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Bette Davis Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (3) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (81) | Personal Quotes (78) | Salary (9)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 5 April 1908Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Date of Death 6 October 1989Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France  (metastasized breast cancer)
Birth NameRuth Elizabeth Davis
Nicknames The Fifth Warner Brother
The First Lady of Film
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (3)

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her parents divorced when she was 10. She and her sister were raised by their mother, Ruthie. Bette demanded attention from birth, which led to her pursuing a career in acting. After graduation from Cushing Academy she was refused admittance to Eva Le Gallienne's Manhattan Civic Repertory because she was considered insincere and frivolous. She enrolled in John Murray Anderson's Dramatic School and was the star pupil. She was in the off-Broadway play "The Earth Between" (1923), and her Broadway debut in 1929 was in "Broken Dishes". She also appeared in "Solid South". Late in 1930, she was hired by Universal. When she arrived in Hollywood, the studio representative who went to meet her train left without her because he could find no one who looked like a movie star. An official at Universal complained she had "as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville" and her performance in The Bad Sister (1931) didn't impress. In 1932 she signed a seven-year deal with Warner Brothers Pictures. She became a star after her appearance in The Man Who Played God (1932). Warners loaned her to RKO in 1934 for Of Human Bondage (1934), in which she was a smash. She had a significant number of write-in votes for the Best Actress Oscar, but didn't win. She finally DID win for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938)). She constantly fought with Warners and tried to get out of her contract because she felt she wasn't receiving the top roles an Oscar-winning actress deserved, and eventually sued the studio. Returning after losing her lawsuit, her roles improved dramatically. The only role she didn't get that she wanted was Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Warners wouldn't loan her to David O. Selznick unless he hired Errol Flynn to play Rhett Butler, which both Selznick and Davis thought was a terrible choice. It was rumored she had numerous affairs, among them George Brent and William Wyler, and she was married four times, three of which ended in divorce. She admitted her career always came first. She made many successful films in the 1940s, but each picture was weaker than the last and by the time her Warner Brothers contract had ended in 1949, she had been reduced to appearing in such films as the unintentionally hilarious Beyond the Forest (1949). She made a huge comeback in 1950 when she replaced an ill Claudette Colbert in, and received an Oscar nomination for, All About Eve (1950). She worked in films through the 1950s, but her career eventually came to a standstill, and in 1961 she placed a now famous Job Wanted ad in the trade papers.

She received an Oscar nomination for her role as a demented former child star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which brought her a new degree of stardom in both movies and television through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977 she received the AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1979 she won a Best Actress Emmy for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979). In 1977-78 she moved from Connecticut to Los Angeles and filmed a pilot for the series Hotel (1983), which she called Brothel. She refused to do the TV series and suffered a stroke during this time. Her daughter Barbara Merrill wrote a 1985 "Mommie Dearest"-type book, "My Mother's Keeper". She worked in the later 1980s in films and TV, even though a stroke had impaired her appearance and mobility. She wrote a book "This 'N That" during her recovery from the stroke. Her last book was "Bette Davis, The Lonely Life", issued in paperback in 1990. It included an update from 1962 to 1989. She wrote the last chapter in San Sebastian, Spain. When she passed away of cancer on October 6, 1989, in France, many of her fans refused to believe she was gone.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Meredy <meredy@meredy.com>

Her parents divorced when she was young. In her first year of high school, she gave up dance for acting. After a little time in John Murray Anderson's acting school, she was in the off-Broadway play "The Earth Between" (1923). Her Broadway debut in 1929 was in "Broken Dishes". Late in 1930, on a six-month Universal contract, she arrived in Hollywood. The studio representative who went to meet her train left without her because he could find no one who looked like a movie star. In 1932 she signed a seven-year deal with Warners. She won Oscars for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938) and fought unsuccessfully to break her contract between awards. She received eight additional Oscar nominations, including one for the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950), the role with which she remains most identified. A genuine box-office star