Spotlight On: Bette Davis
From a young naive woman with distinctive eyes to a full-fledged Hollywood icon the career of Bette Davis is full the stuff of legend. With a whopping 10 Oscar nominations and a filmography filled with undisputed film masterpieces the actress has more than earned her status in film history. So it is fitting that we shine the spotlight on Bette Davis.
Of Human Bondage (1934): One of the hallmark films of the Pre-Code era, Davis portrays vulgar cockney waitress Mildred. Working in a tea room brings her to the attention of the sensitive Philip who falls hard for her. She has no interest in him and instead runs off with another man who eventually leaves her broke and pregnant. Mildred is now forced to turn to the man she spurned. Of Human Bondage turned Bette Davis into a movie star overnight, with many critics claiming she gave one of the best performances in filmdom’s young history.
Dark Victory (1939): For Judy Traherne, life is a nonstop party until the horse-loving millionaire begins to experience health problems. She reluctantly turns to Dr. Frederick Steele who discovers that she has an inoperable brain tumor. Though their relationship begins spiky, the two eventually fall in love as Judy grows as a person. All the while, Dr. Steele knows that once her eye-sight fails death will not be far behind. 1939 has been cited by many as the greatest year in cinematic history, and Bette Davis’ contribution ranks right up their with the Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the other classic of that year.
Now Voyager (1942): The film where Bette Davis portrayed one of her most iconic characters, Charlotte Vale, a spinster under the thumb of her mother. When she is sent to a hospital for mental care, Charlotte grows into her own and develops independence. From here she embarks on a cruise where she begins an affair with the unhappily married Jerry. When she returns home, Charlotte discovers her mother has died driving her back to the hospital where she crosses paths with a woman named Tina with whom she develops a bond. This classic sees Davis share the screen with fellow acting legends: Paul Henried, Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper.
Mr. Skeffington (1944): After the deaths of their parents, Fanny and Trippy Trellis inherited a fortune which, secretly Trippy squandered. They maintain the appearance of wealth as Fanny tries to marry the wealthy Job Skeffington, the only man who can rescue her family and keep Trippy out of looming trouble. While she may be married, Fanny is still quite popular among the men in her social circles. Of course this means her marriage to Mr. Skeffington is in grave danger. Once again, Bette Davis showed remarkable chemistry with co-star Claude Rains and earned a seventh Oscar nomination for her performance.
All About Eve (1950): A true masterpiece of film which is cited as possible Bette Davis’ finest performance. Margo Channing is the biggest star of the Broadway stage and she knows it. Her path crosses the starstruck Eve who is enamored with the starlet her brings her on as an assistant. But Eve has a cunning side and uses this foot in the door to start her own career. Naturally this kicks off a rivalry between Margo and Eve which forces people to “buckle up” because “it’s going to be a bumpy night”. One of rare films to achieve the 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, All About Eve infamously shows the dark side of show business.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962): Sadly like many other women throughout Hollywood history, age took a toll on Bette Davis’ job prospects. But this talented actress used this as a way to shift the focus of her career as she delved into horror. Davis plays “Baby” Jane a former child star unfairly blamed for an accident which crippled her sister. Now in their twilight years, Jane now works as her sister’s caretaker and takes to the job with a gleeful madness. Playing on her real life feud with co-star Joan Crawford, Baby Jane delights in tormenting the poor woman in her care, even trying to feed her a rat she finds in the basement. As the mind of the former child star begins to crack, others become aware of what she is up to. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, netted Bette Davis an Oscar nomination and reignited her career as a whole.
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964): This southern gothic thriller sees Bette Davis as the aging and reclusive Charlotte who calls a crumbling old plantation home. She is haunted by the fact that years before the love of her life, John, was brutally murdered. Throughout the community it is believed she was the killer, especially John’s widow. Her family home is now set to be torn down as the state looks to expand their roadways. This brings her cousin Miriam back to Charlotte’s side as the spinster’s mind begins to crack.