Bette Davis: Behind Those Captivating Eyes – Four Tales of a Hollywood Rebel
Bette Davis, an iconic presence of the silver screen, lived a life that was just as colorful and dramatic as the roles she portrayed. She was a force to be reckoned with, a lady whose fiery spirit was evident both on and off-screen. Here are four intriguing anecdotes that reveal the real Bette Davis, offering glimpses into her personal life and her exceptional career in acting.
Our first story takes us back to the year 1936 when Bette Davis was embroiled in a landmark lawsuit against Warner Brothers. Frustrated by the studio’s insistence on casting her in mediocre roles, Davis did something unthinkable – she fled to England and took her employer to court, fighting for the right to choose her own roles. Although she eventually lost the case, her audacious act won her the respect of her peers and a newfound freedom in her career. From then on, Davis was granted more significant and challenging roles, leading to some of her most memorable performances.
Bette Davis’s professional career was filled with triumphs and tribulations, but her personal life was just as tumultuous. In the late 1940s, Davis fell madly in love with her co-star, Gary Merrill, while filming “All About Eve.” They married soon after, but their relationship was fraught with tension and fueled by their fiery personalities. Despite the emotional rollercoaster, Davis never regretted the marriage. As she famously said, “I have been uncompromising, peppery, intractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile, and ofttimes disagreeable… I suppose I’m larger than life.”
A significant part of Davis’s legacy is her selfless contribution to the war effort during World War II. She famously converted her own Hollywood mansion into a canteen for servicemen, providing a refuge for them to relax and be entertained during their furloughs. Davis herself often worked in the canteen, serving meals, dancing with the servicemen, and bringing a touch of Hollywood glamour to their otherwise grim lives.
Our final anecdote revolves around the famous “Bette Davis Eyes,” immortalized in the Kim Carnes song of the same name. Those eyes were not merely a hallmark of her beauty, but a tool she used to captivating effect in her performances. Famously, during the shooting of “Of Human Bondage,” Davis insisted on applying her own makeup to portray the character’s descent into illness and despair. The result was a riveting performance that cemented her reputation as one of the finest actors of her generation.
Bette Davis’s life was as multifaceted as the roles she played on screen. From her defiance against a Hollywood studio to her passionate love life, her selfless wartime contribution, and her dramatic use of her most prominent feature, Davis was a tour de force. The four anecdotes give us a glimpse into the life of a woman who was never afraid to be herself, and who lived her life with as much intensity and drama as the characters she so brilliantly portrayed.
Quiz: The Silver Screen Legacy of Bette Davis