in the 1930s and 1940s, all her films from 1953 to 1962 lost money; then What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) brought a new phase of stardom. In 1979 she won a Best Actress Emmy for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979), and in 1982 she moved from Connecticut to Los Angeles to be in the 1982-3 TV series Hotel (1983) (illness led to her replacement by Anne Baxter--shades of All About Eve (1950)!). She had three children, one of whom was severely retarded. Her daughter B.D. Hyman (AKA Barbara Merrill) wrote a 1985 torrid biography, "My Mother's Keeper". In 1977 the American Film Institute gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on April 5, 1908. Her parents divorced when she was 10. Her early interests were in dance. To Bette, dancers led a glamorous life, but then she discovered the stage. She gave up dancing for acting. To her, it presented much more of a challenge. She studied drama in New York City and made her debut on Broadway in 1929. In 1930, she moved to Hollywood where she hoped things would get better for her in the world of acting. They did indeed. She would become known as the actress that could play a variety of very strong and complex roles. She was first under contract to Universal Studios, where she made her first film, called Way Back Home (1931). After the unsuccessful film The Bad Sister (1931), made the same year, she was fired, which was wildly unpopular. She then moved on to Warner Brothers. Her first film with them was Seed (1931). More fairly successful movies followed, but it was the role of Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1934) that would give Bette major acclaim from the film critics. Warner Bros. felt their seven-year deal with Bette was more than justified. They had a genuine star on their hands. With this success under her belt, she began pushing for stronger and more meaningful roles. In 1935, she received her first Oscar for her role in Dangerous (1935) as Joyce Heath. In 1936, she was suspended without pay for turning down a role that she deemed unworthy of her talent. She went to England, where she had planned to make movies, but was stopped by Warner Bros. because she was still under contract to them. They did not want her to work anywhere. Although she sued to get out of her contract, she lost. Still, they began to take her more seriously after that. In 1938, Bette received a second Academy Award nomination for her work in Jezebel (1938) opposite the soon-to-be-legendary Henry Fonda. Bette would receive six more nominations, including one for her role as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950). While she was a genuine star in the '30s and '40s, the '50s and early '60s saw her in the midst of films that all lost money. Then came What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) in which she played a deranged former child star and a rather spooky one at that. This brought about a new round of super-stardom for generations of fans who were not familiar with her work. Two years later she starred in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). Bette was married four times. Her last marriage, to actor Gary Merrill, lasted ten years, longer than any of the previous three. In 1985, her daughter Barbara Davis ("B.D.") Hyman published a scandalous book about Bette called "My Mother's Keeper." Sadly, Bette Davis died on October 6, 1989, of metastasized breast cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (4)

Gary Merrill (28 July 1950 - 6 July 1960) (divorced) (2 children)
William Grant Sherry (30 November 1945 - 5 July 1950) (divorced) (1 child)
Arthur Farnsworth (31 December 1940 - 25 August 1943) (his death)
Harmon Nelson (18 August 1932 - 6 December 1938) (divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

Often played assertive, uncompromising, aggressive and even ruthless women, though never less than compelling
Her large, distinctive eyes

Trivia (81)

While she was the star pupil at John Murray Anderson's Dramatic School in New York, another of her classmates was sent home because she was "too shy". It was predicted that this girl would never make it as an actress. The girl was Lucille Ball.
Ranked #15 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
In 1952 she was asked to perform in a musical, "Two's Company". After several grueling months at rehearsals, her health deteriorated due to osteomyelitis of the jaw and she had to leave the show only several weeks after it opened. She was to repeat this process in 1974 when she rehearsed for the musical version of The Corn Is Green (1945), called "Miss Moffat", but bowed out early in the run of the show for dubious medical reasons.
On her sarcophagus is written "She did it the hard way".
She suffered a stroke and had a mastectomy in 1983.
Attended Northfield Mt. Hermon high school.
Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, just outside and to the left of the main entrance to the Court of Remembrance.
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.
Director Steven Spielberg won the Christie's auction of her 1938 Best Actress Oscar for Jezebel (1938) for $578,000. He then gave it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. [July 2001]
When Bette learned that her new brother-in-law was a recovering alcoholic, she sent the couple a dozen cases of liquor for a wedding present.
