Friday, January 14, 2011

Bette Davis

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres; from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, though her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.
After appearing in Broadway plays, Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930, but her early films for Universal Studios were unsuccessful. She joined Warner Bros. in 1932 and established her career with several critically acclaimed performances. In 1937, she attempted to free herself from her contract and although she lost a well-publicized legal case, it marked the beginning of the most successful period of her career. Until the late 1940s, she was one of American cinema's most celebrated leading ladies, known for her forceful and intense style. Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative, and her confrontations with studio executives, film directors and costars were often reported. Her forthright manner, clipped vocal style and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona which has often been imitated and satirized.
Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, was the first person to accrue 10 Academy Award nominations for acting, and was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and thrice divorced, and raised her children as a single parent. Her final years were marred by a long period of ill health, but she continued acting until shortly before her death from breast cancer, with more than 100 films, television and theater roles to her credit. In 1999, Davis was placed second, after Katharine Hepburn, on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female stars of all time.

Background and early acting career

Ruth Elizabeth Davis, known from early childhood as "Betty", was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ruth ("Ruthie") Augusta (née Favor) and Harlow Morrell Davis, a patent attorney; her sister Barbara ("Bobby") was born October 25, 1909. The family was Protestant, of English, French, and Welsh ancestry. In 1915, Davis's parents separated and Betty and Bobby attended a Spartan boarding school called Crestalban in Lanesborough, which is located in the Berkshires. In 1921, Ruth Davis moved to New York City with her daughters, where she worked as a portrait photographer. Betty was inspired to become an actress after seeing Rudolph Valentino in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and Mary Pickford in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921), and changed the spelling of her name to "Bette" after Honoré de Balzac's La Cousine Bette. She received encouragement from her mother, who had aspired to become an actress.
She attended Cushing Academy, a boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where she met her future husband, Harmon O. Nelson, known as "Ham". In 1926, she saw a production of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck with Blanche Yurka and Peg Entwistle. Davis later recalled that it inspired her full commitment to her chosen career, and said, "Before that performance I wanted to be an actress. When it ended, I had to be an actress... exactly like Peg Entwistle.". She auditioned for admission to Eva LeGallienne's Manhattan Civic Repertory, but was rejected by LeGallienne who described her attitude as "insincere" and "frivolous". She was accepted by the John Murray Anderson School of Theatre, and studied dance with Martha Graham.
She auditioned for George Cukor's stock theater company, and although he was not very impressed, he gave Davis her first paid acting assignment anyway – a one-week stint playing the part of a chorus girl in the play Broadway. She was later chosen to play Hedwig, the character she had seen Entwistle play, in The Wild Duck. After performing in Philadelphia, Washington and Boston, she made her Broadway debut in 1929 in Broken Dishes, and followed it with Solid South. A Universal Studios talent scout saw her perform and invited her to Hollywood for a screen test.

Transition from stage to film

In Hell's House (1932)
Accompanied by her mother, Davis traveled by train to Hollywood, arriving on December 13, 1930. She later recounted her surprise that nobody from the studio was there to meet her; a studio employee had waited for her, but left because he saw nobody who "looked like an actress". She failed her first screen test but was used in several screen tests for other actors. In a 1971 interview with Dick Cavett, she related the experience with the observation, "I was the most Yankee-est, most modest virgin who ever walked the earth. They laid me on a couch, and I tested fifteen men ... They all had to lie on top of me and give me a passionate kiss. Oh, I thought I would die. Just thought I would die." A second test was arranged for Davis, for the film A House Divided (1931). Hastily dressed in an ill-fitting costume with a low neckline, she was rebuffed by the director William Wyler, who loudly commented to the assembled crew, "What do you think of these dames who show their chests and think they can get jobs?" Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal Studios, considered terminating Davis's employment, but cinematographer Karl Freund told him she had "lovely eyes" and would be suitable for The Bad Sister (1931), in which she subsequently made her film debut.Her nervousness was compounded when she overheard the Chief of Production, Carl Laemmle, Jr., comment to another executive that she had "about as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville", one of the film's co-stars. The film was not a success, and her next role in Seed (1931) was too brief to attract attention.
Universal Studios renewed her contract for three months, and she appeared in a small role in Waterloo Bridge (1931) before being lent to Columbia Pictures for The Menace and to Capital Films for Hell's House (all 1932). After nine months, and six unsuccessful films, Laemmle elected not to renew her contract. George Arliss chose Davis for the lead female role in The Man Who Played God (1932), and for the rest of her life, Davis credited him with helping her achieve her "break" in Hollywood. The Saturday Evening Post wrote, "she is not only beautiful, but she bubbles with charm", and compared her to Constance Bennett and Olive Borden. Warner Bros. signed her to a five-year contract.
In 1932, she married Harmon "Ham" Nelson, who was scrutinized by the press; his $100 a week earnings compared unfavorably with Davis's reported $1,000 a week income. Davis addressed the issue in an interview, pointing out that many Hollywood wives earned more than their husbands, but the situation proved difficult for Nelson, who refused to allow Davis to purchase a house until he could afford to pay for it himself. Davis had several abortions during the marriage.
As the shrewish Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1934), Davis was acclaimed for her dramatic performance.
After more than 20 film roles, the role of the vicious and slatternly Mildred Rogers in the RKO Radio production of Of Human Bondage (1934), a film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, earned Davis her first major critical acclaim. Many actresses feared playing unsympathetic characters and several had refused the role, but Davis viewed it as an opportunity to show the range of her acting skills. Her costar, Leslie Howard, was initially dismissive of her, but as filming progressed his attitude changed and he subsequently spoke highly of her abilities. The director, John Cromwell, allowed her relative freedom, and commented, "I let Bette have her head. I trusted her instincts." She insisted that she be portrayed realistically in her death scene, and said, "the last stages of consumption, poverty and neglect are not pretty and I intended to be convincing-looking".
The film was a success, and Davis's confronting characterization won praise from critics, with Life magazine writing that she gave "probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress". Davis anticipated that her reception would encourage Warner Bros. to cast her in more important roles, and was disappointed when Jack Warner refused to lend her to Columbia Studios to appear in It Happened One Night, and instead cast her in the melodrama Housewife. When Davis was not nominated for an Academy Award for Of Human Bondage, The Hollywood Citizen News questioned the omission and Norma Shearer, herself a nominee, joined a campaign to have Davis nominated. This prompted an announcement from the Academy president, Howard Estabrook, who said that under the circumstances "any voter ... may write on the ballot his or her personal choice for the winners", thus allowing, for the only time in the Academy's history, the consideration of a candidate not officially nominated for an award. Claudette Colbert won the award for It Happened One Night but the uproar led to a change in Academy voting procedures the following year, whereby nominations were determined by votes from all eligible members of a particular branch, rather than by a smaller committee, with results independently tabulated by the accounting firm Price Waterhouse.
Davis appeared in Dangerous (1935) as a troubled actress and received very good reviews. E. Arnot Robertson wrote in Picture Post, "I think Bette Davis would probably have been burned as a witch if she had lived two or three hundred years ago. She gives the curious feeling of being charged with power which can find no ordinary outlet." The New York Times hailed her as "becoming one of the most interesting of our screen actresses". She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role, but commented it was belated recognition for Of Human Bondage, calling the award a "consolation prize". For the rest of her life, Davis maintained that she gave the statue its familiar name of "Oscar" because its posterior resembled that of her husband, whose middle name was Oscar, although her claim has been disputed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, among others.
Davis in the trailer for The Petrified Forest (1936)
In her next film, The Petrified Forest (1936), Davis co-starred with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart, but Bogart, in his first important role, received most of the critics' praise. Davis appeared in several films over the next two years but most were poorly received.

