"All the boys think she's a spy: she's got Bette Davis eyes!"
—Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes" (1981)
Bette Davis (1908-1989) was an American actress of film, television and theatre. 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. During her career she received 10 nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won twice, and she 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 film, television and theater roles to her credit. She also lucked out with the above Kim Carnes song catapulting her back into the pop culture spotlight.
In 1999, Davis was placed second, behind Katharine Hepburn, on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female stars of all time.
- Catch Phrase:
- "What a dump!" (in "Beyond the Forest")
- "Ah'd love t' kiss ya, but ah jes washed ma hayuh," (in "The Cabin in the Cotton")
- "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" (in "All About Eve")
- Foe Yay: With Joan Crawford.
Joan Crawford and I have never been warm friends. We are not simpatico. I admire her, and yet I feel uncomfortable with her. To me, she is the personification of the Movie Star. I have always felt her greatest performance is Crawford being Crawford.
- Jerkass Dissonance
- Plucky Girl: And how.
- Signature Song: Long before the Kim Carnes song, Bette had established her own theme, "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old."