Davis, Bette

Davis, Bette
in full Ruth Elizabeth Davis

born April 5, 1908, Lowell, Mass, U.S.
died Oct. 6, 1989, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

U.S. film actress.

She played small parts onstage before going to Hollywood in 1931. After a series of minor roles, she established her reputation with Of Human Bondage (1934) and Dangerous (1935, Academy Award). Known for her intense characterizations of strong women, she gave electrifying performances in films such as The Petrified Forest (1936), Jezebel (1938, Academy Award), Dark Victory (1939), The Little Foxes (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), and All About Eve (1950). Her later films include What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and The Whales of August (1987).

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▪ American actress
original name  Ruth Elizabeth Davis 
born April 5, 1908, Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
died Oct. 6, 1989, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
 versatile, volatile American actress, whose raw, unbridled intensity kept her at the top of her profession for 50 years.

      Davis developed a taste for acting while attending her mother's alma mater, Cushing Academy in Massachussetts. After gaining a smattering of experience in summer stock, she was accepted by John Murray Anderson's acting school, where she quickly became a star pupil. In 1929 she made her first Broadway appearances, in Broken Dishes and Solid South, which led to a movie contract with Universal Pictures (Universal Studios). Upon her arrival in Hollywood, however, the studio executives determined that she had no “sex appeal,” and after a series of thankless roles in such films as Bad Sister (1931) and a handful of equally unrewarding loanouts to other studios, Universal dropped her option. The dispirited young actress was on the verge of looking for another line of work when actor Murray Kinnell, with whom she had appeared in The Menace (1932), recommended her to play the ingenue in Warner Bros. (Warner Brothers)' The Man Who Played God (1932). The positive critical response to her work in this film prompted Warner Bros. to sign Davis to a contract.

      After a series of undemanding roles for Warners, she begged the studio to lend her to RKO Radio Pictures to play the vicious, relentlessly unsympathetic Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1934), a film version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel. Davis's bravura performance as Mildred won her critical acclaim and industry respect, but studio politics prevented her from receiving an Academy Award. She subsequently won what many considered a “consolation” Oscar for her portrayal of an alcoholic, self-destructive actress in Dangerous (1935).

      Her achievements notwithstanding, Warners continued to cast Davis in roles she considered beneath her talents and refused to pay her what she felt she was worth. Suspended by the studio for turning down yet another inconsequential role, she went to England to seek better roles. When Warners blocked her from doing any work outside of her contract, she sued the studio—and lost. In the long run, however, she won: upon returning to Warners, she was lavishly indulged. Her salary demands were met, and her choice of screen assignments improved dramatically. She went on to win a second Oscar for Jezebel (1938), the first of three rewarding collaborations with director William Wyler (Wyler, William). Her other notable vehicles from this period include Dark Victory (1939), Juarez (1939), and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).

 During the 1940s she made several successful movies, including The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), Watch on the Rhine (1943), and The Corn Is Green (1945), but her career began to falter near the end of the decade. Severing her 18-year relationship with Warners in 1949, she staged the first of several spectacular comebacks with her virtuoso performance as Broadway diva Margot Channing in All About Eve (1950). Although she was again written off as washed up in the early '60s, she revitalized her career with the Grand Guignol classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). In 1977 she became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award; two years later, she won an Emmy for her work in the made-for-television movie Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979). She suffered devastating health problems in her final decade, but she continued working until a year before her death. Married four times, Davis eloquently conveyed the vicissitudes of stardom in her autobiographies, The Lonely Life (1962) and This 'n' That (1987). She also provided running commentary for Whitney Stine's account of her film career, Mother Goddam: The Story of the Career of Bette Davis (1974).

Additional Reading
Gene Ringgold, The Films of Bette Davis (1966, reissued 1973); Barbara Leaming, Bette Davis: A Biography (1992); James Spada, More Than a Woman: An Intimate Biography of Bette Davis (1993).

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Davis,Bette — Davis, Bette. Originally Ruth Elizabeth Davis. 1908 1989. American actress who won an Academy Award for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938). * * * …   Universalium

  • Davis, Bette — (1908 1989)    Future movie star Bette Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in Lowell, Massachusetts. She worked as a secretary before turning to acting in the late 1920s. Her first Broadway role was in 1929. She joined Universal Studios in 1930… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Davis, Bette — ► (1908 89) Nombre artístico de Ruth Elizabeth Davis, actriz cinematográfica estadounidense. Películas: La loba y Eva al desnudo, entre otras. * * * p. ext. Ruth Elizabeth Davis (5 abr. 1908, Lowell, Mass. EE.UU.–6 oct. 1989, Neuilly sur Seine,… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Davis, Bette — pseud. di Davis, Ruth Elizabeth …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Bette Davis — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Bette Davis ]] Bette Davis en Now, Voyager (1942).]] Nombre real Ruth Elizabeth Davis …   Wikipedia Español

  • Davis — Davis, Angela Davis, Bette Davis, Copa Davis, Jefferson Davis, John Davis, Miles Dewey * * * (as used in expressions) Davis, Angela (Yvonne) Davis, Benjamin O(liver), Jr. Davis, Bette …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bette Davis — This article is about the actress. For the song by Kim Carnes, see Bette Davis Eyes. For other people, see Elizabeth Davis (disambiguation). Bette Davis Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis April 5, 1908( …   Wikipedia

  • Bette Davis — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Davis. Bette Davis …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Davis — /day vis/, n. 1. Alexander Jackson, 1803 92, U.S. architect. 2. Benjamin Oliver, 1877 1970, U.S. military officer: first black Army brigadier general. 3. his son, Benjamin Oliver, Jr., born 1912, U.S. military officer: first black Air Force… …   Universalium

  • Bette Davis — noun United States film actress (1908 1989) • Syn: ↑Davis • Instance Hypernyms: ↑actress * * * Bette Davis [Bette Davis] …   Useful english dictionary

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