119 Facts About Bette Davis


Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits.


Bette Davis was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas.


Bette Davis appeared on Broadway in New York, then the 22-year-old Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930.


Bette Davis was known for her forceful and intense style of acting and gained a reputation as a perfectionist in her craft.


Bette Davis could be combative and confrontational with studio executives and film directors, as well as with her co-stars, expecting the same high standard of performance and commitment from them as she expected from herself.


Bette Davis played a Broadway star in All About Eve, which earned her another Oscar nomination and won her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress.


Bette Davis's career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite a long period of ill health she continued acting in film and on television until shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1989.


Bette Davis admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships.


Bette Davis was married four times, divorcing three and widowed once, when her second husband died unexpectedly.


Bette Davis raised her children largely as a single parent.


Bette Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, a free club for food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen during World War II, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


Bette Davis was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.


In 1999, Bette Davis was placed second behind Katharine Hepburn on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female stars of the classical Hollywood cinema era.


Ruth Elizabeth Bette Davis, known from early childhood as "Betty", was born on April 5,1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Harlow Morrell Bette Davis, a law student from Augusta, Maine, and subsequently a patent attorney, and Ruth Augusta, from Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.


In 1915, Bette Davis's parents separated, Bette Davis and her sister Barbara attended, for three years, a spartan boarding school called Crestalban in Lanesborough, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires.


The young Bette Davis later changed the spelling of her first name to Bette after Bette Fischer, a character in Honore de Balzac's La Cousine Bette.


Bette Davis's patrol won a competitive dress parade for Lou Hoover at Madison Square Garden.


Bette Davis attended Cushing Academy, a boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where she met her future husband, Harmon O Nelson, known as Ham.


In 1926, a then 18-year-old Bette Davis saw a production of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck with Blanche Yurka and Peg Entwistle.


Eva Le Gallienne felt Bette Davis was not serious enough to attend her school, and described her attitude as "insincere" and "frivolous".


In 1929, Bette Davis was chosen by Blanche Yurka to play Hedwig, the character she had seen Entwistle play in The Wild Duck.


Bette Davis had been inspired to pursue a career as a film actress after seeing Mary Pickford in Little Lord Fauntleroy.


Bette Davis later recounted her surprise that nobody from the studio was there to meet her.


Bette Davis failed her first screen test, but was used in several screen tests for other actors.


Bette Davis's nervousness was compounded when she overheard the chief of production, Carl Laemmle Jr.


Bette Davis was preparing to return to New York when actor George Arliss chose Bette Davis for the lead female role in the Warner Bros.


Bette 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 Bette Davis to purchase a house until he could afford to pay for it himself.


Many actresses feared playing unsympathetic characters, and several had refused the role, but Bette Davis viewed it as an opportunity to show the range of her acting skills.


The film was a success, and Bette Davis's characterization earned praise from critics, with Life writing that she gave "probably the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a US actress".


When Bette 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 Bette Davis nominated.


Bette Davis gives the curious feeling of being charged with power which can find no ordinary outlet.


Bette Davis won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role, but commented that it was belated recognition for Of Human Bondage, calling the award a "consolation prize".


Bette Davis later recalled the opening statement of the barrister representing Warner Bros.


Bette Davis mocked Davis's description of her contract as "slavery" by stating, incorrectly, that she was being paid $1,350 per week.


Bette Davis was awarded the Volpi Cup at the 1937 Venice Film Festival for her performance.


Bette Davis 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".


Bette 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.


In later years, Bette Davis cited this performance as her personal favorite.


Bette Davis 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.


Bette Davis's 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.


The Letter was considered "one of the best pictures of the year" by The Hollywood Reporter, and Bette Davis won admiration for her portrayal of an adulterous killer, a role originated onstage by Katharine Cornell.


Bette Davis refused, as she had met Arthur Farnsworth, a New England innkeeper, and Vermont dentist's son.


In January 1941, Bette 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.


Bette Davis rejected the idea of her being just "a figurehead only".


Bette Davis starred in three movies in 1941, the first being The Great Lie, with George Brent.


Bette Davis received another Academy Award nomination for her performance, and never worked with Wyler again.