Legal case

Convinced that her career was being damaged by a succession of mediocre films, Davis accepted an offer in 1936 to appear in two films in England. Knowing that she was breaching her contract with Warner Bros., she fled to Canada to avoid legal papers being served upon her. Eventually, Davis brought her case to court in England, hoping to get out of her contract with Warner Bros. She later recalled the opening statement of the barrister, Sir Patrick Hastings, who represented Warner Bros. Hastings urged the court to "come to the conclusion that this is rather a naughty young lady and that what she wants is more money". He mocked Davis's description of her contract as "slavery" by stating, incorrectly, that she was being paid $1,350 per week. He remarked, "if anybody wants to put me into perpetual servitude on the basis of that remuneration, I shall prepare to consider it". The British press offered little support to Davis, and portrayed her as overpaid and ungrateful.
Davis explained her viewpoint to a journalist, saying "I knew that, if I continued to appear in any more mediocre pictures, I would have no career left worth fighting for." Davis's counsel presented her complaints – that she could be suspended without pay for refusing a part, with the period of suspension added to her contract, that she could be called upon to play any part within her abilities regardless of her personal beliefs, that she could be required to support a political party against her beliefs, and that her image and likeness could be displayed in any manner deemed applicable by the studio. Jack Warner testified, and was asked, "Whatever part you choose to call upon her to play, if she thinks she can play it, whether it is distasteful and cheap, she has to play it?" Warner replied, "Yes, she must play it."
Davis in Marked Woman (1937)
The case, decided by Branson J. in the English High Court, was reported as Warner Bros. Studios Incorporated v. Nelson in [1937] 1 KB 209. Davis lost the case and returned to Hollywood, in debt and without income, to resume her career. Olivia de Havilland mounted a similar case in 1943 and won.

Success with Warner Bros.

Davis began work on Marked Woman (1937), as a prostitute in a contemporary gangster drama inspired by the case of Lucky Luciano. The film and Davis's performance received excellent reviews, and her stature as a leading actress was enhanced.
During the filming of her next film, Jezebel (1938), Davis entered a relationship with director William Wyler. She later described him as the "love of my life", and said that making the film with him was "the time in my life of my most perfect happiness". The film was a success, and Davis's performance as a spoiled Southern belle earned her a second Academy Award, which led to speculation in the press that she would be chosen to play a similar character, Scarlett O'Hara, in Gone with the Wind. Davis expressed her desire to play Scarlett, and while David O. Selznick was conducting a search for the actress to play the role, a radio poll named her as the audience favorite. Warner offered her services to Selznick as part of a deal that also included Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, but Selznick did not consider Davis as suitable, and rejected the offer.
Jezebel marked the beginning of the most successful phase of Davis's career, and over the next few years she was listed in the annual "Quigley Poll of the Top Ten Money Making Stars", which was compiled from the votes of movie exhibitors throughout the U.S. for the stars that had generated the most revenue in their theaters over the previous year. In contrast to Davis's success, her husband, Ham Nelson, had failed to establish a career for himself, and their relationship faltered. In 1938, Nelson obtained evidence that Davis was engaged in a sexual relationship with Howard Hughes and subsequently filed for divorce citing Davis's "cruel and inhuman manner".
By the late 1930s, Davis was Warner Brothers' most successful actress and they began to portray her as a figure of glamor, as in the trailer for the film Dark Victory (1939).
She was emotional during the making of her next film, Dark Victory (1939), and considered abandoning it until the producer Hal B. Wallis convinced her to channel her despair into her acting. The film became one of the highest grossing films of the year, and the role of Judith Traherne brought her an Academy Award nomination. In later years, Davis cited this performance as her personal favorite.
She appeared in three other box office hits in 1939, The Old Maid with Miriam Hopkins, Juarez with Paul Muni and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Errol Flynn. The latter was her first color film and her only color film made during the height of her career. To play the elderly Elizabeth I of England, Davis shaved her hairline and eyebrows. During filming she was visited on the set by the actor Charles Laughton. She commented that she had a "nerve" playing a woman in her sixties, to which Laughton replied, "Never not dare to hang yourself. That's the only way you grow in your profession. You must continually attempt things that you think are beyond you, or you get into a complete rut." Recalling the episode many years later, Davis remarked that Laughton's advice had influenced her throughout her career.
Davis's distinctive eyes were used to dramatic effect, such as in this close-up from The Letter trailer (1940).
By this time, Davis was Warner Bros.' most profitable star, and she was given the most important of their female leading roles. Her image was considered with more care; although she continued to play character roles, she was often filmed in close-ups that emphasized her distinctive eyes. All This and Heaven Too (1940) was the most financially successful film of Davis's career to that point, while The Letter (1940) was considered "one of the best pictures of the year" by The Hollywood Reporter, and Davis won admiration for her portrayal of an adulterous killer, a role originated by famed actress Katharine Cornell. During this time, she was in a relationship with her former costar George Brent, who proposed marriage. Davis refused, as she had met Arthur Farnsworth, a New England innkeeper. They were married in December 1940.
In January 1941, Davis became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but antagonized the committee members with her brash manner and radical proposals. Faced with the disapproval and resistance of the committee, Davis resigned, and was succeeded by Jean Hersholt, who implemented the changes she had suggested.
William Wyler directed Davis in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes ( RKO,1941), but they clashed over the character of Regina Giddens. Taking a role originally played on stage by Tallulah Bankhead, Davis felt Bankhead's original interpretation was appropriate and followed Hellman's intent, but Wyler wanted her to soften the character. Davis refused to compromise. She received another Academy Award nomination for her performance, and never worked with Wyler again.

War effort and personal tragedy

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Davis spent the early months of 1942 selling war bonds. After Jack Warner criticized her tendency to cajole crowds into buying, she reminded him that her audiences responded most strongly to her "bitch" performances. She sold two million dollars of bonds in two days, as well as a picture of herself in Jezebel for $250,000. She also performed for black regiments as the only white member of an acting troupe formed by Hattie McDaniel, that also included Lena Horne and Ethel Waters.
Davis in the trailer for Now, Voyager (1942)
At John Garfield's suggestion of opening a servicemen's club in Hollywood, Davis–with the aid of Warner, Cary Grant and Jule Styne–transformed an old nightclub into the Hollywood Canteen, which opened on October 3, 1942. Hollywood's most important stars volunteered to entertain servicemen. Davis ensured that every night there would be a few important "names" for the visiting soldiers to meet. She appeared as herself in the film Hollywood Canteen (1944) which used the canteen as the setting for a fictional story. Davis later commented, "There are few accomplishments in my life that I am sincerely proud of. The Hollywood Canteen is one of them." In 1980, she was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the United States Department of Defense's highest civilian award, for her work with the Hollywood Canteen.
Davis had initially shown little interest in the film Now, Voyager (1942) until Hal Wallis advised her that female audiences needed romantic dramas to distract them from the reality of their lives. It became one of the best known of her 'women's pictures'. In one of the film's most imitated scenes Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes as they are held in his lips before passing one to Davis. Film reviewers complimented Davis on her performance, the National Board of Review commenting that she gave the film "a dignity not fully warranted by the script".
During the early 1940s, several of Davis's film choices were influenced by the war, such as Watch on the Rhine (1943) and Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), a lighthearted all-star musical cavalcade, with each of the featured stars donating their fee to the Hollywood Canteen. Davis performed a novelty song, "They're Either Too Young or Too Old", which became a hit record after the film's release.
Old Acquaintance (1943) reunited her with Miriam Hopkins in a story of two old friends who deal with the tensions created when one of them becomes a successful novelist. Davis felt that Hopkins tried to upstage her throughout the film. The director Vincent Sherman recalled the intense competitiveness and animosity between the two actresses, and Davis often joked that she held back nothing in a scene in which she was required to shake Hopkins in a fit of anger.
In August 1943, Davis's husband, Arthur Farnsworth, collapsed while walking along a Hollywood street, and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his fall had been caused by a skull fracture which had occurred about two weeks earlier. Davis testified before an inquest that she knew of no event that might have caused the injury. A finding of accidental death was reached. Highly distraught, Davis attempted to withdraw from her next film Mr. Skeffington (1944), but Jack Warner, who had halted production following Farnsworth's death, convinced her to continue.
Although she had gained a reputation for being forthright and demanding, her behavior during filming of Mr. Skeffington was erratic and out of character. She alienated director Vincent Sherman by refusing to film certain scenes and insisting that some sets be rebuilt. She improvised dialogue, causing confusion among other actors, and infuriated the writer Julius Epstein, who was also called upon to rewrite scenes at her whim. Davis later explained her actions with the observation, "when I was most unhappy I lashed out rather than whined". Some reviewers criticized Davis for the excess of her performance; James Agee wrote that she "demonstrates the horrors of egocentricity on a marathonic scale", but despite the mixed reviews, she received another Academy Award nomination.