She was elected as first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in October 1941. She resigned less then two months later, publicly declaring herself too busy to fulfill her duties as president while angrily protesting in private that the Academy had wanted her to serve as a mere figurehead.
She considered her debut screen test for Universal Pictures to be so bad that she ran screaming from the projection room.
Her third husband Arthur Farnsworth died after a fall on Hollywood Boulevard in which he took a blow to the head. He had shortly before banged his head on a train between LA and New England, followed by another fall down the stairway at their New Hampshire home.
It is said that one of her real true loves was director William Wyler but he was married and refused to leave his wife.
In Marked Woman (1937), Davis is forced to testify in court after being worked over by some Mafia hoods. Disgusted with the tiny bandage supplied by the makeup department, she left the set, had her own doctor bandage her face more realistically, and refused to shoot the scene any other way.
When she first came to Hollywood as a contract player, Universal Pictures wanted to change her name to Bettina Dawes. She informed the studio that she refused to go through life with a name that sounded like "Between the Drawers".
Nominated for an Academy Award 5 years in a row, in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943. She shares the record for most consecutive nominations with Greer Garson.
After the song "Bette Davis Eyes" became a hit single, she wrote letters to singer Kim Carnes and songwriters Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, asking how they knew so much about her. One of the reasons Davis loved the song is that her grandson heard it and thought it "cool" that his grandmother had a hit song written about her.
While touring the talk show circuit to promote What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), she told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads, Warner studio head Jack L. Warner replied: "I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for either of those two old broads." Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she reportedly received a telegram from Crawford: "In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!".
Was one of two actresses (with Faye Dunaway) to have two villainous roles ranked in the American Film Institute's 100 Years of The Greatest Heroes and Villains, as Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes (1941) at #43 and as Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) at #44.
Was named #2 on The Greatest Screen Legends actress list by the American Film Institute.
She was voted the 10th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
After her first picture, Davis was sitting outside the office of Universal Pictures executive Carl Laemmle Jr. when she overhead him say about her, "She's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville. Who wants to get her at the end of the picture?".
Attended Cushing Academy; a prep school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. An award in her namesake is given annually to one male and one female scholar-athlete of exceptional accomplishment in both fields.
Joan Crawford and Davis had feuded for years. During the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Bette had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set due to Crawford's affiliation with Pepsi (she was the widow of Pepsi's CEO). Joan got her revenge by putting weights in her pockets when Davis had to drag her across the floor during certain scenes.
Desperately wanted to win a third Best Actress Oscar for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), as three wins in the leading category was unprecedented (Walter Brennan had won three Oscars, but all of his were in the supporting category). It was the general feeling among Academy voters that while Davis was superb, the movie itself was little better than a potboiler exploitation film, the kind that doesn't deserve the recognition that an Oscar would give it.
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.".
According to her August 1982 Playboy Magazine interview, in her youth she posed nude for an artist, who carved a statue of her that was placed in a public spot in Boston, MA. After the interview appeared, Bostonians searched for the statue in vain. The statue, four dancing nymphs, was later found in the possession of a private Massachusetts collector.
She came to Cardiff in 1975 for a theatre tour and went to the Welsh Valleys in search of relatives - and found them. She had been learning Welsh in order to come to Wales; however, she only used the words "Nos Da" (meaning "good night") while in the country and had forgotten all the other phrases she had learned.
She claimed to have given the Academy Award the nickname "Oscar" after her first husband, Harmon Nelson, whose middle name was Oscar, although she later withdrew that claim. Most sources say it was named by Academy librarian and eventual executive director Margaret Herrick, who thought the statuette resembled her Uncle Oscar.
Murdoch University (Western Australia) Communications Senior Lecturer Tara Brabazon, in her article "The Spectre of the Spinster: Bette Davis and the Epistemology of the Shelf," quotes the court testimony of Davis' first husband Harmon Nelson to show what a debacle her private life was. During divorce proceedings, Nelson was successful in sustaining his charge of mental cruelty by testifying that Davis had told him that her career was more important than her marriage. Brabazon writes that Davis, claiming she was beaten by all four of her husbands, believed that she should have remained single.