Bette Davis sold $2 million worth of bonds in two days, as well as a picture of herself in Jezebel for $250,000.


Bette Davis performed for black regiments as the only white member of an acting troupe formed by Hattie McDaniel, which included Lena Horne and Ethel Waters.


Bette Davis ensured that every night, a few important "names" would be there for the visiting soldiers to meet.


Bette Davis appeared as herself in the film Hollywood Canteen, which used the canteen as the setting for a fictional story.


Bette Davis showed little interest in the film Now, Voyager, until Hal Wallis advised her that female audiences needed romantic dramas to distract them from the reality of their lives.


Bette Davis performed a novelty song, "They're Either Too Young or Too Old", which became a hit record after the film's release.


Bette Davis felt that Hopkins tried to upstage her throughout the film.


Director Vincent Sherman recalled the intense competition and animosity between the two actresses, and Bette Davis often joked that she held back nothing in a scene in which she was required to shake Hopkins in a fit of anger.


Bette Davis testified before an inquest that she knew of no event that might have caused the injury.


Highly distraught, Bette Davis attempted to withdraw from her next film Mr Skeffington, but Jack Warner, who had halted production following Farnsworth's death, persuaded her to continue.


Bette Davis alienated Vincent Sherman by refusing to film certain scenes and insisting that some sets be rebuilt.


Bette Davis improvised dialogue, causing confusion among other actors, and infuriated the writer Julius Epstein, who was called upon to rewrite scenes at her whim.


In 1945, Bette Davis married artist William Grant Sherry, her third husband, who worked as a masseur.


Bette Davis had been drawn to him because he claimed he had never heard of her and was, therefore, not intimidated by her.


Bette 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.


Bette Davis concluded that "the subtle interpretation she insisted on giving" kept the focus on the teacher's "sheer joy in imparting knowledge".


In 1948, Bette Davis was cast in the melodrama Winter Meeting.


Bette Davis recalled that she had seen the same lighting technique "on the sets of Ruth Chatterton and Kay Francis, and I knew what they meant".


Bette Davis disagreed with changes made to the script because of censorship restrictions, and found that many of the aspects of the role that initially appealed to her had been cut.


Bette Davis reportedly loathed the script, and begged Warner to recast the role, but he refused.


Arthur Blake was a famous female impersonator of the post World-War II era who was particularly known for his performances as Bette Davis; notably impersonating her in the 1952 film Diplomatic Courier.


Bette Davis played a Broadway star in All About Eve, which earned her another Oscar nomination and won her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress.


Bette Davis read the script, described it as the best she had ever read, and accepted the role.


Bette Davis was again nominated for an Academy Award, and critics such as Gene Ringgold described her Margo as her "all-time best performance".


Bette Davis won a Best Actress award from the Cannes Film Festival, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award.


Bette Davis 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.


When it received lukewarm reviews and failed at the box office, Hollywood columnists wrote that Bette Davis's comeback had petered out, and an Academy Award nomination for The Star did not halt her decline at the box office.


In 1952, Bette Davis appeared in the Broadway revue Two's Company, directed by Jules Dassin.


Bette Davis was uncomfortable working outside of her area of expertise; she never had been a musical performer, and her limited theater experience had been more than 20 years earlier.


Bette Davis was severely ill, and was operated on for osteomyelitis of the jaw.


Outside of acting and politics, Bette Davis was an active and practicing Episcopalian.


In 1961, Bette 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".


Bette Davis then joined Glenn Ford and Hope Lange for the Frank Capra film Pocketful of Miracles, a remake of Capra's 1933 film, Lady for a Day, based on a story by Damon Runyon.


Bette Davis believed it could appeal to the same audience that had recently made Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho a success.


Bette Davis negotiated a deal that would pay her 10 percent of the worldwide gross profits in addition to her salary.


When Bette Davis was nominated for an Academy Award, Crawford contacted the other Best Actress nominees and offered to accept the award on their behalf, should they win.


Crawford said Bette Davis was a "fascinating actress" but they were never able to become friends as they only worked on the one film together.


