Bette Davis Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (146)  | Personal Quotes (82)  | Salary (14)

Overview (5)

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France  (metastasized breast cancer)
Birth NameRuth Elizabeth Davis
Nicknames The Fourth Warner Brother
The First Lady of Film
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Ruth Augusta (Favor) and Harlow Morrell Davis, a patent attorney. Her parents divorced when she was 10. She and her sister were raised by their mother. Her early interest was dance. To Bette, dancers led a glamorous life, but then she discovered the stage, and gave up dancing for acting. To her, it presented much more of a challenge.

After graduation from Cushing Academy, she was refused admittance to Eva Le Gallienne's Manhattan Civic Repertory. 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, where she made her first film, called Bad Sister (1931). 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 "Bad Sister" didn't impress.

In 1932, she signed a seven-year deal with Warner Brothers Pictures. Her first film with them was The Man Who Played God (1932). She became a star after this appearance, known as the actress that could play a variety of very strong and complex roles. More fairly successful movies followed, but it was the role of Mildred Rogers in RKO's Of Human Bondage (1934) that would give Bette major acclaim from the film critics. She had a significant number of write-in votes for the Best Actress Oscar, but didn't win. 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.

Returning after losing her lawsuit, her roles improved dramatically. In 1938, Bette received a second Academy Award win for her work in Jezebel (1938) opposite the soon-to-be-legendary Henry Fonda. 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). 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.

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 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." Bette 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.

Sadly, Bette Davis died on October 6, 1989, of metastasized breast cancer, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France. Many of her fans refused to believe she was gone.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Meredy <meredy@meredy.com> and Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu> and Denny Jackson

Family (4)

Spouse Gary Merrill (28 July 1950 - 6 July 1960)  (divorced)  (2 children)
William Grant Sherry (30 November 1945 - 5 July 1950)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Arthur Austin Farnsworth (31 December 1940 - 25 August 1943)  (his death)
Harmon Nelson (18 August 1932 - 6 December 1938)  (divorced)
Children Michael Merrill
Margot Merrill
B. D. Hyman
Parents Ruth Favor
Harlow Morrell Davis
Relatives Barbara Davis (sibling)

Trade Mark (4)

Her large, distinctive eyes
Ironic and often biting sense of humor
Portrayal of strong female characters
Smirking after her delivery of impactful lines

Trivia (146)

