A documentary about and an interview with Hollywood actress Bette Davis about her life and career from the late 1920s to the 1980s on stage and mostly before the camera.
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Himself (as Joseph Mankiewicz)
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A documentary about and an interview with Hollywood actress Bette Davis about her life and career from the late 1920s to the 1980s on stage and mostly before the camera.

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Documentary | Music

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2 November 1983 (UK)  »

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(TCM print)

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Amusing...but sugar-coated and only skims the surface...
20 November 2005 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

Fans of Bette Davis will surely appreciate watching her talk about the subject dearest to Bette--herself. As with most actresses, like Katharine Hepburn, for instance, it's a subject that truly fascinates her. But somehow, I get the impression she was less than benevolent toward her co-workers.

She's entertaining to listen to as she recounts the stories behind the films she made--well, some of them--but there's lots of material that she never dares touches. The bitter feuds with Miriam Hopkins and Joan Crawford, in particular, are never detailed, nor are all the nervous breakdowns she gave her directors.

The most interesting of her co-stars is Olivia de Havilland, who admits to being frightened of Bette during their first two films, with Bette "only warming up to her" by the time they did IN THIS OUR LIFE. Bette retorts with, "Oh, you were always so damned pretty." De Havilland also reveals how Bette's flare-ups could be frightening, as when she lit into a technician fussing with the lighting.

William Wyler adds an amusing anecdote and Anne Baxter seems to have relished playing opposite her in ALL ABOUT EVE.

But it's what isn't revealed here that could have made the whole thing a little less sugar-coated than it is.

I read recently that when Ruth Roman was asked whether she would ever do another film with Davis (after BEYOND THE FOREST), she simply said, "I'll pass on that." There are many actresses who swear they would never do another film with her--and even sweethearts like Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish couldn't find a kind word to say about her behavior on the set of films she made late in her career. Presumably, she was less than benevolent during the last decade of her life. She also found fault with de Havilland for "upstaging" her at an award ceremony in Paris.

Still, fans will get a sense of her independent spirit and strong will from watching this recap of her career.


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