She was voted the 25th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
In 1952, she accepted the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role on behalf of Kim Hunter, who wasn't present at the awards ceremony.
Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
She said that among the jokes told about her, her favorite came from impressionist Charles Pierce who, dressed as her, demanded of the audience, "Someone give me a cigarette". When the request was granted the performer threw it on the floor and shouted "LIT!".
For many years she was a popular target for impressionists but she was perplexed by the often used phrase "Pee-tah! Pee-tah! Pee-tah!". She said she had no idea who Pee-tah was and had never even met anyone by that name.
While filming Death on the Nile (1978), aboard ship, no one was allowed his or her own dressing room, so she shared a dressing room with Angela Lansbury & Maggie Smith.
Her performance as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950) is ranked #5 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Is portrayed by Nancy Linehan Charles in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996).
Declined a role in 4 for Texas (1963) (which turned out to be a big hit) to do Dead Ringer (1964) (which turned out to be a big flop).
Described the last three decades of her life as a "my macabre period". She hated being alone at night and found growing older "terrifying".
Had a long-running feud with Miriam Hopkins due to her affair with Hopkins' husband, director Anatole Litvak, as well as Davis' getting many roles that Hopkins wanted.
When she died, her false eyelashes were auctioned off, fetching a price of $600. Previously, she had said that her biggest secret was brown mascara.
In an interview with Dick Cavett in 1971, she said her salary at the time she shot Jezebel (1938) was $650 a week.
She was of English descent, and also had remote Scottish and Welsh roots. Most of her ancestors had lived almost exclusively in New England since moving to the United States in the 1600s.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 232-235. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
In Italian films, she was dubbed in most cases by Lidia Simoneschi or Andreina Pagnani. Occasionally, she was also dubbed by Tina Lattanzi, Giovanna Scotto, Rina Morelli or Wanda Tettoni.
Was first offered the role of Luke's mother in Cool Hand Luke (1967), but refused the bit part. Jo Van Fleet accepted the role.
Salary for 1941, $252,333.
Salary for 1948, $365,000.
During her great film career, she reportedly did not get along with her co-stars Miriam Hopkins, Susan Hayward, Celeste Holm and most infamously Joan Crawford.
When she died in 1989, she reportedly left an estate valued between $600,000 and $1 million, consisting mainly of a condominium apartment she owned in West Hollywood. 50% of her estate went to her son, Michael Merrill, and the remaining 50% went to her secretary and companion, Kathryn Sermack. Her daughter, Barbara Merrill aka B.D. Hyman, was left nothing due to her lurid book about life with her mother. During her long life, she spent the majority of her wealth supporting her mother, three children, and four husbands.
Played dual roles of twin sisters in two movies: A Stolen Life (1946) and Dead Ringer (1964).
She was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of her outstanding contribution to film culture.
Pictured on a 42¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued 18 September 2008.
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Elizabeth Taylor does an exaggerated impression of Bette Davis saying a line from Beyond the Forest (1949): "What a dump!" In an interview with Barbara Walters, Davis said that in "Beyond the Forest", she really did not deliver the line in such an exaggerated manner. She said it in a more subtle, low-key manner, but it has passed into legend that she said it the way Elizabeth Taylor delivered it in "Virginia Woolf". During the interview, the clip of Bette delivering the line in "Beyond the Forest" was shown to prove that she was correct. However, since people expected Bette Davis to deliver the line the way Taylor had in "Virginia Woolf", she always opened her in-person, one woman show by saying the line in a campy, exaggerated manner: "What... a... dump!!!". It always brought down the house. "I imitated the imitators", Davis said.
Her father was Harlow Morrell Davis, a lawyer. Her mother was Ruth Favor. She had a sister, Barbara Davis.
Has a street named after her in Iowa City, Iowa.
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".
Campaigned for the role of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night (1934), but the part was eventually given to Claudette Colbert, who went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
Campaigned for the part of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) but Elizabeth Taylor, who went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance, was cast instead.
