Bette Davis biograph and career highlights

Bette Davis was one of the most glorified and respected movie stars that ever graced the silver screen. Her indelible image of a strong, independent and assertive screen legend added a new dimension to the American cinema. With her heavy-cast, magically expressive ”Bette Davis Eyes”, sharp tongue, sardonic wit and irreverent sense of humor and over-the-top energy, Bette Davis was the consummate actress and a woman of undomitable spirit with a taste for conventionally unappealing roles.

A legend is born

Screen legend Bette Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5th, 1908 in the Highlands section of the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, to aspiring artist Ruthie Favor and patent lawyer Harlow Morrell Davis. In 1930, Bette Davis ventured to Hollywood accompanied by her mother Ruthie and her pet terrier. At 22 years of age, she had already been a star on Broadway and looked forward to an equally brave career on the silver screen. However, much to her surprise, Hollywood motion picture moguls did not consider her a glamorous starlet, but a rather plain New England girl with little sex-appeal that stood in contrast to the ravishing beauties that had been in silent movies for years. Undaunted by her initial reception in Tinseltown, this modest yet gifted and self-assured Yankee girl ”born liberated and independent” had confidence that her uniqueness and originality would eventually prevail.

Of Human Bondage
Character: Mildred Rogers | Genre: Drama, Romace| Year: 1934 | Director: John Cronwell
Bette Davis delivered an over-the-top, bravura performance as the utterly unsympathetic, cockney-accented, slovenly, vulgar, illiterate and devilish Mildred Rogers who eventually succumbs to a fatal illness in John Cromwell's celebrated melodrama Of Human Bondage, the first film version of W. Somerset Maugham's 1915 novel.

In 1936, Bette Davis co-starred opposite Leslie Howard and newcomer Humphrey Bogart in the film that made the latter a major movie star, Archie Mayo's dark film The Petrified Forest, in which she portrayed the daughter of a diner's owner, the aspiring painter Gabrielle Maple who dreams of studying art in France.

Marked Woman
Character: Mary Dwight Strauber | Genre: Thriller | Year: 1937 | Director: Lloyd Bacon
Lloyd Bacon's hit crime film Marked Woman re-paired her with Bogart and it was inspired by the real-life Manhattan District Attorney Thomas Deway who had successfully managed to convict the infamous Lucky Luciano with the aid of one of his molls. For her poignant portrayal of the courageous and strong-willed nightclub hostess Mary Dwight Strauber who had the guts to stand up to the powerful gangster and testify against against him, Bette Davis won the Volpi Cup at the 1937 Venice Film Festival. 

Character: Julie Marsden | Genre: Drama | Year: 1938 | Director: William Wyler
Set in pre-war New Orleans in the 1850s amid a fatal epidemic of yellow fever, the 1938 classic drama Jezebel is based on Owen Davis' play of the same title and it has been regarded as the ”quintessential American women's film”. The film was Miss Davis first collaboration with her favorite director William Wyler.

Dark Victory
Character: Judith Traherne | Genre: Drama | Year: 1939 | Director: Edmund Goulding
This movie is one of her most memorable and one of her biggest box-office success. She gives a convincing performance as the young, hedonistic and spoiled heiress and socialite Judith Traherne who is diagnosed with a brain tumor that causes her to go blind and eventually cuts her life short.

Betty Davis with agun

Betty Davis' character getting into trouble in The Letter.

The Letter
Character: Leslie Crosbie | Genre: Crime, Drama | Year: 1940 | Director: Francis Ford William Wyler
The The Letter, in which she played the adulterous murderer Leslie Crosbie, she re-teamed with her ex-lover William Wyler in another screen adaptation of a play written by the famed British playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham.

Bette Davis looking in mirror

Bette Davis looking selfreflective in mirror.

The Little Foxes
Character: Regina Giddens | Genre: Drama | Year: 1941 | Director: William Wyler
Her third and last pairing with Wyler, the 1941 stark melodrama The Little Foxes gave Davis the opportunity to play another villain, the conniving, cold-hearted and controlling Regina Giddens. Her poignant performance won her another Oscar nomination.

Paul Henreid and Betty Davis

Betty Davis and Paul Henreid in Now, Voyager.

Now, Voyager
Character: Charlotte Vale | Genre: Drama, Romance | Year: 1942 | Director: Irving Rapper
Her greatest asset as an actress was her revered ability to reach audiences emotionally through her unique reserve as in her portrayal of Charlotte Vale in Irving Rapper's classic romantic melodrama Now, Voyager.

Now, Voyager was a milestone in Davis' career; the biggest box-office hit of her career. By 1942, her superstardom had surpassed even her wildest dreams, becoming the highest-paid movie star.

All About Eve
Character: Margo | Genre: Drama | Year: 1950 | Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
When she got Joseph L. Mankiewicz' script for All About Eve, Miss Davis was fascinated, calling it the most literate script she had ever received in her career. Seldom in cinematic history had an actress been so perfectly matched to a role as Davis was to Margo Channing, a temperamental and vain stage star at the pinnacle of her career.

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Character: Baby Jane Hudson | Genre: Drama, Thriller | Year: 1962 | Director: Robert Aldrich
To everyone's surprise, Bette Davis agreed to work with her rival, Joan Crawford, accepting an unusual role, that of the psychopathic sister in Robert Aldrich's 1962 classic cinematic masterpiece What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?.

Screen legend Bette Davis passed away at the age of 81, on October 6th, 1989 in the Neuilly-sur-Seine suburb of Paris, France. She was survived by her three children – Michael and Margo Merrill and B.D.

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