows to get him back at any cost.

5Of Human Bondage1934

A medical student falls prey to a cold and unfeeling waitress who may ultimately destroy both of them.

6Dark Victory1939

Socialite Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) lives a lavish but emotionally empty life. Riding horses is one of her few joys, and her stable master (Humphrey Bogart) is secretly in love with her. Told she has a brain tumor by her doctor, Frederick Steele (George Brent), Judith becomes distraught. After she decides to have surgery to remove the tumor, Judith realizes she is in love with Dr. Steele, but more troubling medical news may sabotage her new relationship, and her second chance at life.

7The Letter1940

A woman claims to have killed in self-defense, until a blackmailer turns up with incriminating evidence.

8The Little Foxes1941

An ambitious woman takes on her corrupt brothers and honest husband in her drive for wealth.

9Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte1964

Millionaire and southern belle Charlotte Hollis guards a deep, dark secret. When cousin Miriam comes to stay with Charlotte, mystifying events begin to occur, driving the latter closer to insanity.

10Death on the Nile1978

A Belgian sleuth has a set of murder suspects on a boat in the Nile after a rich heiress and a few others are killed. Will he be able to find the culprit before they reach port?

11The Watcher in the Woods1980

An American family move into a British country house only to encounter malevolent spirits. The ghost of the owner’s daughter, long missing, torments the family’s young girl.

12Wicked Stepmother1989

After going on vacation, Steve (David Rasche) and Jenny Fisher (Colleen Camp) come home to find that Jenny’s elderly father has remarried. What’s more, his new wife is a real witch — both literally and figuratively. Her name is Miranda Pierpoint (Bette Davis), and she quickly upends the couple’s quiet household. Jenny tries in vain to break the spell Miranda has cast on her father, but her problems get bigger when Miranda’s sultry daughter, Priscilla (Barbara Carrera), moves in.

Bonus Feature

So there we go folks – Bette Davis – Fans or Not?

18 thoughts on “Theme Times – Bette Davis

  1. Might watch a few of these. I was always a Katherine Hepburn fan myself. Davis played sinister characters but worth giving her another chance.

  2. Do you know I have never seen “What ever happened…” and have no desire to. I have seen ‘Now Voyager’ a million billion times. Did you know “Jezebel” was Bette Davis’ revenge for not getting the part of Scarlett O’Hara. Honestly I think ‘Jezebel’ is a way better movie than ‘Gone With The Wind’. GWTW is a snore and a bore of a movie (plus I never cared for Clark Gable – he was not what I thought Rhett Butler should look like for starters.)

    1. Strangely enough l totally agree with you – GWTW – l have never watched it all the way through either and l have attempted to watch it five time since l was 21, all failed. I too prefer BD in Jezebel 🙂

  3. Rory – thank you so much for this wonderful tribute to one of my very favourite movie stars. “All About Eve” is my favourite film – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. I feel like I might need to have Bette Davis film season – you’ve given my so many good ideas 👍🎥😊

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