Was originally offered the role of fiery pianist Sandra Kovac in The Great Lie (1941). Instead she took the less showy role of Maggie Patterson and suggested her good friend Mary Astor for the role of Sandra -- Davis thought it would help boost Astor's career, which had been hurt by a very nasty custody battle, in 1936, with her ex-husband. Astor went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
For William Randolph Hearst's 75th birthday, the famous 'Circus Party' at San Simeon, she came dressed as a bearded lady (1937).
Became pregnant by first husband Harmon Nelson in 1933 and 1936, by her lover William Wyler in 1940, and by her second husband Arthur Farnsworth in 1941, 1942 and 1943. On all of these occasions she had abortions.
Was originally sought for the part of "Shirley Drake" in Career (1959).
Onscreen, Bette Davis played spinsters named Charlotte in 3 different movies: "The Old Maid" (1939), "Now, Voyager" (1942), and "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964).
Returned to work three months after giving birth to her daughter Barbara Merrill in order to begin filming June Bride (1948).
Played twin Sisters Kate and Patricia Bosworth in "A Stolen Life (1946) and Margaret DeLorca and Edith Phillips in "Dead Ringer (1964)" In both she played a good and bad twin and, in both movies, one of the sisters met a tragic death.
Her role in "The Petrified Forest" got parodied in the cartoon "She Was an Acrobat's Daughter". It depicts a movie called "The Petrified Florist", starring Leslie Coward (a spoof of Leslie Howard) and Bette Savis.
She was a lifelong liberal Democrat. She was a solid supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. She was also a chairwoman for the Hollywood Democratic Committee and was an honored guest speaker at both the 1940/1944 Democratic National Convention.
Mentioned in the song 'Industrial Disease' by rock band Dire Straits.
She was very active in leading Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts due in part that in her childhood she was a decorated Girl Scout.
Her favorite song was "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael.
Her favorite actress was Katharine Hepburn.
Davis' arch rival Joan Crawford once said in an interview that she and Davis had nothing in common. In reality, they had a handful of similarities in their personal lives. They both had father's who abandoned their families at a young age; both rose from poverty to success while breaking into films during the late 1920s and early 1930s; both had siblings and mothers who milked them financially once they became famous; both became Oscar-winning leading ladies; both were staunch liberal Democrats and feminists; and both had daughters who wrote lurid books denouncing them as bad mothers.
Filmed a television pilot in 1965 for a show to be called "The Bette Davis Show," which was not picked up for series by any of the television networks, but which was broadcast as a television movie entitled The Decorator (1965).
Actress Kirstie Alley modeled her character of Madison "Maddie" Banks for her TV show Kirstie (2013) after Davis; so much in fact, that on the first seasons fifth episode she donned a Margo Channing style dress.
In honor of her 100th birthday, she was honored as Turner Classic Movie's Star of the Month in April 2008.
Her hometown of Lowell, Massachussetts, was featured in a 2007 episode of Cops (1989).

Personal Quotes (78)

[when told by director Robert Aldrich that the studios wanted Joan Crawford as her co-star for Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] I wouldn't piss on Joan Crawford if she were on fire.
[in 1982] Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should ALL be bigger than life.
Getting old is not for sissies.
I see - she's the original good time that was had by all.
Until you're known in my profession as a monster, you're not a star.
At 50, I thought proudly, 'Here we are, half century!' Being 60 was fairly frightening. You want to know how I spent my 70th birthday? I put on a completely black face, a fuzzy black afro wig, wore black clothes, and hung a black wreath on my door.
I went back to work because someone had to pay for the groceries.
I'm the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.
[on rival Joan Crawford] She has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.
[on her character in All About Eve (1950)] Margo Channing was not a bitch. She was an actress who was getting older and was not too happy about it. And why should she be? Anyone who says that life begins at 40 is full of it. As people get older their bodies begin to decay. They get sick. They forget things. What's good about that?
Gay Liberation? I ain't against it, it's just that there's nothing in it for me.
Success only breeds a new goal.
What a fool I was to come to Hollywood where they only understand platinum blondes and where legs are more important than talent.
I have never known the great actor who... didn't plan eventually to direct or produce. If he has no such dream, he is usually bitter, ungratified and eventually alcoholic.