Professional setbacks

Davis married an artist, William Grant Sherry, who also, when necessary, worked as a masseur, in 1945. She had been drawn to him because he claimed that he had never heard of her and was therefore not intimidated by her.
Davis refused the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945), a role for which Joan Crawford ultimately won an Academy Award, and instead made The Corn Is Green (1945) based on a play by Emlyn Williams. Davis played Miss Moffat, an English teacher who saves a young Welsh miner from a life in the coal pits, by offering him education. The part had originally been played in the theatre by Ethel Barrymore but Warner Bros. felt that the film version should depict the character as a younger woman. Davis disagreed and insisted on playing the part as written and wore a gray wig and padding under her clothes to create a dowdy appearance. The film was well received by critics and made a profit of $2.2 million. The critic E. Arnot Robinson observed that "only Bette Davis... could have combated so successfully the obvious intention of the adaptors of the play to make frustrated sex the mainspring of the chief character's interest in the young miner." He concluded that "the subtle interpretation she insisted on giving" kept the focus on the teacher's "sheer joy in imparting knowledge".
Her next film, A Stolen Life (1946), was the first and only film that Davis made with her own production company, BD Productions. Davis played dual roles, as twins. The film received poor reviews, and was described by Bosley Crowther as "a distressingly empty piece" but was one of her biggest box-office successes with a profit of $2.5 million. In 1947, the U.S. Treasury named Davis as the highest paid woman in the country, with her share of the film's profit accounting for most of her earnings. Her next film was Deception (1946), the first of her films to lose money.
Possessed (1947) had been tailor-made for Davis and was to have been her next project after Deception. However, she was pregnant and went on maternity leave. Joan Crawford played her role in Possessed and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. In 1947, at the age of 39, Davis gave birth to a daughter, Barbara Davis Sherry (known as B.D.) and later wrote in her memoir that she became absorbed in motherhood and considered ending her career. Her relationship with Sherry began to deteriorate and she continued making films, but her popularity with audiences was steadily declining.
Among the film roles offered to Davis following her return to film making was Rose Sayer in The African Queen (1951). When informed that the film was to be made in Africa, Davis refused the part, telling Jack Warner, "If you can't shoot the picture in a boat on the back lot, then I'm not interested." Katharine Hepburn played the role. Davis was also offered a role in a film version of the Virginia Kellogg prison drama Women Without Men. Originally intended to pair Davis with Joan Crawford, Davis made it clear that she would not appear in any "dyke movie", and the lead roles were played by Agnes Moorehead and Eleanor Parker when it was filmed as Caged (1950). She lobbied Jack Warner to make two films, Ethan Frome and a biography of Mary Todd Lincoln, however Warner vetoed each proposal.
In 1948, Davis was cast in Winter Meeting and, although she was initially enthusiastic, she soon learned that Warner had arranged for "softer" lighting to be used to disguise her age. She recalled that she had seen the same lighting technique "on the sets of Ruth Chatterton and Kay Francis, and I knew what they meant". She began to regret accepting the role and, to add to her disappointment, she was not confident in the abilities of her leading man, Jim Davis. She disagreed with amendments made to the script because of censorship restrictions and found that many of the aspects of the role that had initially appealed to her were no longer to be included. The film was later described by Bosley Crowther as "interminable" and he noted that "of all the miserable dilemmas in which Miss Davis has been involved ... this one is probably the worst". It failed at the box office and the studio lost nearly one million dollars.
Davis clashed with her co-star Robert Montgomery while making June Bride (1948), later describing him as "a male Miriam Hopkins... an excellent actor, but addicted to scene-stealing". The film marked her first comedy in several years, and earned her some positive reviews, but it was not particularly popular with audiences and returned only a small profit. Despite the lackluster box office receipts from her more recent films, in 1949, she negotiated a four-film contract with Warner Bros. which paid $10,285 per week and made her the highest-paid woman in the United States.
Jack Warner refused to allow her script approval and cast her in Beyond the Forest (1949). Davis reportedly loathed the script and begged Warner to recast the role, but he refused. After the film was completed, Warner released Davis from her contract, at her request. The reviews that followed were scathing; Dorothy Manners writing for the Los Angeles Examiner described the film as "an unfortunate finale to her brilliant career". Hedda Hopper wrote, "If Bette had deliberately set out to wreck her career, she could not have picked a more appropriate vehicle." The film contained the line, "What a dump!", which became closely associated with Davis after impersonators used it in their acts. In later years, Davis often used it as her opening line at speaking engagements.

Starting a freelance career

As Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950)
By 1949, Davis and Sherry were estranged and Hollywood columnists were writing that Davis's career was at an end. She filmed The Story of a Divorce (released by RKO Radio Pictures in 1951 as Payment on Demand) but had received no other offers. Shortly before filming was completed, the producer Darryl F. Zanuck offered her the role of the aging theatrical actress Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950). Claudette Colbert, for whom the part had been written, had severely injured her back, and although production had been halted for two months in the hope that she might recover, she was unable to continue. Davis read the script, described it as the best she had ever read, and accepted the role. Within days she joined the cast in San Francisco to begin filming. During production, she established what would become a life-long friendship with her costar, Anne Baxter, and a romantic relationship with her leading man, Gary Merrill, which led to marriage. The film's director Joseph L. Mankiewicz later remarked, "Bette was letter perfect. She was syllable-perfect. The director's dream: the prepared actress."
Critics responded positively to Davis's performance and several of her lines became well-known, particularly, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." She was again nominated for an Academy Award and critics such as Gene Ringgold described her Margo as her "all-time best performance". Pauline Kael wrote that much of Mankiewicz's vision of "the theater" was "nonsense" but commended Davis, writing "[the film is] saved by one performance that is the real thing: Bette Davis is at her most instinctive and assured. Her actress–vain, scared, a woman who goes too far in her reactions and emotions–makes the whole thing come alive."
Davis won a "Best Actress" award from the Cannes Film Festival, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award. She also received the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award as "Best Actress", having been named by them as the "Worst Actress" of 1949 for Beyond the Forest. During this time she was invited to leave her handprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
On July 3, 1950 Davis's divorce from William Sherry was finalized, and on July 28 she married Gary Merrill. With Sherry's consent, Merrill adopted B.D., Davis's daughter with Sherry, and in 1950, Davis and Merrill adopted a baby girl they named Margot. The family traveled to England, where Davis and Merrill starred in a murder-mystery film, Another Man's Poison (1951). When it received lukewarm reviews and failed at the box office, Hollywood columnists wrote that Davis's comeback had petered out, and an Academy Award nomination for The Star (1952) did not halt her decline.
Davis and Merrill adopted a baby boy, Michael, in 1952, and Davis appeared in a Broadway revue, Two's Company directed by Jules Dassin. She was uncomfortable working outside of her area of expertise; she had never been a musical performer and her limited theater experience had been more than 20 years earlier. She was also severely ill and was operated on for osteomyelitis of the jaw. Margot was diagnosed as severely brain damaged due to an injury sustained during or shortly after her birth, and was eventually placed in an institution. Davis and Merrill began arguing frequently, with B.D. later recalling episodes of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Few of Davis's films of the 1950s were successful and many of her performances were condemned by critics. The Hollywood Reporter wrote of mannerisms "that you'd expect to find in a nightclub impersonation of [Davis]", while the London critic, Richard Winninger, wrote, "Miss Davis, with more say than most stars as to what films she makes, seems to have lapsed into egoism. The criterion for her choice of film would appear to be that nothing must compete with the full display of each facet of the Davis art. Only bad films are good enough for her." Her films of this period included The Virgin Queen (1955), Storm Center (1956), & The Catered Affair (1956). As her career declined, her marriage continued to deteriorate until she filed for divorce in 1960. The following year, her mother died.

