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"My Favorite Bette Davis"

[In this guest column, Chapter member Diane Harvey shares her perspective on the career of arguably the greatest screen actress of classic Hollywood, Miss Bette Davis, what she sees as its distinct phases & which is her favorite - see if you agree!]

I divided the 60-year acting career of the legendary Bette Davis into three stages:

Stage One 1931-1941, was the often bratty (and the other B-word too), rich and feisty Davis starring in films including, The Great Lie, Dark Victory and Jezebel. We can sum up this phase as the one where she always got her way…with a few exceptions.

Stage Two 1942-1950, she continued to be rich in Now Voyager, but became more caring. As emotionally troubled spinster Charlotte Vale, Davis showed compassion by befriending love interest Jerry Durrance’s (Paul Henried) 12-year-old daughter Tina (Janis Wilson) while both were in a sanitarium. An added twist to her skills was when Davis played twin sisters in A Stolen Life. Davis was maturing and played out that reality in All About Eve.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane leads the pack of Stage Three 1955-1964. Davis played deranged, sinister and settled characters. Other favs for me in this stage are The Catered Affair and Dead Ringer (second film of Davis playing twins).

So which is my favorite “Bette Davis?” Drum roll please...Stage Two! Why? Because in this stage she played a wider range of characters. Especially impressive to me was the realism in which Davis embraced her age. In All About Eve Davis was 42. Like Channing, she was a confident seasoned actor with lovely long hair, a raspy voice and commanded respect from a cigarette! Also Davis, like Channing, married Gary Merrill.

Though I am captivated by most of them, All About Eve is my favorite Bette Davis movie...and hers too. Davis said in her autobiography, “I can think of no project that from the outset was as rewarding from the first day to the last.”

By the way, “The Fourth Warner Brother,” continued acting until 1989.

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