There was more good acting at Hollywood parties than ever appeared on the screen.
I would advise any woman against having an affair with a married man believing he will ever leave his wife, no matter how often he says his wife does not understand him. Love is not as necessary to a man's happiness as it is to a woman's. If her marriage is satisfactory, a woman will seldom stray. A man can be totally contented and still be out howling at the moon.
The male ego, with few exceptions, is elephantine to start with.
To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.
I'd marry again if I found a man who had fifteen million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he'd be dead within a year.
An affair now and then is good for a marriage. It adds spice, stops it from getting boring. I ought to know.
[referring to her parents' divorce when she was 7] Of course I replaced my father. I became my own father and everyone else's.
I will never be below the title.
If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it.
Today everyone is a star - they're all billed as 'starring' or 'also starring'. In my day, we earned that recognition.
[about Katharine Hepburn's tie for the 1968 Oscar with Barbra Streisand] I wanted to be the first to win three Oscars, but Miss Hepburn has done it. Actually it hasn't been done. Miss Hepburn only won half an Oscar. If they'd given me half an Oscar I would have thrown it back in their faces. You see, I'm an Aries. I never lose.
[referring to her fourth husband, Gary Merrill] Gary was a macho man, but none of my husbands was ever man enough to become Mr. Bette Davis.
[when told that "at one time" she had a reputation for being difficult] At one time?! I've been known as difficult for 50 years, practically! What do you mean "at one time"? Nooo, I've been like this for 50 years. And it's always always to make it the best film I can make it!
Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why [Joan Crawford] always plays ladies.
[when told not to speak ill of the dead] Just because someone is dead does not mean they have changed!
[on sex] God's biggest joke on human beings.
[commenting on the death of long-time nemesis Joan Crawford] You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good.
[commenting about her mother, an aspiring actress] I had to be the monster for both of us.
If Hollywood didn't work out, I was prepared to be the best secretary in the world.
I have been uncompromising, peppery, infractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile and offtimes disagreeable. I suppose I'm larger than life.
[Joan Crawford] and I have never been warm friends. We are not simpatico. I admire her, and yet I feel uncomfortable with her. To me, she is the personification of the Movie Star. I have always felt her greatest performance is Crawford being Crawford.
[after having blown the same line several times in Hollywood Canteen (1944), in which she plays herself] I don't know what's wrong with me, but I think I just can't play myself. I don't know how! But, if you give me a drink - give me a cigarette - give me a gun - I'll play any old bag you want me to. I just can't play myself!
Beyond the Forest (1949) was a terrible movie! It had the longest death scene ever seen on the screen.
I was a person who couldn't make divorce work. For me, there's nothing lonelier than a turned-down toilet seat.
[before taking her final flight in 1989] I want to die with my high heels on, still in action.
I always had the will to win. I felt it baking cookies. They had to be the best cookies anyone baked.
When I die, they'll probably auction off my false eyelashes.
My favorite person to work with was Claude Rains.
[on John Wayne] I certainly would have given anything to have worked with John Wayne. He's the most attractive man who ever walked the earth, I think.
[on Errol Flynn] He was just beautiful . . . Errol. He himself openly said, "I don't know really anything about acting," and I admire his honesty because he's absolutely right.
[on director Lindsay Anderson] I think he's a very talented man, but I think he's a difficult man to work with. He really prefers theatre and not film, and that's a little depressing, I must say.
[on Errol Flynn] He was not an actor of enormous talent -- he would have admitted that himself -- but in all those swashbuckling things he was beautiful.
[in 1977, on why she was still working] So I am up to my ears in taxes and debts, and that's why I come out of my house in Connecticut every few years and work. I can hole up for just so long, then I gotta get out and stir things up again. It's half for income and half for me.
[during tension on the set of The Whales of August (1987) about her esteemed costar Lillian Gish] She ought to know about close-ups! Jesus, she was around when they invented them!
