Bette Davis (14 August SUTS)


BDThis post is written in conjunction with the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence and Scribe Hard on Film. Full listings for SUTS programming on Turner Classic Movies can be found HERE.

I love this dame and could talk abut the whys and wherefores of my respect for her, but I’d rather she speak for herself.

“Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should ALL be bigger than life.”

“I’m the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.”

“Gay Liberation? I ain’t against it, it’s just that there’s nothing in it for me.”

“Success only breeds a new goal.”

“What a fool I was to come to Hollywood where they only understand platinum blondes and where legs are more important than talent.”

“There was more good acting at Hollywood parties than ever appeared on the screen.”

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“To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.”

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.”

“It’s better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you’re not. It’s a sign of your worth sometimes, if you’re hated by the right people.”

“I sent my flowers across the hall to Mrs. Nixon but her husband remembered what a Democrat I am and sent them back.”

“You should know me well enough by now to know I don’t ask for things I don’t think I can get.”

“You will never be happier than you expect. To change your happiness, change your expectation.”

“I have been uncompromising, peppery, intractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile, and oftentimes disagreeable… I suppose I’m larger than life.”

jezebel ii

“I’d marry again if I found a man who had fifteen million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he’d be dead within a year.”

“The male ego, with few exceptions, is elephantine to start with.”

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”

“I was thought to be ‘stuck up.’ I wasn’t. I was just sure of myself. This is and always has been an unforgivable quality to the unsure.”

“I never wished I’d been a man. I always felt like a woman and wanted to be a woman. I wanted to be fulfilled professionally and personally, as a woman. There are some who might say I had penis envy, but I only had penis admiration.”

On her feud with Joan Crawford

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“I wouldn’t piss on Joan Crawford if she were on fire.”

“She has slept with every MGM star except Lassie.”

“Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it’s because I’m not a bitch. Maybe that’s why [Crawford] always plays ladies.”

“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”

“She and I have never been warm friends. We are not simpatico. I admire her, and yet I feel uncomfortable with her. To me, she is the personification of the Movie Star. I have always felt her greatest performance is Crawford being Crawford.”

“We were polite to each other – all the social amenities, ‘Good morning, Joan’ and ‘Good Morning, Bette’ crap – and thank God we weren’t playing roles where we had to like each other. But people forget that our big scenes were alone – just the camera was on me or her. No actresses on earth are as different as we are, all the way down the line. Yet what we do works. It’s so strange, this acting business. It comes from inside. She was always so damn proper. She sent thank you notes for thank you notes. I screamed when I found out she signed autographs: ‘Bless you, Joan Crawford.'”

“Joan always cries a lot. Her tear ducts must be very close to her bladder.”

“I was not Miss Crawford’s biggest fan, but, wisecracks to the contrary, I did and still do respect her talent. What she did not deserve was that detestable book written by her daughter. I’ve forgotten her name. Horrible. I looked at that book, but I did not need to read it. I wouldn’t read trash like that, and I think it was a terrible, terrible thing for a daughter to do. An abomination!”

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There really are too many must-see Bette Davis movies to pick just a couple for this post, so I’ll pick my favorites from those TCM is showing for BD-day on Summer Under the Stars.

dark victoryDARK VICTORY (1939)

A carefree society girl sees life and love in new ways when she learns that she has a brain tumor that will likely result in her premature death.

“Nothing can hurt us now. What we have can’t be destroyed. That’s our victory – our victory over the dark. It is a victory because we’re not afraid.”

now voyagerNOW, VOYAGER (1942)

A dowdy spinster’s life is turned around by the attentions, both professional and personal, of a dashing psychiatrist (Paul Henreid).

“Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

petrified forestTHE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936)

The frustrated, unsatisfied daughter of a gas station/restaurant in the middle of the desert dreams of a better life with an English passerby (Leslie Howard). The two fall in love while the cantina is held up by an escaped convict (Humphrey Bogart).

Gabrielle (Davis): Petrified forest is a lot of dead trees in the desert that have turned to stone. Here’s a good specimen.
Alan (Howard): So that was once a tree? Hmmm. Petrified forest, eh? Suitable haven for me. Well, perhaps that’s what I’m destined to become, an interesting fossil for future study.

jezebelJEZEBEL (1938)

I don’t like this movie so I’m not going to tell you about it except that it’s part of Bette Davis’s canon, apparently.

“This is 1852 dumplin’, 1852, not the Dark Ages. Girls don’t have to simper around in white just because they’re not married.”

“Shall I cry for you? Nobody ever made me cry but you… And that was only twice!”


Bette Davis’s Dick Cevett interview (1971)

In this show, Dick Cavett asks Bette Davis if her mother told her about the “birds and the bees”. Davis responds: “No, there was no sort of real education. If you want to come to my home in Connecticut, some night in front of the fireplace, I’d tell you about my wedding night. You’d be on the floor for three hours”. The audience howls with laughter. Davis then realizes why the audience is laughing, and quickly says: “No, I did not mean THAT! I meant LAUGHING on the floor!”