Renewed success

Davis received her final Academy Award nomination for her role as Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), opposite Joan Crawford.
In 1961, Davis opened in the Broadway production The Night of the Iguana to mostly mediocre reviews, and left the production after four months due to "chronic illness". She then joined Glenn Ford and Ann-Margret for the Frank Capra film A Pocketful of Miracles (1961) (a remake of Capra's Lady for a Day (1933)), based on a story by Damon Runyon. She accepted her next role, in the Grand Guignol horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) after reading the script and believing it could appeal to the same audience that had recently made Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) a success. She negotiated a deal that would pay her 10 percent of the worldwide gross profits, in addition to her salary. The film became one of the year's biggest successes.
Davis and Joan Crawford played two aging sisters, former actresses forced by circumstance to share a decaying Hollywood mansion. The director, Robert Aldrich, explained that Davis and Crawford were each aware of how important the film was to their respective careers and commented, "It's proper to say that they really detested each other, but they behaved absolutely perfectly." After filming was completed, their public comments against each other allowed the tension to develop into a lifelong feud. When Davis was nominated for an Academy Award, Crawford contacted the other Best Actress nominees (who were unable to attend the ceremonies) and offered to accept the award on their behalf should they win. Davis also received her only BAFTA Award nomination for this performance.
Daughter B.D. played a small role in the film and when she and Davis visited the Cannes Film Festival to promote it, she met Jeremy Hyman, an executive for Seven Arts Productions. After a short courtship, she married Hyman at the age of 16, with Davis's permission.
In September 1962, Davis placed an advertisement in Variety under the heading of "Situations wanted — women artists", which read, "Mother of three—10, 11 & 15—divorcee. American. Thirty years experience as an actress in Motion Pictures. Mobile still and more affable than rumor would have it. Wants steady employment in Hollywood. (Has had Broadway)." Davis said that she intended it as a joke, and she sustained her comeback over the course of several years. Dead Ringer (1964) was a crime drama in which she played twin sisters and Where Love Has Gone (1964) was a romantic drama based on a Harold Robbins novel. Davis played the mother of Susan Hayward but filming was hampered by heated arguments between Davis and Hayward. Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) was Robert Aldrich's follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, in which he planned to reunite Davis and Crawford, but when Crawford withdrew allegedly due to illness soon after filming began, she was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. The film was a considerable success and brought renewed attention to its veteran cast, which also included Joseph Cotten, Mary Astor and Agnes Moorehead.
In 1964 Davis was cast as the lead in an Aaron Spelling sitcom, The Decorator. A pilot episode was filmed, but was not shown, and the project was terminated. By the end of the decade, Davis had appeared in the British films The Nanny (1965), The Anniversary (1968), and Connecting Rooms (1970), but her career again stalled.

Late career

Davis and Elizabeth Taylor in late 1981 during a show celebrating Taylor's life
In the early 1970s, Davis was invited to appear in New York, in a stage presentation, Great Ladies of the American Cinema. Over five successive nights, a different female star discussed her career and answered questions from the audience; Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Lana Turner, Sylvia Sidney, and Joan Crawford were the other participants. Davis was well received and was invited to tour Australia with the similarly themed, Bette Davis in Person and on Film, and its success allowed her to take the production to the United Kingdom.
In 1972, she played the lead role in two television films that were each intended as pilots for upcoming series for NBC, Madame Sin with Robert Wagner, and The Judge and Jake Wyler, with Joan Van Ark, but in each case, NBC decided against producing a series.
In the U.S., she appeared in the stage production, Miss Moffat, a musical adaptation of The Corn is Green, but after the show was panned by the Philadelphia critics during its pre-Broadway run, she cited a back injury and abandoned the show, which closed immediately. She played supporting roles in Burnt Offerings (1976) and The Disappearance of Aimee (1976), but she clashed with Karen Black and Faye Dunaway, respectively the stars of the two productions, because she felt that neither extended her an appropriate degree of respect, and that their behavior on the film sets was unprofessional.
In 1977, Davis became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. The televised event included comments from several of Davis's colleagues including William Wyler who joked that given the chance Davis would still like to refilm a scene from The Letter to which Davis nodded. Jane Fonda, Henry Fonda, Natalie Wood and Olivia de Havilland were among the actors who paid tribute, with de Havilland commenting that Davis "got the roles I always wanted".
Following the telecast she found herself in demand again, often having to choose between several offers. She accepted roles in the television miniseries The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) and the theatrical film Death on the Nile (1978), an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The bulk of her remaining work was for television. She won an Emmy Award for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979) with Gena Rowlands, and was nominated for her performances in White Mama (1980) and Little Gloria... Happy at Last (1982). She also played supporting roles in two Disney films, Return from Witch Mountain (1978) and The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
Davis's name became well-known to a younger audience when Kim Carnes's song "Bette Davis Eyes" became a worldwide hit and the best-selling record of 1981 in the U.S., where it stayed at number one on the music charts for more than two months. Davis's grandson was impressed that she was the subject of a hit song and Davis considered it a compliment, writing to both Carnes and the songwriters, and accepting the gift of gold and platinum records from Carnes, and hanging them on her wall.
She continued acting for television, appearing in Family Reunion (1981) opposite her grandson J. Ashley Hyman, A Piano for Mrs. Cimino (1982) and Right of Way (1983) with James Stewart.