Bette Davis said Crawford was a good, professional actress, but cared a lot about the way she looked, and her vanity.


Bette Davis played the mother of Susan Hayward, but filming was hampered by heated arguments between Bette Davis and Hayward.


In 1972, Bette Davis played the lead role in two television films that were each intended as pilots for upcoming series for ABC and NBC, Madame Sin, with Robert Wagner, and The Judge and Jake Wyler, with Doug McClure and Joan Van Ark, but in each case, the network decided against producing a series.


Bette Davis appeared in the stage production Miss Moffat, a musical adaptation of her film 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.


Bette Davis played supporting roles in Luigi Comencini's Lo Scopone scientifico with Joseph Cotten and Italian actors Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano, Burnt Offerings, a Dan Curtis film, and The Disappearance of Aimee, but she clashed with Karen Black and Faye Dunaway, the stars of the two latter respective 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, Bette Davis became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award.


Jane Fonda, Henry Fonda, Natalie Wood, and Olivia de Havilland were among the performers who paid tribute, with de Havilland commenting that Bette Davis "got the roles I always wanted".


Bette Davis accepted roles in the television miniseries The Dark Secret of Harvest Home and the theatrical film Death on the Nile, an Agatha Christie murder mystery.


Bette Davis won an Emmy Award for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter with Gena Rowlands, and was nominated for her performances in White Mama and Little Gloria.


Bette Davis played supporting roles in the Disney films Return from Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods.


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 US, where it stayed at number one on the music charts for more than two months.


Bette Davis's grandson was impressed that she was the subject of a hit song and Bette 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.


Bette Davis continued acting for television, appearing in Family Reunion with her grandson J Ashley Hyman, A Piano for Mrs Cimino, and Right of Way with James Stewart.


Bette Davis's career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite a long period of ill health she continued acting in film and on television until shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1989.


Bette Davis admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships.


Bette Davis was married four times, divorcing three and widowed once.


Bette Davis raised her children largely as a single parent.


In 1983, after filming the pilot episode for the television series Hotel, Bette Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy.


Bette Davis commenced a lengthy period of physical therapy, and aided by her personal assistant Kathryn Sermak gained partial recovery from the paralysis.


Hyman deteriorated when Hyman became a born-again Christian and attempted to persuade Bette Davis to follow suit.


Several of Bette Davis's friends commented that Hyman's depiction of events was not accurate; one said "So much of the book is out of context".


Critics of Hyman noted that Bette Davis financially supported the Hyman family for several years and had recently saved them from losing their house.


Bette Davis's adopted son Michael Merrill ended contact with Hyman, and refused to speak to her again, as did Bette Davis, who disinherited her.


Bette Davis appeared on British television in a special broadcast from the South Bank Centre, discussing film and her career, the other guest being the renowned Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.


Bette Davis collapsed during the American Cinema Awards in 1989, and later discovered that her cancer had returned.


Bette Davis recovered sufficiently to travel to Spain, where she was honored at the Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival, but during her visit, her health rapidly deteriorated.


Bette Davis was entombed in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, alongside her mother Ruthie and sister Bobby, with her name in larger letters.


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, Bette Davis remarked that, unlike many of her contemporaries, she had forged a career without the benefit of beauty.


Bette Davis admitted she was terrified during the making of her early films, and that she became tough by necessity.


Bette Davis attracted a following in the gay subculture, and was frequently imitated by female impersonators such as Tracey Lee, Craig Russell, Jim Bailey, and Charles Pierce.


Bette Davis favored authenticity over glamour, and was willing to change her own appearance if it suited the character.


John Springer, who had arranged her speaking tours of the early 1970s, wrote that despite the accomplishments of many of her contemporaries, Bette 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.


Bette Davis's death made front-page news throughout the world as the "close of yet another chapter of the Golden Age of Hollywood".


Angela Lansbury summarized the feeling of those of the Hollywood community who attended her memorial service, commenting, after a sample from Bette Davis's films was 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, Bette Davis became the first woman to be honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award.


Bette Davis's record has only been matched by one other performer, Greer Garson, who earned five consecutive nominations in the Best Actress category, including three years when both these actresses were nominated.