Reviews & Ratings for
"Biography" Bette Davis: If Looks Could Kill (1994)

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Superb BioPic of and with Bette Davis: First Lady of Cinema

10/10
Author: semioticz from United States
16 June 2008

With a superbly blended mixture of actual footage of Miss Bette Davis speaking about herself and her life-long career in acting, friends, family, co-actors, footage from choice films, as well as footage from television interviews, this biopic by A&E's "Biography" is worthy of Cinema's First Lady.

The humorous aspects of Bette Davis' personality, on and off sets, are priceless featured moments of one of the most serious actors in screen acting's history. Unlike the spoiled "stars," who went to work acting in order to gain fame and fortune, who stomped off sets in fits of temper or while having childish tantrums, it is refreshing to learn from this biopic that Miss Davis could leave people with whom she worked and friends she knew well alike rolling on the floor laughing. When she goofed on the set, instead of bickering, instead of being an ego-maniacal shrew, Davis came up with hilarious one liners when she missed hers, like, "I've just given birth in the ladies room," (in response to her co-character's line, "What's so serious?"--the film crew can be heard cracking up in the background, while Davis herself is grinning ear to ear). That's one of my favorite aspects of Bette Davis' whole personality: how she could so easily deploy humor to ease others--even during the worst years of WWII.

To learn how bold & brave a 25yo woman was to stand up to Warner Brothers in pursuit of nothing more than good scripts reveals so much about Bette Davis' life dream. Davis doesn't leave her dream to our imagination. She tells Dick Cavett in 1971 that she was determined to be the best actress or quit. To imagine that a five foot two, eyes of turquoise blue woman could take on heavy socially controversial topics through the delivery of some of the finest scripts is daunting. Tiny as she was her shadow is towering today.

The only comparable biopic about US Cinema's First Lady is "All About Bette," brilliantly narrated by Jodie Foster: it's a bit more intimate and concise.

Don't stop here with this biopic: view them all in order to develop the fullest bodied vision of one heck of a woman. There's much more to her life than what meets the eye through her 100+ corpus of fabulous films. Indeed, Davis' contributions to humanity are yet to be sung.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Ruth Elizabeth Davis' Straightforward Approach to Life, Career and Happiness

9/10
Author: WeatherViolet from United States
30 June 2010

Well, the first reviewer does an excellent job of capturing the essence of this wonderful episode regarding the life and career of film star Bette Davis, so I'll mention a few of its production details.

A casual Bette Davis fan may appreciate this upbeat retelling of Bette's rise to fame and glory, from her 1908 birth, in Lowell, Massachusetts, and her parents' divorce when she and sister, Bobbie, are very young, through her formative years, leading to the stage and her contract years with Warner Bros. Studios and the decades to follow.

A borderline fan may decide that Bette's saga with Warner Bros. and points beyond merits a second look, while a die-hard fan may naturally expect more and more than 50 minutes of praise and adulation and abbreviated select film clips because s/he would already have familiarity with Bette's impressive acting career.

Everyone involved with this episode sings well-deserved praises of the legendary Bette Davis with the exception of her vindictive elder daughter, B.D. Hyman, who in unfounded fashion smears her parent's reputation by bearing a volume of false testimony in one of those many discredited tell-all books by a celebrity's spoiled child and is proved erroneous.

Otherwise, you'll want to tune in to hear appropriate adjectives describing Miss Davis and her acting, such as dynamic, spectacular, insightful, direct and professional, along with her willingness to stand up to a tyrannical Jack Warner, as well as her mission to honor U.S. Military personnel with entertainment and hospitality, with Bette and actor John Garfield's co-founding Hollywood Canteen, to minister throughout the WWII era.

Bette's marriages are with Harmon Oscar Nelson (1932–38), Arthur Farnsworth (1940–43), William Grant Sherry (1945–50), and Gary Merrill (1950–60).

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Michael Merrill (Son), Ann Sothern (Actress/friend), Roddy McDowall (Actor/friend), Robert Wagner (Actor/friend), Harold Schiff (Bette's Attorney), Leonard Maltin (Film Historian), James Spada (Biographer: "More than a Woman"), with Peter Graves (Narrator) and Peter Graves or Harry Smith (Host), plus archive interviews with Bette Davis (1958 and 1983, with Dick Cavett).

Still Photographs include Bette Davis (Self), Ruthie Davis (Mother), Harlow Davis (Father), Bobbie Davis (Sister), Harmon Oscar Nelson (former Husband), Arthur Farnsworth (former Husband), William Grant Sherry (former Husband), Gary Merrill (former Husband), George Arliss, Jack Warner, Paul Muni, Franchot Tone, William Wyler, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Gena Rowlands, James Stewart, Lillian Gish, and B.D. Hyman (Daughter).

Archive film footage includes Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Judith Anderson, Spencer Tracy, Charles Farrell, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Eduardo Ciannelli, Ed Sullivan, Mickey Rooney, Hedy Lamarr, Red Skelton, Joe E. Brown, Jack Carson, Joseph Cotten, Ronald Reagan, Eddie Acuff, Anne Baxter, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Olivia de Havilland and Glenn Ford.

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Bette Davis through the years, in scenes from 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), The Big Shakedown (1934), Of Human Bondage (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Marked Woman (1937), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), Juarez (1939), The Letter (1940), In This Our Life (1942), Hollywood Canteen (1944), Deception (1946), Beyond the Forest (1949), All About Eve (1950), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and The Nanny (1965).

Newsreel and Television clips include coverage of 1935 Academy Awards ceremonies (1936), 1938 Academy Awards ceremonies (1939), Hollywood Newsreel (1940), and "Telephone Time: Stranded" (1957).

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