Illness, conflict and death

Davis's final completed role in The Whales of August (1987) brought her acclaim during a period in which she was beset with failing health and personal trauma.
In 1983, after filming the pilot episode for the television series Hotel, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Within two weeks of her surgery she suffered four strokes which caused paralysis in the left side of her face and in her left arm, and left her with slurred speech. She commenced a lengthy period of physical therapy and, aided by her personal assistant, Kathryn Sermak, gained partial recovery from the paralysis.
During this time, her relationship with her daughter, B. D. Hyman, deteriorated when Hyman became a born-again Christian and attempted to persuade Davis to follow suit. With her health stable, she traveled to England to film the Agatha Christie mystery Murder with Mirrors (1985). Upon her return, she learned that Hyman had published a memoir, My Mother's Keeper, in which she chronicled a difficult mother-daughter relationship and depicted scenes of Davis's overbearing and drunken behavior.
Several of Davis's friends commented that Hyman's depictions of events were not accurate; one said, "so much of the book is out of context". Mike Wallace rebroadcast a 60 Minutes interview he had filmed with Hyman a few years earlier in which she commended Davis on her skills as a mother, and said that she had adopted many of Davis's principles in raising her own children. Critics of Hyman noted that Davis had financially supported the Hyman family for several years and had recently saved them from losing their house. Despite the acrimony of their divorce years earlier, Gary Merrill also defended Davis. Interviewed by CNN, Merrill said that Hyman was motivated by "cruelty and greed". Davis's adopted son, Michael Merrill, ended contact with Hyman and refused to speak to her again, as did Davis, who also disinherited her.
In her second memoir, This 'N That (1987), Davis wrote, "I am still recovering from the fact that a child of mine would write about me behind my back, to say nothing about the kind of book it is. I will never recover as completely from B.D.'s book as I have from the stroke. Both were shattering experiences." Her memoir concluded with a letter to her daughter, in which she addressed her several times as "Hyman", and described her actions as "a glaring lack of loyalty and thanks for the very privileged life I feel you have been given". She concluded with a reference to the title of Hyman's book, "If it refers to money, if my memory serves me right, I've been your keeper all these many years. I am continuing to do so, as my name has made your book about me a success."
Bette Davis (1987).
Davis with President Ronald Reagan at the Kennedy Center on December 6, 1987. They appeared together in the 1939 film Dark Victory, one of Davis' best-known roles.
Davis appeared in the television film As Summers Die (1986) and Lindsay Anderson's film The Whales of August (1987), in which she played the blind sister of Lillian Gish. The film earned good reviews, with one critic writing, "Bette crawls across the screen like a testy old hornet on a windowpane, snarling, staggering, twitching – a symphony of misfired synapses." Her last performance was the title role in Larry Cohen's Wicked Stepmother (1989). By this time her health was failing, and after disagreements with Cohen she walked off the set. The script was rewritten to place more emphasis on Barbara Carrera's character, and the reworked version was released after Davis's death.
After abandoning Wicked Stepmother and with no further film offers, Davis appeared on several talk shows and was interviewed by Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Larry King and David Letterman, discussing her career but refusing to discuss her daughter. Her appearances were popular; Lindsay Anderson observed that the public enjoyed seeing her behaving "so bitchy". He commented, "I always disliked that because she was encouraged to behave badly. And I'd always hear her described by that awful word, feisty."
Davis' tomb at Forest Lawn
During 1988 and 1989, Davis was feted for her career achievements, receiving the Kennedy Center Honor, the Legion of Honor from France, the Campione d'Italia from Italy and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Lifetime Achievement Award. She collapsed during the American Cinema Awards in 1989 and later discovered that her cancer had returned. She recovered sufficiently to travel to Spain where she was honored at the Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival, but during her visit her health rapidly deteriorated. Too weak to make the long journey back to the U.S., she traveled to France where she died on October 6, 1989, at 11:20 pm, at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. She was 81 years old.
She was interred in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, alongside her mother, Ruthie, and sister, Bobby. On her tombstone is written: "She did it the hard way", an epitaph that she mentioned in her memoir Mother Goddam as having been suggested to her by Joseph L. Mankiewicz shortly after they had filmed All About Eve.
In 1997, the executors of her estate, Michael Merrill, her son, and Kathryn Sermak, her former assistant, established "The Bette Davis Foundation" which awards college scholarships to promising actors and actresses.

Comments and criticism

In 1964, Jack Warner spoke of the "magic quality that transformed this sometimes bland and not beautiful little girl into a great artist", and in a 1988 interview, Davis remarked that, unlike many of her contemporaries, she had forged a career without the benefit of beauty. She admitted she was terrified during the making of her earliest films and that she became tough by necessity. "Until you're known in my profession as a monster, you are not a star", she said, "[but] I've never fought for anything in a treacherous way. I've never fought for anything but the good of the film." During the making of All About Eve, (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz told her of the perception in Hollywood that she was difficult, and she explained that when the audience saw her on screen, they did not consider that her appearance was the result of numerous people working behind the scenes. If she was presented as "a horse's ass ... forty feet wide, and thirty feet high", that is all the audience "would see or care about".
While lauded for her achievements, Davis and her films were sometimes derided; Pauline Kael described Now, Voyager (1942) as a "shlock classic", and by the mid-1940s her sometimes mannered and histrionic performances had become the subject of caricature. Reviewers such as Edwin Schallert for the Los Angeles Times praised Davis's performance in Mr. Skeffington (1944), while observing, "the mimics will have more fun than a box of monkeys imitating Miss Davis", and Dorothy Manners writing for the Los Angeles Examiner said of her performance in the poorly received Beyond the Forest, (1949) "no night club caricaturist has ever turned in such a cruel imitation of the Davis mannerisms as Bette turns on herself in this one". Time magazine noted that Davis was compulsively watchable even while criticizing her acting technique, summarizing her performance in Dead Ringer (1964) with the observation, "her acting, as always, isn't really acting: it's shameless showing off. But just try to look away!"
She attracted a following in the gay subculture and was frequently imitated by female impersonators such as Charles Pierce. Attempting to explain her popularity with gay audiences, the journalist Jim Emerson wrote, "Was she just a camp figurehead because her brittle, melodramatic style of acting hadn't aged well? Or was it that she was 'Larger Than Life,' a tough broad who had survived? Probably some of both."
Her film choices were often unconventional; she sought roles as manipulators and killers in an era when actresses usually preferred to play sympathetic characters, and she excelled in them. She favored authenticity over glamour and was willing to change her own appearance if it suited the character. Claudette Colbert commented that Davis was the first actress to play roles older than herself, and therefore did not have to make the difficult transition to character parts as she aged.
As she entered old age, Davis was acknowledged for her achievements. John Springer, who had arranged her speaking tours of the early 1970s, wrote that despite the accomplishments of many of her contemporaries, Davis was "the star of the thirties and into the forties", achieving notability for the variety of her characterizations and her ability to assert herself, even when her material was mediocre. Individual performances continued to receive praise; in 1987, Bill Collins analyzed The Letter (1940), and described her performance as "a brilliant, subtle achievement", and wrote, "Bette Davis makes Leslie Crosbie one of the most extraordinary females in movies." In a 2000 review for All About Eve, (1950) Roger Ebert noted, "Davis was a character, an icon with a grand style, so even her excesses are realistic."
A few months before her death in 1989, Davis was one of several actors featured on the cover of Life magazine. In a film retrospective that celebrated the films and stars of 1939, Life concluded that Davis was the most significant actress of her era, and highlighted Dark Victory (1939) as one of the most-important films of the year. Her death made front-page news throughout the world as the "close of yet another chapter of the Golden Age of Hollywood". Angela Lansbury summed up the feeling of those of the Hollywood community who attended her memorial service, commenting after a sample from Davis's films were screened, that they had witnessed "an extraordinary legacy of acting in the twentieth century by a real master of the craft", that should provide "encouragement and illustration to future generations of aspiring actors".
In 1977, Davis became the first woman to be honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 1999, the American Film Institute published its list of the "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Stars", which was the result of a film-industry poll to determine the "50 Greatest American Screen Legends" in order to raise public awareness and appreciation of classic film. Of the 25 actresses listed, Davis was ranked at number two, behind Katharine Hepburn.
The United States Postal Service honored Davis with a commemorative postage stamp in 2008, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth. The stamp features an image of her in the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950). 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.