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 credited her writer/director from All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz for coming up with the line.
She suffered a stroke and had a mastectomy (1983).
Attended Northfield Mount Hermon High School in Norfield, Massachusetts.
Following her death, she was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles, California, 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. B.D. had minimal contact with the Sherrys until her tell-all book on her mother, who stopped talking to her. At which time, the Sherrys reached out to B.D. and formed a bond.
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 second 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. This is the only marriage of hers that ended in death, not divorce.
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 five 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, some of it instigated by publicists and studio heads. 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. Crawford died in 1977, and ten years later, Davis spoke more freely about her. In a 1987 interview with Bryant Gumbel, she said that Crawford acted professionally on the movie set, since she showed up on time and knew her lines, and that the rift happened only after she campaigned against Davis, making sure she didn't win her third Oscar. That same year, she told Barbara Walters that she was hurt and angry by Crawford's actions. However, she also added that she won't tarnish Crawford's accomplishments: "She came a long way from a little girl from where she came from. This, I will never take away from her".
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 Mike 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.
In 1975, she came to Cardiff 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.
She is one of the many movie stars mentioned in the lyrics of Madonna's song "Vogue". She is also mentioned in the song "Industrial Disease" by rock band Dire Straits.
She was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Picture at 6225 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6335 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
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 and 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).
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 that started before they even entered films, because of jealousy. They were both stage actresses with the same company where Hopkins had been the bigger star who first made it to Hollywood to become a star in films. They were both nominated for Best Actress Oscar in 1935, and Davis won and became the bigger star. She won her second Oscar for Jezebel (1938), which had been a flop on Broadway for Hopkins back in 1933. Davis had an affair with director Anatole Litvak, who at one point was married to Hopkins, although there have been conflicting reports whether the affair took place while he was still married to Hopkins. They competed with each other for screen time in the two films they acted together: The Old Maid (1939) and Old Acquaintance (1943). Long after Hopkins died, the only good thing that Davis said about her was that she was a good actress, but otherwise she was a "real bitch".
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, most recently in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire.
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 Lydia 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 small role. 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, Faye Dunaway, 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 Sermak. 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 (1949), 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 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). During the interview, the clip of Bette delivering the line in Beyond the Forest (1949) was shown to prove that she was correct. However, since people expected Bette Davis to deliver the line the way Taylor had in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), 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 role was eventually given to Claudette Colbert, who went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
Campaigned for the role 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. She only publicly admitted to the two abortions with her first husband.
Was originally sought for the role of Shirley Drake in the drama film Career (1959), which went to Carolyn Jones.
Onscreen, Bette Davis played spinsters named Charlotte in three 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 (1936) 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 B. 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.
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.
Davis' co-star from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) 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; both had four husbands (both were widowed once and divorced three times); both adopted children, and both had daughters who wrote lurid books denouncing them as bad mothers.
Filmed a television pilot for a show to be called "The Bette Davis Show" (1965), 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 Madison "Maddie" Banks for her sitcom 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. [April 2008]
Her hometown of Lowell, Massachussetts, was featured in a 2007 episode of Cops (1989).
Was the eighth actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Actress Oscar for Dangerous (1935) at the 8th Academy Awards on March 5, 1936.
Was the favorite actress of Katharine Hepburn.
The United States Postal Service honored Davis with a commemorative postage stamp in 2008, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth. The First Day of Issue celebration took place September 18, 2008, at Boston University, which houses an extensive Bette Davis archive. Featured speakers included her son Michael Merrill and Lauren Bacall.
Was the first actor to receive ten Academy Award nominations.
Was the highest ranking female on Quigley Publishing's Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll from 1939 to 1941.
Wrote the book "This 'n That" in response to her daughter's book, "My Mother's Keeper".
Was replaced by Shelley Winters when she left the original Broadway production of "The Night of the Iguana".
Was originally cast in Hotel (1983), when she had to back out due to ill health she was replaced by her friend and former All About Eve (1950) co-star, Anne Baxter.
Was a huge fan of Susan Hayward, however when they co-starred in Where Love Has Gone (1964), they occasionally clashed over disagreements about the movie script.
Was portrayed by Kelly Moore in the stage play "Jezebel and Me".
Turned down the role of Rose Sayer in The African Queen (1951) due to pregnancy.
Made her Broadway debut in 1929.
Credited actor George Arliss with giving her her "break" by choosing her as his leading lady in The Man Who Played God (1932).
Was under contract to Warner Brothers from 1932-1949.
Was one of the many people in the entertainment business who lived in The Osborne Apartments in Manhattan. Other famous residents have included Robert Osborne, Ira Levin and Leonard Bernstein.
Stated George Brent was her favorite male co-star. They starred in 11 movies together for a decade 1932-1942.
Was signed to a contract at Universal Studios in 1930.
Subject of the book "Me and Jezebel: When Bette Davis Came for Dinner -- And Stayed..." by Elizabeth Fuller.
In an interview with Barbara Walters, she claimed her daughter's book, "My Mother's Keeper", was as devastating as her stroke.
In 1982, she was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Defense Department's highest civilian award, for founding and running the Hollywood Canteen during World War II.
Was the highest paid woman in the United States (1942).
Whilst a student at Cushing Academy, she saw a production of "The Wild Duck", which inspired her to seriously pursue acting.
LIFE magazine described her performance in Of Human Bondage (1934) as "probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress".
Was honored by James Stewart, Angela Lansbury, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy when she received her Kennedy Centre Honors.
Davis, whom most critics and cinema historians rank as the greatest American movie actress ever, sent a letter to Meryl Streep early in her career. Davis told Streep that she felt that she was her successor as The First Lady of the American Screen. She also admired Debra Winger and Sissy Spacek.
The television series "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" (1974) once roasted Bette Davis. Vincent Price said "Bette has always suffered in every picture she has ever made. When I appeared with her in "Elizabeth and Essex", she gave up her beauty. In "Dark Victory", she gave up her eyesight. And in "The Virgin Queen"...(laughter)...she gave up her hobby.".
Played by Karen Teliha in Hollywood Mouth (2008). Since there is a Joan Crawford segment in the film, director Jordan Mohr thought it would be effective to have a Bette Davis character making comments about her rival.
She claimed her favourite role was that of Mrs. Agnes Hurley in The Catered Affair (1956) because of the challenge of the role.
As of 2016, she holds the record of youngest actress to receive seven Academy Award nominations. She earned her seventh Oscar nomination in 1945, at the age of 36, for Mr. Skeffington (1944).
Is portrayed by Susan Sarandon in Feud (2017).
Smoked 100 Vantage cigarettes a day, even after suffering four strokes (1983).
Her favorite line is from the film The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) where she said, "I'd like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair". Many years later, she used it in her acceptance speech when she won the American Film Institute (AFI) Lifetime Achievement Award in 1977, except she used the word "love", instead of "like": "I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair".
According to Robert Wagner who, by the end of her life, was Davis' friend; she never said good-bye on the phone, she would simply hang up before the caller had finished talking to her.
According to Robert Wagner, all her life, Bette Davis suffered from an absence of love. She could give but never receive love.
She and comedian Jonathan Winters were guests on "The Jack Paar Show" (1962) on television. Davis was recovering from a throat ailment which made her voice gravelly sounding. Winters began an imitation of her, with the bad voice. She said "You go to hell." When Winters responded with the look of a little boy who has just been reprimanded, Davis threw back her head and laughed.
By her third husband, boxer and Marine turned artist William Grant Sherry, she had her only biological child, Barbara Davis Sherry, called B.D. The birth was on May 1, 1947, by caesarean section. According to the book "My Mother's Keeper" by B.D. Sherry, that day was chosen by Davis so that her daughter's birthday could be celebrated on May Day, with children walking around a maypole.
B.D. Merrill became alienated from her stepfather, Gary Merrill, and began using her original surname, Sherry, when she was sixteen.

