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26 September 1996 (USA)  »

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Standard attempt to retrace a great career.
27 March 2003 | by (Mountain Mesa, California) – See all my reviews

A characteristic lightly gossipy Lifetime Productions outlining of a well-known woman's career, this 45 minute affair is abundantly used for portaging around that in which most viewers will be interested: the cinema performances of the actress who received ten Academy nominations and two Oscars. There are some brief film snippets, including her best-known performance in ALL ABOUT EVE, her final film WHALES IN AUGUST, and extraordinary moments from OF HUMAN BONDAGE, but most of this documentary's footage is used to explore relationships between the petite star and her family and spouses. Perhaps the most interesting moments are slices from a Dick Cavett television interview, where her elegance and comic timing are evident, and where we are privy to her confession that she turned down the role which was later given to Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND. Narrated at intervals by Lauren Hutton, the work's largest amount of screen time is given to Michael Merrill, adopted son of Davis and fourth husband Gary Merrill, whose colloquial comments are genial but as presented lack any interpretive element as to what motivated the actress' birth daughter B.D. to write an ignobly unpleasant memoir of her mother. The primary substance of the included information is focussed upon revelations of her unexceptional broken home as a child, her four marriages (three which ended in divorce and one wherein she was widowed) and her very real feud with Joan Crawford, her co-star in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? Bette Davis dominates most of her films made during her 18 year tenure under contract with Warner Brothers, but we are given mainly stills of these, while presented with details of her many health problems (cancer, stroke, mastectomy, et alia), interesting in their own way, one might suppose, but more emphasis upon her acting life would be more gratifying.


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