Academy Awards milestones

In 1962 Bette Davis became the first person to secure ten Academy Award nominations for acting. Since then only four people have equalled or surpassed this figure, Meryl Streep (with sixteen nominations and two wins), Katharine Hepburn (twelve nominations and four wins), Jack Nicholson (twelve nominations and three wins) and Laurence Olivier (ten nominations and one win).
Steven Spielberg purchased Davis's Oscars for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938) when they were offered for auction for $207,500 and $578,000, respectively, and returned them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  • 1934: Davis's performance in Of Human Bondage (1934) was widely acclaimed and when she was not nominated for an Academy Award, several influential people mounted a campaign to have her name included. The Academy relaxed its rules for that year only to allow for the consideration of any performer nominated in a write-in vote; therefore, any performance of the year was technically eligible for consideration. Given the well-publicized hoopla, some sources still consider this as a nomination for Davis; however, the Academy does not officially record this as a nomination.
  • 1935: Won for Dangerous
  • 1938: Won for Jezebel
  • 1939: Nominated for Dark Victory
  • 1940: Nominated for The Letter
  • 1941: Nominated for The Little Foxes
  • 1942: Nominated for Now, Voyager
  • 1944: Nominated for Mr. Skeffington
  • 1950: Nominated for All About Eve
  • 1952: Nominated for The Star
  • 1962: Nominated for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?



Year Title Role Director Other cast members
1931 The Bad Sister Laura Madison Hobart Henley Conrad Nagel, Sidney Fox, Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville, Humphrey Bogart
1931 Seed Margaret Carter John M. Stahl John Boles, Frances Dade, Raymond Hackett, Zasu Pitts
1931 Waterloo Bridge Janet Cronin James Whale Mae Clarke, Douglass Montgomery, Doris Lloyd
1932 Way Back Home Mary Lucy William A. Seiter Phillips Lloyd, Effie Palmer, Frank Albertson, Frankie Darro
1932 The Menace Peggy Lowell Roy William Neill H. B. Warner, Walter Byron, Natalie Moorhead
1932 Hell's House Peggy Gardner Howard Higgin Pat O'Brien
1932 The Man Who Played God Grace Blair John G. Adolfi George Arliss, Violet Heming
1932 So Big! Miss Dallas O'Mara William A. Wellman Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Dickie Moore
1932 The Rich Are Always with Us Malbro Alfred E. Green Ruth Chatterton, George Brent, John Miljan
1932 The Dark Horse Kay Russell Alfred E. Green Warren William, Guy Kibbee
1932 The Cabin in the Cotton Madge Norwood Michael Curtiz Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Jordan, Hardie Albright
1932 Three on a Match Ruth Wescott Mervyn LeRoy Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Humphrey Bogart
1932 20,000 Years in Sing Sing Fay Wilson Michael Curtiz Spencer Tracy
1933 Just Around the Corner (promotional short film) Ginger
Joan Blondell, Ruth Donnelly, Dick Powell
1933 Parachute Jumper Patricia "Alabama" Brent Alfred E. Green Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Claire Dodd
1933 The Working Man Jenny Harland (aka Jane Grey) John G. Adolfi George Arliss, Theodore Newton, Hardie Albright
1933 Ex-Lady Helen Bauer Robert Florey Gene Raymond, Frank McHugh, Claire Dodd
1933 Bureau of Missing Persons Norma Roberts Roy Del Ruth Lewis Stone, Pat O'Brien, Glenda Farrell
1934 The Big Shakedown Norma Nelson John Francis Dillon Charles Farrell, Ricardo Cortez, Glenda Farrell
1934 Fashions of 1934 Lynn Mason William Dieterle William Powell, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert, Verree Teasdale
1934 Jimmy the Gent Miss Joan Martin Michael Curtiz James Cagney, Allen Jenkins, Alice White, Mayo Methot
1934 Fog Over Frisco Arlene Bradford William Dieterle Donald Woods, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot
1934 Of Human Bondage Mildred Rogers John Cromwell Leslie Howard, Frances Dee, Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Alan Hale
1934 Housewife Patricia "Pat" Berkeley Alfred E. Green George Brent, Ann Dvorak, John Halliday, Ruth Donnelly
1935 Bordertown Mrs Marie Roark Archie Mayo Paul Muni, Margaret Lindsay, Eugene Pallette
1935 The Girl from 10th Avenue Miriam A. Brady Alfred E. Green Ian Hunter, Colin Clive, Alison Skipworth
1935 Front Page Woman Ellen Garfield Michael Curtiz George Brent, Roscoe Karns
1935 Special Agent Julie Gardner William Keighley George Brent, Ricardo Cortez
1935 Dangerous Joyce Heath Alfred E. Green Franchot Tone, Margaret Lindsay, Alison Skipworth
1936 The Petrified Forest Gabrielle "Gabby" Maple Archie Mayo Leslie Howard, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran, Humphrey Bogart
1936 The Golden Arrow Daisy Appleby Alfred E. Green George Brent, Eugene Pallette, Dick Foran
1936 Satan Met a Lady Valerie Purvis William Dieterle Warren William, Alison Skipworth
1937 Marked Woman Mary Dwight Strauber Lloyd Bacon Humphrey Bogart, Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Eduardo Ciannelli, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan
1937 Kid Galahad Louise "Fluff" Phillips Michael Curtiz Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris, Jane Bryan
1937 That Certain Woman Mary Donnell (aka Mrs Al Haines) Edmund Goulding Henry Fonda, Anita Louise, Ian Hunter, Donald Crisp
1937 It's Love I'm After Joyce Arden Archie Mayo Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Eric Blore, Patric Knowles, Spring Byington, Bonita Granville
1938 Jezebel Julie Marsden William Wyler Henry Fonda, George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Fay Bainter, Donald Crisp, Spring Byington
1938 The Sisters Louise Elliott Medlin Anatole Litvak Errol Flynn, Anita Louise, Ian Hunter, Donald Crisp, Beulah Bondi, Jane Bryan
1939 Dark Victory Judith Traherne Edmund Goulding George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan
1939 Juarez Empress Carlotta William Dieterle Paul Muni, Brian Aherne, Claude Rains, John Garfield, Donald Crisp, Joseph Calleia, Gale Sondergaard
1939 The Old Maid Charlotte Lovell Edmund Goulding Miriam Hopkins, George Brent, Donald Crisp, Jane Bryan, Louise Fazenda
1939 The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex Elizabeth I of England Michael Curtiz Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale
1940 All This, and Heaven Too Henriette Deluzy-Desportes Anatole Litvak Charles Boyer, Jeffrey Lynn, Barbara O'Neil, Virginia Weidler
1940 The Letter Leslie Crosbie William Wyler Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Frieda Inescort, Gale Sondergaard