At the same age, with her mother's permission; Merrill got married. Her husband, Mr. Hyman, was twenty-nine.

In 1985, B.D. Hyman's tell all memoir; "My Mother's Keeper," was published. In it, she described being raised by the domineering, at times alcoholic Davis. The book was a bestseller and commenting about her mother, Merrill blamed Davis for the failure of her marriage (although she isn't divorced). She said Davis made a performance about "where to put an ashtray". Because of the book, Davis cut Hyman and Hyman's two sons from her will.

Bette Davis refused to become a born again Christian when her daughter, B.D. attempted to convert her. B.D. Hyman is now a minister in Virginia and manages a conservative religious discussion site on YouTube.
Publicly, she took a tough stance on her father Harlow Davis, because he had divorced her mother when she was seven, and she and her mother and sister had called themselves "The Three Musketeers". She didn't even attend his funeral, because it was on the east coast, and she was on the west coast filming her Academy Award winning performance in Jezebel (1938). However, her private scrapbook, which was found after her death, revealed that she held a soft spot for him. She had saved congratulatory cards and notes that he had sent her when she appeared on stage, and when she won her first Academy Award for Dangerous (1935). She also financed her son Michael Merrill's education to become a lawyer, just as her father had been.
She was very proud of her Yankee roots, and her four husbands were also Yankees, that being one of the things that attracted her to them.
Breastfed her daughter Barbara Merrill until she was three months old.
Maternal granddaughter of William (1854-1911), born in the state of New Hampshire, and Harriet (née Thompson) Favor (1855-1930), born in the state of Massachusetts.
Maternal great granddaughter of Jacob (1830-1899), born in the state of New Hampshire, and Augusta (née Freeman) Favor (1832-1914), born in the state of Maine.
Maternal great great granddaughter of Cutting (1806-1881) and Hannah (née Gordon) Favor (1809-1882). Both were born and raised in the state of New Hampshire.
Paternal granddaughter of Edward (1854-1905), born in the state of New Hampshire, and Eliza (née Morrell) Davis (1856-1906), born in the state of Maine.
Paternal great granddaughter of Calvin (1827-1895), born in the state of New Hampshire, and Ann (née Matthews) Davis (1827-1889), born in the state of Maine.
She met her fourth and last husband, Gary Merrill, when they co-starred in All About Eve (1950). In the year of their marriage, 1950, Merrill adopted Davis' daughter from her third marriage, Barbara Davis Sherry, (called B.D.). He did so with the permission of B.D.'s father, William Grant Sherry.

Davis and Merrill adopted two children, Margo and Michael. Margo, was born in 1951 and was adopted within a week of her birth. She was named for Margo Channing, Davis' character in "All About Eve". This information is from Wikipedia. Also, according to the same source; Michael was adopted soon after his birth in 1952. He is a lawyer in Boston.

Margo was discovered to have sustained brain damage at birth or soon afterwards. This became apparent when she was two when; Davis and Merrill were having drinks in their house when they heard screaming. They ran to where they had left the children and saw Margo hitting her one-year old brother. When interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, Davis said her mother told her to send Margo back to the adoption agency. Instead, when Margo was three; she was placed in an institution.