I think acting should look as if we were working a *little* ... It's like the juggler who loses it twice and then gets it, you know, finally. Which is a very old-fashioned theory today. See, you mustn't have *any* idea that *anybody* knows the camera's on them at all. You see: it's just life. Well, we all have life, 24, 12 hours a day, and sometimes we want to forget life, you know. And I think it should be a *little* larger than life. A little bit theatrical.
[to TV interviewer Dick Cavett] People say, when I'm coming on with someone like you for ninety minutes, "Don't you want to know what's going to happen?" I *don't* want to know the questions ahead, because number one, I trust your taste, but if you should ask me something that I *really* don't want to go into, I'd give a *perfectly* nice smile, not insulting, and say, "I don't want to talk about it." Nobody can *make* you talk about something. So if I'm *fool* enough to talk about it, then it's not your fault, it's mine. Like many bad interviews, this is what happens: it's the actor's fault. They get five good hookers in them, and tell their life story. Well, you cannot blame the interviewer who goes out and prints it. ... Anybody who does an interview with drinks is a fool. Because we all know we talk more with drinks.
[of the studio executives] Four compliments a year, we never would have asked for so much money. Truthfully! They never knew it! Actors are complete suckers for good parts, you know, and just saying, "You did a *good* job, Bette!" Never. Never. Never.... I think it would've made a whole different salary scale in California, yes, I do. They only respected you by how much money you made. You could be the same actress at six-fifty a week or thirty thousand a week, and you're a *much* better actress at thirty thousand a week.
[on being idolized and spoiled while traveling] This is *part* of the reward, but boy, you don't get that for a long time! And that must never be your motive. See that *can't* be the motive. Because that isn't what you want the most. You want to get on that stage and work.
On work: This became a credo of mine...attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.
On desire: From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it.
On sexual politics: I am a woman meant for a man, but I never found a man who could compete.
On growth: I have always been driven by some distant music -- a battle hymn no doubt -- for I have been at war from the beginning. I've never looked back before. I've never had the time and it has always seemed so dangerous. To look back is to relax one's vigil.
On experience: Old age ain't no place for sissies.
The weak are the most treacherous of us all. They come to the strong and drain them. They are bottomless. They are insatiable. They are always parched and always bitter. They are everyone's concern and like vampires they suck our life's blood.
[on working with Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] We were polite to each other - all the social amenities, 'Good morning, Joan' and 'Good Morning, Bette' crap - and thank God we weren't playing roles where we had to like each other. But people forget that our big scenes were alone - just the camera was on me or her. No actresses on earth are as different as we are, all the way down the line. Yet what we do works. It's so strange, this acting business. It comes from inside. She was always so damn proper. She sent thank you notes for thank you notes. I screamed when I found out she signed autographs: 'Bless you, Joan Crawford.'
You can't tell me that any man who has really loved a woman, or vice versa, can really be friends again after a divorce. And kidding about it is like tying a pink ribbon on a machine gun.
[After hearing that Joan Crawford cried copiously over "Dark Victory"] Joan always cries a lot. Her tear ducts must be very close to her bladder.
"I am returning to the stage, to refine my craft." That's what Hollywood actors always say. But that's a bunch of BS. No one leaves movies for the stage unless they can't get work; and I'm no exception.
[Of her longtime rival] We must hand it to her. Where she came from and all that--she accomplished *much*. She became a movie star, and I became the great actress. There is of course a need for both in this business, but you have to know *when* to put a stop to the nonsense that goes with the job. Stars are people *too*. They have to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom too, without applause or a standing ovation. But I don't *think* Joan Crawford ever sleeps. She never *quits* being Joan Crawford. I find that tedious and quite insane.
When I was filming Dangerous in 1935, I had a crush on my costar, Franchot Tone. Everything about him reflected his elegance, from his name to his manners. He had a great deal going for him, including Miss Joan Crawford.
I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache.
[on the making of Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)]: I can't tell you what I went through during those weeks that shooting stopped, waiting for Crawford to get well. It was sheer torture.
