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|Bette Davis Biography and Filmography
Birthday: April 5, 1908
Birth Place: Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Height: 5' 3"
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Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA. She passed away from cancer October 6, 1989 in France. Her parents divorced when she was a child & she was raised, along with her sister by her mother, Ruthie. Bette demanded attention practically from birth which led to her pursuing a career in acting. After graduation from Cushing Academy she was refused admittance to Eva Le Gallienne's Manhattan Civic Repertory because she was considered insincere and frivolous. She enrolled in John Murray Anderson's Dramatic School and was the star pupil. She was in the off-Broadway "The Earth Between" (1923). Her Broadway debut in 1929 was in "Broken Dishes" and she also appeared in "Solid South." Late in 1930 she was hired by Universal. 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 the movie The Bad Sister (1931) didn't impress. In 1932 she signed a seven year deal with Warner Brothers. She became a star after her appearance in The Man Who Played God (1932). Warners loaned her to RKO in 1934 for Of Human Bondage (1934) in which she was a smash. She had a significant number of write-in votes for the Best Actress Oscar. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938) and fought unsuccessfully with Warner Brothers to break her contract because she felt she wasn't receiving the top roles an Oscar winning actress deserved. When she came back after the lawsuit her roles improved dramatically. The only role she didn't get that she wanted in 1939 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 four unhappy marriages. She admitted her career always came first. She made many successful 40's films, but each picture was weaker than the last and by the time her Warner Brothers contract had ended in 1949 the movies were disappointing, such as the unintentionally hilarious Beyond the Forest (1949). She made a huge comeback in 1950 when she replaced an ill Claudette Colbert and received an Oscar nomination for her role in All About Eve (1950). She worked in films through the 1950's, but her career 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 1962's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) which brought a new phase of stardom in both movies and television through the 60's and 70's. 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) (TV). In 1977-78 she moved from Connecticut to Los Angeles and filmed a pilot for the series "Hotel", which she called "Brothel". She refused to do the TV series and suffered a stroke during this time. Her daughter B.D. Hyman wrote a 1985 "Mommie Dearest" type book "My Mother's Keeper". She worked in the later 1980's in films and TV even though a stroke had impaired her appearance and mobility. She wrote "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. When she passed away October 6, 1989 in France many of her fans refused to believe she was gone.
- While Bette Davis 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 pronounced that this girl would never make it as an actress. It 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 osteomylitis 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 tombstone is written "She did it the hard way".
- She suffered a stroke and a mastectomy in 1983.
- Attended Northfield Mt Hermon high school.
- Interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, just outside and to the left of the main entrance to the Court of Remembrance.
- Mother of Barbara Merrill and grandmother of J. Ashley Hyman.
- Was the first woman to be president of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- Director Steven Spielberg won the Christie's auction of Bette Davis' 1938 Best Actress Oscar for Jezebel (1938) for 8,000. He then gave it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. [19 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.
- Bette 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 for the company.
- She considered her debut screen test for MGM to be so bad that she ran screaming from the projection room.
- Her first husband Arthur Farnsworth was killed in an accidental fall in which he took a blow to the head.
- Her real true love 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.
- Mentioned by name in Madonna's #1 hit "Vogue".
- 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 5 years in a row for movies in 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942. She shares the record for most consectutive nominations with Greer Garson.
- After the song "Bette Davis Eyes" became a hit single, Ms. Davis wrote letters to singer Kim Carnes and songwriters Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon and asked how did they know so much about her. One of the reasons Davis loved the song is that her granddaughter heard it and thought her grandmother was "cool" for having a hit song written about her.
- Measurements: 34C-21-34 (as a "too busty" starlet), 36C-25-35 (in 1940), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
- While touring the talk show circuit to promote What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Davis told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads, Warner studio head Jack 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!"
- The last words she uttered on screen (in Wicked Stepmother (1989)) were, 'Call me mom'.
- 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.
- Was almost fired her first day on the Warner Brothers lot. The first time studio head Harry Warner actually looked at her, he said, "tell whoever hired this girl he's fired. Look at her! She's got about as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville!"
- 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. During the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Bette had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set due to Joan Crawford's affiliation with Pepsi. (Joan was the widow of Pepsi's CEO.) Joan got her revenge by putting weights in her pockets when Davis had to drag Crawford across the floor during certain scenes.
- 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 film was little better than a pot-boiling exploitation film, the kind of movie 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 Michael Todd was Jewish. Blondell called Davis's brace of husbands the "Four Skins."
- According to her August 1982 PLAYBOY Magazine interview, in her youth, Bette posed nude for an artist, who carved a statue of her that was placed in a public spot in Boston, Mass. After the interview appeared, Bostonians searched for the statue in vain.
- She was of Welsh and Scottish descent. She came to Cardiff in 1975 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 forgotten all the other phrases she had learned.
- Davis claimed to have given the Academy Award the nickname "Oscar" after her first husband, Harmon Nelson.
- 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 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 Bette 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
- Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
- Is portrayed by Elissa Leeds in My Wicked, Wicked Ways... The Legend of Errol Flynn (1985) (TV)
- She said that among the jokes told about her, her favorite came from an impressionist who, dressed up like her, commanded 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 & Maggie Smith.
- Her performance as Margo Channing in "All About Eve" is ranked #5 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
- While numerous stories claim the Academy Award was named after Bette Davis first husband Harmon Nelson(whose middle name was Oscar), magazine and newspaper articles predating her arrival in Hollywood by 5-7 years already referred to the award as "The Oscar."
- Her performance as Margo Channing in "All About Eve" (1950) is ranked #11 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
- Is portrayed by Nancy Linehan Charles in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996) (TV)
- Declined a role in 4 for Texas (1963), to do Dead Ringer (1964).
- 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.
- When she died they auctioned off her false eyelashes which attracted 0. Previously, she had said that her biggest secret was brown mascara.