Year Title Role Director Other cast members
1941 The Great Lie Maggie Patterson Van Allen Edmund Goulding George Brent, Mary Astor, Lucile Watson, Hattie McDaniel
1941 Shining Victory (uncredited cameo role) Nurse Irving Rapper James Stephenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp, Barbara O'Neil
1941 The Bride Came C.O.D. Joan Winfield William Keighley James Cagney, Stuart Erwin, Eugene Pallette, Jack Carson, George Tobias
1941 The Little Foxes Regina Giddens William Wyler Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Richard Carlson, Dan Duryea, Patricia Collinge
1942 The Man Who Came to Dinner Maggie Cutler William Keighley Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Richard Travis, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke, Mary Wickes
1942 In This Our Life Stanley Timberlake Kingsmill John Huston Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn, Billie Burke, Hattie McDaniel, Lee Patrick
1942 Now, Voyager Charlotte Vale Irving Rapper Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, John Loder, Ilka Chase, Lee Patrick, Mary Wickes
1943 Watch on the Rhine Sara Muller Herman Shumlin Paul Lukas, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lucile Watson, Beulah Bondi
1943 Thank Your Lucky Stars Herself David Butler Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Cantor, Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, John Garfield, Joan Leslie, Ida Lupino, Dennis Morgan, Ann Sheridan, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Edward Everett Horton, Hattie McDaniel
1943 Old Acquaintance Kit Marlowe Vincent Sherman Miriam Hopkins, John Loder, Gig Young
1944 Mr. Skeffington Fanny Trellis Vincent Sherman Claude Rains, Walter Abel, George Coulouris
1944 Hollywood Canteen Herself Delmer Daves Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Jack Carson, Joan Crawford, John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Eleanor Parker, Roy Rogers & Trigger, Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman
1945 The Corn Is Green Miss Lilly Moffat Irving Rapper John Dall, Nigel Bruce, Rhys Williams, Mildred Dunnock, Joan Lorring
1946 A Stolen Life Kate and Patricia Bosworth (dual role) Curtis Bernhardt Glenn Ford, Dane Clark, Walter Brennan
1946 Deception Christine Radcliffe Irving Rapper Paul Henreid, Claude Rains
1948 Winter Meeting Susan Grieve Bretaigne Windust Janis Paige, Jim Davis, John Hoyt, Florence Bates
1948 June Bride Linda Gilman Bretaigne Windust Robert Montgomery, Fay Bainter, Betty Lynn, Mary Wickes, Barbara Bates
1949 Beyond the Forest Rosa Moline King Vidor Joseph Cotten, David Brian, Ruth Roman
1950 All About Eve Margo Channing Joseph L. Mankiewicz Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe


Year Title Role Director Other cast members
1951 Payment on Demand Joyce Ramsey Curtis Bernhardt Barry Sullivan, Jane Cowl, Betty Lynn, Kent Taylor
1952 Another Man's Poison Janet Frobisher Irving Rapper Gary Merrill, Emlyn Williams, Anthony Steel, Barbara Murray
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Bianca Carr Jean Negulesco Shelley Winters, Gary Merrill, Michael Rennie, Keenan Wynn, Beatrice Straight
1952 The Star Margaret Elliot Stuart Heisler Sterling Hayden, Natalie Wood
1955 The Virgin Queen Queen Elizabeth I of England Henry Koster Richard Todd, Joan Collins, Herbert Marshall, Dan O'Herlihy
1956 The Catered Affair Agnes Hurley Richard Brooks Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, Rod Taylor
1956 Storm Center Alicia Hull Daniel Taradash Brian Keith, Kim Hunter
1959 John Paul Jones Catherine the Great John Farrow Robert Stack, Marisa Pavan, Charles Coburn, MacDonald Carey, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Peter Cushing
1959 The Scapegoat The Countess Robert Hamer Alec Guinness, Nicole Maurey, Irene Worth


Year Title Role Director Other cast members
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Apple Annie Frank Capra Glenn Ford, Hope Lange, Arthur O'Connell, Peter Falk, Edward Everett Horton, Ann-Margret
1962 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Baby Jane Hudson Robert Aldrich Joan Crawford, Victor Buono
1963 The Empty Canvas Dino's mother Damiano Damiani Horst Buchholz, Isa Miranda
1964 Dead Ringer Margaret De Lorca and Edith Phillips (dual role) Paul Henreid Karl Malden, Peter Lawford, Jean Hagen, Estelle Winwood
1964 Where Love Has Gone Mrs Gerald Hayden Edward Dmytryk Susan Hayward, Mike Connors, Joey Heatherton, Jane Greer
1964 Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Charlotte Hollis Robert Aldrich Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Cecil Kellaway, Victor Buono, Mary Astor
1965 The Nanny The nanny Seth Holt Wendy Craig, Jill Bennett
1968 The Anniversary Mrs Taggart Roy Ward Baker Sheila Hancock, Jack Hedley
1970 Connecting Rooms Wanda Fleming Franklin Gollings Michael Redgrave, Leo Genn


Year Title Role Director Other cast members
1971 Bunny O'Hare Bunny O'Hare Gerd Oswald Ernest Borgnine, Jack Cassidy, John Astin
1972 The Scientific Cardplayer The Millionairess Luigi Comencini Alberto Sordi, Silvana Mangano, Joseph Cotten
1976 Burnt Offerings Aunt Elizabeth Dan Curtis Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Eileen Heckart
1978 Return from Witch Mountain Letha Wedge John Hough Christopher Lee, Kim Richards, Jack Soo
1978 Death on the Nile Marie Van Schuyler John Guillermin Peter Ustinov, Simon MacCorkindale, Lois Chiles, Mia Farrow, George Kennedy, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Olivia Hussey, David Niven, Jon Finch, Jack Warden, Jane Birkin, Harry Andrews, I. S. Johar
1978 The Children of Sanchez uncredited role Hall Bartlett Anthony Quinn, Dolores del Rio, Katy Jurado
1980 The Watcher in the Woods Mrs Aylwood John Hough Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, David McCallum
1987 The Whales of August Libby Strong Lindsay Anderson Lillian Gish, Vincent Price, Ann Sothern
1989 Wicked Stepmother Miranda Pierpoint Larry Cohen Barbara Carrera, Colleen Camp, Lionel Stander

Short films appearing as herself

Year Title Notes
1932 The 42nd Street Special
1935 A Dream Comes True
1936 Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 1
1936 Screen Snapshots Series 15, No. 10
1937 A Day at Santa Anita
1937 Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 8
1938 For Auld Lang Syne
1938 Screen Snapshots Series 17, No. 9
1938 Breakdowns of 1938 Outtakes from That Certain Woman and Jezebel
1941 Breakdowns of 1941
1943 The Present with a Future Herself/Mother
1943 Show Business at War
1984 Terror in the Aisles Archival footage

Lux Radio Theatre appearances

Date Title Other cast members
March 30, 1936 Bought and Paid For
May 17, 1937 Another Language Fred MacMurray, John Beal
February 28, 1938 Forsaking All Others Joel McCrea, Anderson Lawler, Leona Meracol
January 8, 1940 Dark Victory Spencer Tracy
April 21, 1941 The Letter Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson
December 15, 1941 All This and Heaven Too Charles Boyer, Bea Benaderet
March 6, 1944 The Letter Herbert Marshall, Vincent Price
October 1, 1945 Mr. Skeffington
February 11, 1946 Now, Voyager Gregory Peck
August 25, 1947 A Stolen Life Glenn Ford
August 29, 1949 June Bride James Stewart
September 3, 1951 Payment on Demand Barry Sullivan
October 1, 1951 All About Eve Gary Merrill



Year Title Role Director Other main cast members
1952 What's My Line? Herself (Mystery guest) Franklin Heller John Daly (Moderator), Bennett Cerf, Hal Block, Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen
1955 The 27th Annual Academy Awards Herself (Presenter: Best Actor) Bill Bennington, Grey Lockwood Bob Hope (host)
1956 The 20th Century Fox Hour
Episode : Crack Up
Marie Hoke Ted Post Gary Merrill, Virginia Grey
1956 Person to Person Herself John Frankenheimer
(assistant director)
Edward R. Murrow
1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Episode: For Better, For Worse