[on Joan Crawford]: I was not Miss Crawford's biggest fan, but, wisecracks to the contrary, I did and still do respect her talent. What she did not deserve was that detestable book written by her daughter. I've forgotten her name. Horrible. I looked at that book, but I did not need to read it. I wouldn't read trash like that, and I think it was a terrible, terrible thing for a daughter to do. An abomination! To do something like that to someone who saved you from the orphanage, foster homes, who knows what. If she didn't like the person who chose to be her mother, she was grown up and could choose her own life. I felt very sorry for Joan Crawford, but I knew she wouldn't appreciate my pity, because that's the last thing she would have wanted, anyone being sorry for her, especially me. I can understand how hurt Miss Crawford had to be. Well, no I can't. It's like trying to imagine how I would feel if my own beloved, wonderful daughter, B.D., were to write a bad book about me. Unimaginable. I am grateful for my children and for knowing they would never do to me anything like what Miss Crawford's daughter did to her. Of course, dear B.D., of whom I'm so proud, is my natural child, and there always are certain risks in adopting. Gary [Merrill] and I adopted two babies, because when we married I was too old to have our own. We were very pleased with our little boy, Michael, but our adopted daughter, who was a beautiful baby, was, brain-damaged. I never have had regrets, though, because I think we provided for her better than anything else that could have happened to her, and we gave her some happiness in her life. You can't return a baby like you can a carton of cracked eggs.
[on Miriam Hopkins] Miriam is a perfectly charming person, socially. Working with her is another story. Miriam used, and I must give her credit, every trick in the book. I became fascinated watching them appear one by one. When she was supposed to be listening to me, her eyes would wander off into some world in which she was the sweetest of them all. Her restless little spirit was impatiently awaiting her next line, her golden curls quivering with expectancy. Miriam was her own worst enemy. I usually had better things to do than waste my energies on invective and cat fights.
[on Greta Garbo] Oh, Garbo was divine. Soooo beautiful. I worshipped her. When I became a star, I used to have my chauffeur follow her in my car. I always wanted to meet her.
[when asked if she and Joan Crawford were ever up for the same role] We were two different types entirely. I can't think of a single part I played that Joan could do. Not one. Can you?
[on The Unforgiven (1960) Oh yes, I had a chance to go to Mexico, to play 'Burt Lancaster's mother. I turned it down. I'll be damned if I play Burt Lancaster's mother after thirty years in the business.
[on Cool Hand Luke (1967)] Warner Brothers asked me to play Paul Newman's mother in Cool Hand Luke. They offered me $25,000 for one day's work. I said 'No.' I would have been on and off the screen in three minutes. That would be a cheat to the audience.
Warner Brothers sent me a letter saying they wanted to use a clip from Now, Voyager (1942) in the Summer of '42 (1971). They implied that they wanted to use it as a laugh. My lawyer wrote back saying, if they wanted a clip to laugh at, why didn't they choose a scene from one of their current films.
[Burnt Offerings (1976)] Karen Black changes her makeup in the middle of the scene, so nothing matches on the screen. She sleeps all day, never goes to rushes and you can't hear a bloody thing she says on the set. When I made movies you could hear me in a tunnel.
[on Elizabeth Taylor's declining to have Davis as her co-star in A Little Night Music (1977)] She is such a fool. One would think that after all her years in the business she would want to work with a professional.
[after attending President Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration] Miss Lillian [the President's mother] doesn't like any women. She was perfectly terrible to all of us at the inauguration. She only wanted to see the men. When any women came up to her, she just glared at us like this!
[on her second husband, Arthur Farnsworth] Farney was a real charmer, but an alcoholic who was tied to his mother's apron strings... and what a mother. Christ, what a cold bitch.
[on The Star (1952), (1983)] Oh, yes, that was [Joan] Crawford. I wasn't imitating her, of course. It was just that whole approach of hers to the business as regards the importance of glamor and all the off stage things. I adored the script.

Salary (9)

Jezebel (1938) $650/week
Dark Victory (1939) $3,500/week
Juarez (1939) $4,000/week
All About Eve (1950) $130,000
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) $60,000+ 5% of the net profits.
Where Love Has Gone (1964) $125,000
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) $200,000
Right of Way (1983) $250,000
Wicked Stepmother (1989) $250,000

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