She was one of those actresses who showed up knowing her lines, knowing her character, and being ready to perform. She is now seen as an iconic actress. But I described her to my son as the Meryl Strep of her time. Not because she changed her appearence or accent with each role. But because she came to each role ready to play that person honestly. That is why she was the first actress to receive ten nominations for best actress.
All About Bette
Family Movie Night
by Karyn Bowman
Last week I talked about Bette Davis and her role in Dark Victory.
It was an incredible movie and her performance keeps it from being melodramatic crap. You see, Bette Davis wasn’t willing to ever give it a part of her effort. She wasn’t willing to simply show up on the set.
So what made her so great? It might have been her theater training, it might have been her dedication to her craft. It might have been her abborhance for those actors who didn’t take their craft seriously. That is a part of her reasons for hating Joan Crawford and Errol Flynn.
The other part is that Bette Davis was a tough broad. Her life was not always easy with four marriages and three divorces. Her second husband died suddenly and, despite her grief, was forced to work on a movie by Jack Warner. She was reportedly difficult to work with on this particular set, not her usual behavior. Her only excuse was that in being unhappy, she lashed out rather than whine about her situation.
But let me also suggest that you see All About Eve, one of her finer movies towards the end of her Hollywood Glamour days. Once again she is playing a character not easy to like, one who shows her varying emotions of jealousy and insecurity. Here, she stars as a mature actress who has been followed by a young fan. But in one eventful night, that young fan tries to take over her life. It is from this movie that we get the famous line “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” This movie would earn her an eighth nomination for Best Actress.
However, the movie that gave her the tenth nomination might be the best known one. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starred David and her hated rival, Joan Crawford, as two sisters living in an old Hollywood mansion. Davis portrays a character who was popular as a child. She still dresses like a ten year old girl with the heavy curls of the silent era. But Crawford’s character career was starting to take off when a horrible car accident paralyzed the beatiful young woman. Was it caused by Baby Jane who may have been jealous of her sister’s growing fame while her career went away?
This movie in 1962 reminded people of Davis’ power to project the emotions that some of us would rather not delve into. She continued working until the end of her life, putting together screen performances and lecture tours while still hitting the talk shows. Davis knew it wasn’t her looks that got her to Hollywood. She knew she wasn’t the most beautiful of actresses despite being attractive in her own way. It was her can-do spirit, her willingness to take on roles of unlikable characters that made us love her. And while she made acting look effortless, she also wanted to alway make it ‘bigger than life.’
How can you not love a broad like that?
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.