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Classic Actress: Bette Davis


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Bette Davis"I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box." - Bette Davis

Bette Davis was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of two daughters. Her parents divorced when she was a child. She began her career on stage and appeared in numerous Broadway shows. Bette made her film debut in the 1931 drama The Bad Sister. She married musician Harmon Nelson in 1932. During their marriage Bette had two abortions because she thought a baby would hurt her career. Bette was offered a contract with Warner Brothers. In 1934 she was nominated for an Academy Award for the drama Of Human Bondage. The following year she won an Academy Award for her performance in Dangerous. Bette played a southern belle in the 1938 film Jezebel and won her second Oscar.

Bette DavisShe divorced Harmon in 1939. Bette became one of the most successful actresses of the 1940s with hit movies including Now, Voyager, The Great Lie, and Mr. Skeffington. In 1941 she became the first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Bette married innkeeper Arthur Farnsworth, in 1942. He died three years later after an accidental fall. The great love of her life was director William Wyler. Their affair lasted for decades but he was married and refused to leave his wife. She also had a serious relationship with Howard Hughes.Unhappy with the role she was being given Bette sued Warner Brothers.

Bette DavisIn 1945 Bette married William Grant Sherry. Their daughter, Barbara, was born in 1946. While making the drama All About Eve Bette fell in love with her costar, Gary Merrill. She divorced her husband and married Gary in 1950. The couple adopted two children - Margo and Michael. Margo was mentally retarded and had to be institutionalized. Gary and Bette had a tumultuous marriage and they divorced in 1960. In 1963 Bette received her eleventh Oscar nomination for her performance in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?. She wrote several books and even recorded an album. In the early 1980s Bette was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She also suffered a stroke. Despite her illnesses she continued to work in movies and on television. Bette also became a frequent guest on talk shows. She was devastated when her daughter, Barbara, wrote an unflattering tell-all book. Bette never spoke to her again. She died on October 6, 1989, from complications of breast cancer. Bette is buried with her mother and sister at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. The epitaph on her grave says "She did it the hard way".


Filmography:

Now Voyager (1942)