Anne Baxter
1957 The Ford Television Theatre
Episode: Footnote on a Doll
Dolly Madison Marc Daniels, Franklin J. Schaffner Eleanor Audley, Natalie Schafer
1957 General Electric Theater
Episode: With Malice Toward One
Miss Burrows Jules Bricken John Baragrey, Frances Bavier, Maudie Prickett
1958 Telephone Time
Episode: Stranded
Beatrice Enter Allen H. Miner Pamela Baird, Claudia Bryer, Paul Bryer
1958 Studio 57
Episode: The Starmaker

Allen H. Miner Robert Busch, Gary Merrill
1958 General Electric Theater
Episode:The Cold Touch
Christine Marlowe
Leif Erickson, Jonathan Harris, Forrest Tucker
1958 Suspicion
Episode: Fraction of a Second
Mrs Ellis John Brahm Dorothy Adams, Barry Atwater, Marjorie Bennett
1958 The 30th Annual Academy Awards Herself (Presenter: Honorary Awards) Alan Handley Bob Hope and Jack Lemmon (co-hosts)
1958 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Herself William Asher Dinah Shore (host), Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gormé, Alan King
1959 Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode: Out There — Darkness
Miss Fox Paul Henreid Frank Albertson, James Congdon
1959 The DuPont Show with June Allyson
Episode: Dark Morning
Sarah Whitney
June Allyson, Gail Bonney, Leif Erickson
1959 Wagon Train
Episode: The Elizabeth McQueeney Story
Elizabeth McQueeney Allen H. Miner Ward Bond, Danielle Aubrey, Joseph Mell, Maggie Pierce
1959 Wagon Train
Episode: The Ella Lindstrom Story
Ella Lindstrom Allen H. Miner Ward Bond, Bobby Buntrock
1959 The 31st Annual Academy Awards Herself (Presenter: Best Supporting Actor) Alan Handley Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis (co-hosts)
1960 What's My Line? Herself (Mystery guest)
Joey Bishop


Year Title Role Director Other main cast members
1961 Wagon Train
Episode: The Bettina May Story

Ward Bond, Joby Baker
1962 The Virginian
Episode: The Accomplice
Celia Miller
James Drury, Lee J. Cobb, Doug McClure, Victor French, Harold Gould
1962 Here's Hollywood
Episode broadcast October 9

1962 What's My Line?
Episode broadcast November 11
Herself (Mystery guest)

1962 Here's Hollywood
Episode broadcast December 1

1962 The Jack Paar Tonight Show
Episode broadcast November 16

1962 The Andy Williams Show
Episode broadcast December 20

1963 Perry Mason
Episode: The Case of Constant Doyle
Constant Doyle
Raymond Burr, Peggy Ann Garner
1963 The 35th Annual Academy Awards Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role
Presenter: Writing Awards

1963 Reflets de Cannes
Episode broadcast May 16

1964 The Hollywood Palace
Episode #2.7

1964 What's My Line?
Episode broadcast March 29
Herself (Mystery guest)

1965 The Hollywood Palace
Episode #2.21

1965 What's My Line?
Episode broadcast October 24
Herself (Mystery guest)

1965 Bette Davis — Star und Rebellin Herself

1965 I've Got a Secret
Episode broadcast March 1

1965 The Decorator (unsold pilot) Liz
Mary Wickes, Ed Begley
1966 Gunsmoke
Episode: The Jailer
Etta Stone
James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, Bruce Dern, Tom Skerritt
1966 The Hollywood Palace
Episode #3.19

1967 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Episode #1.4

1967 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Episode #1.20

1967 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Episode #2.2

1967 Think Twentieth Herself

1970 The Dick Cavett Show
Episode broadcast November 26

1970 It Takes a Thief
Episode: Touch of Magic

Robert Wagner, Fred Astaire


Year Title Role Director Other main cast members
1971 The Dick Cavett Show Herself

1972 The Judge and Jake Wyler (TV movie) Judge Meredith David Lowell Rich Doug McClure, Joan Van Ark, Kent Smith
1971 This Is Your Life Herself (Honoree)

1972 Madame Sin (TV movie) Madame Sin David Greene Robert Wagner, Denholm Elliott, Gordon Jackson
1972 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Episode broadcast February 14, 1972

1972 Johnny Carson Presents the Sun City Scandals '72 Herself

1973 Scream, Pretty Peggy (TV movie) Mrs Elliott Gordon Hessler Ted Bessell, Sian Barbara Allen
1973 The Dean Martin Show
Celebrity Roast: Johnny Carson

1973 The Dean Martin Show
Celebrity Roast: Bette Davis

1973 ABC's Wide World of Entertainment Hostess of "Warner Bros. Movies: A 50 Year Salute"

1974 Hello Mother, Goodbye! (TV movie)

Kenneth Mars
1974 The 28th Annual Tony Awards Herself (Presenter)

1975 Parkinson
Episode #5.8

1976 The Mike Douglas Show
Episode broadcast March 19

1976 V.I.P.-Schaukel
Episode #6.1

1976 The Disappearance of Aimee (TV movie) Minnie Kennedy Anthony Harvey Faye Dunaway, James Woods
1977 Dinah!
Episode broadcast July 20

1977 The American Film Institute Salute to Bette Davis Herself (Honoree)

1977 Jimmy Carter's Inaugural Gala Herself

1978 The 50th Annual Academy Awards Herself

1978 The American Film Institute Salute to Henry Fonda Herself

1978 The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (miniseries) Widow Fortune Leo Penn David Ackroyd, Rosanna Arquette, Rene Auberjonois
1979 Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (TV movie) Lucy Mason Milton Katselas Gena Rowlands
1980 White Mama (TV movie) Adele Malone Jackie Cooper Eileen Heckart, Anne Ramsey
1980 Skyward (TV movie) Billie Dupree Ron Howard Howard Hesseman, Marion Ross
1980 Bob Hope's Overseas Christmas Tours:
Around the World with the Troops – 1941–1972


Year Title Role Director Other main cast members
1981 Family Reunion (TV movie) Elizabeth Winfield Fielder Cook J. Ashley Hyman, David Huddleston, Roy Dotrice
1982 A Piano for Mrs. Cimino (TV movie) Esther MacDonald Cimino George Schaefer Penny Fuller, Christopher Guest, Keenan Wynn
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last (TV movie) Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt Waris Hussein Martin Balsam, Michael Gross, Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Plummer, Maureen Stapleton
1982 All-Star Party for Carol Burnett Herself

1982 The American Film Institute Salute to Frank Capra Herself

1982 Night of 100 Stars Herself

1983 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Episode broadcast February 9

1983 Bette Davis: A Basically Benevolent Volcano Herself

1983 Hotel
Laura Trent
James Brolin, Connie Sellecca
1983 Right of Way (TV movie) Minnie Dwyer George Schaefer James Stewart, Melinda Dillon, Priscilla Morrill
1985 Murder with Mirrors (TV movie) Carrie Louise Serracold Dick Lowry Helen Hayes, John Mills, Leo McKern
1985 Étoiles et toiles March 25 Herself

1986 As Summers Die (TV movie) Hannah Loftin Jean-Claude Tramont Scott Glenn, Jamie Lee Curtis
1986 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Episode broadcast May 22

1986 Directed by William Wyler Herself

1986 The 43rd Annual Golden Globe Awards
Episode broadcast February 22

1986 La Nuit des Césars Herself

1987 The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts Herself

1987 The 59th Annual Academy Awards Herself (Presenter: Best Actor in a Leading Role)

1988 Larry King Live
Episode broadcast February 24

1988 De película
Episode broadcast February 22

1988 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Episode broadcast January 7

No comments:

Post a Comment