Ruth Elizabeth Davis, April 5 1908 – October 6 1989


This is what Bette Davis looked like when she was first starting out in Hollywood. For someone whose first and still favorite Davis movie is All About Eve, where Bette’s marvelous Margo Channing is a dark-haired cynic who’s seen too much, smoked too much, and is worried about growing old, this blonde angelic version is much different than the image usually conjured up upon hearing her name. I’ve been reading Ed Sikov’s great biography of Davis, Dark Victory, and it’s fascinating to learn just how different Bette was in her younger years from the no-nonsense diva with quite the party reputation she’d become. Most of her earliest films just aren’t watched much anymore, while many from decades following are revered. Reading this book makes me want to seek out some of her early work, as well as revisit her greatest roles. And so, properly enough, since it is also the month of Davis’s birth, I declare April to be Bette Davis month here at Celeberrimous. Stay tuned.


2 Responses to “Ruth Elizabeth Davis, April 5 1908 – October 6 1989”

  1. 1 George T January 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I made sure my children know about Bette Davis, who she was, her body of work, and the enormous impact she had on film. The quintessential story about Bette is how she wanted the role of Mildred Rogers, the drug addicted prostitute in “Of Human Bondage”. She was under contract to Jack Warner, who wouldn’t let her do the movie (it was for another studio, and he would have had to loan her out). He said “This role will ruin your career”. But Davis insisted, and threatened to quit Warner Brothers if Warner wouldn’t allow her to do the movie. Finally, Warner relented. That movie produced her first Oscar nomination. Claudette Colbert won for “It Happened One Night”.

    Another great Bette Davis story is about her roles in the early sixties, when she had fallen into disfavour with fans because she was “old hat”. She appeared in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, two films the critics hated at the time. She was being interviewed by an unknown reported who asked “Miss Davis, how can a star of your stature appear in such films?” She replied “Young man, obviously you don’t understand money”.

    Bette Davis will live forever in the minds and hearts of cinephiles.

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