When the book by his half sister, B.D. Hyman , "My Mother's Keeper", was published, Michael Merrill broke off all contact with her.
Starred in seven Oscar Best Picture nominees: Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), All This, and Heaven Too (1940), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), Watch on the Rhine (1943) and All About Eve (1950). The last of these was the only winner. She was nominated for Best Actress for her performances in all of these except All This, and Heaven Too and Watch on the Rhine.
The first actor of any gender to earn seven, eight, nine and ten Academy Award nominations in the acting categories.
Her personal papers are on deposit at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University.
Third husband William Grant Sherry divorced her to marry their child's governess Marion Richards.
Paternal great granddaughter of Alexander (1818-1885) and Elizabeth (née Seavey) Morrell (1817-1904). Both were born and raised in the state of Maine.
Presented Marlon Brando his Academy Award for Best Actor for On the Waterfront (1954).
Was the fifth recipient of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the early 1980s, she was once asked by an interviewer if she had any regrets about her career. In answer, she remarked that the only regret she had was that she was never able to appear in a movie with Clark Gable, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, or James Stewart during the days of the studio system because Warner Bros. never did "loan outs".
When asked in the mid-1950s, what up and coming actor or actress proved to have the most potential, her answer was Earl Holliman and how she hoped that someday she would get to star with him in a film or television program (which never happened).
Cecil B. DeMille interviewed her for the role of Bithiah's slave Memnet in his last epic, The Ten Commandments (1956). Coincidentally, DeMile offered Joan Crawford the role of Bithiah.
On December 4, 2018, she was honored with a Sketch of the Day caricature on the website of South Carolina based artist Greg Joens.
She appeared in four films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Jezebel (1938), Now, Voyager (1942), All About Eve (1950) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
In November 2019, she was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.
In the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Shadow", which aired on January 13, 2010, a framed photograph of Davis as Baby Jane Hudson is seen sitting on a table behind the character Ash Ramsey's desk during a scene with the detectives in his office.
Bette Davis turned down the title role of Mildred Pierce (1945), which eventually went to Joan Crawford.
Warner Brothers wanted her to change her name to Bettina.
In the dubbing of her films into Brazilian Portuguese, she was voiced most of the time by actresses / voice actors Ida Gomes, Ilka Pinheiro, Glória Ladany and Selma Lopes.
She was considered for the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), which went to Anne Bancroft.
On August 1, 2021, she was honored with a day of her filmography during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars.
In every single film she ever made---including drama---whenever she was pleased with how she'd just delivered her line, Davis would cope a tell-tale smirk, often at incongruous times for her character's reality. Due the disparity, it both took the viewer out of "movie magic" and became her infamous signature move.
When Celeste Holm and Bette Davis first met on set of All About Eve Bette responded to Celeste's Good Morning with Oh S*** good manners. They didn't speak again off camera for the duration of the shoot.
Was presented with a British Film Institute Life Time Achievement Award in September 1987.

Personal Quotes (82)

[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 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, intractable, 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.
[When asked by Johnny Carson about who she was inspired by] No-one, but that I always envied Katherine Hepburn's looks.
I don't think of myself as a character actress. That's become a phrase that means you've had it.
[In 1987, when Barbara Walters asked her whether Margo's line from All About Eve (1950) applied to her "Funny business a woman's career: The things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster, you forget you need them when you go back to being a woman"] I didn't have anything to forget. I remained a woman. I mean, anybody that marries four times in the midst of a great big career basically loves being a woman almost as much. So I never forgot I was a woman on my way up.
[on The Star (1952)] 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.
[on Miriam Hopkins] She was a real bitch.
[regarding Marilyn Monroe] I felt a certain envy for what I assumed was Marilyn's more than obvious popularity. Here was a girl who didn't know what it was like to be lonely. Then I noticed how shy she was, and I think now that she was as lonely as I was. Lonelier. It was something I felt, a deep well of loneliness she was trying to fill.

Salary (14)

Way Back Home (1931) $300 /week for 3 weeks
Of Human Bondage (1934) $3,000 / week
Jezebel (1938) $650 /week
Dark Victory (1939) $3,500 /week
Juarez (1939) $4,000 /week
All About Eve (1950) $130,000
John Paul Jones (1959) $50 .000
Pocketful of Miracles (1961) $100 .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
A Piano for Mrs. Cimino (1982) $200,000
Right of Way (1983) $250,000
Wicked Stepmother (1989) $250,000

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