“Everybody has a heart. Except some people.”
April 5, 1908 – I find All About Eve (1950) to be a perfect film with not a wasted piece of dialogue or an unnecessary scene. It is one of the greatest films about theatre. For me, Margo Channing is the finest & bravest Bette Davis creation (she lost the Oscar to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday that year).
Davis is a classic movie star but she also was the most fearless & the least vain actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. I am huge fan of all 6 decades of work on film with: Of Human Bondage (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Jezebel (1938), The Old Maid (1939), Elizabeth & Essex (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942), A Catered Affair (1959), Pocket Full Of Miracles (1961), & What Ever Happened To Baby Jane (1962) among my favorites, but Davis rarely missed. Did I miss your favorite?
Besides Margo Channing, my favorite performance would have to be Davis’ work in The Whales Of August (1987), featuring an understated Vincent Price, a rare & delicate late career performance by the great Lillian Gish, whose career stretched back to the silent films of D.W. Griffith, & Ann Sothern in her only Oscar nominated performance. But for me, the true enjoyment of this film cosme from watching Davis do again what Davis always could do: create an indelible, complex character & command every scene in which she appears.
When she was filming Whales Of August, the cast & crew were having dinner when Davis started complaining about Joan Crawford. Cast member Harry Carey Jr. became unhappy & told Davis that Crawford had been his friend & that he didn’t appreciate hearing negative comments about her. Davis, without missing a beat, responded:
“Just because a person’s dead doesn’t mean they have changed.”
Davis bickered with her directors over the smallest details & she had a reputation for being difficult to work with. Still, she was so beloved by film audiences & she was in great demand. Davis is one of the few actors in cinema history who worked until the very end of her life, making well over a 100 films. She would dare audiences to hate her, & they often did, which is why we love her.
Warner Brothers Studios treated Davis badly for many years, & they paid her far less than other stars. She sued the company & lost, but the court case gave her some valuable publicity. She was then able to create a new persona as a strong-willed independent thinker, as strong as any male.
Bette Davis is a most certainly a top Gay Icon for gay men of a certain age. For guys my age, a brunch was not complete without imitations & anecdotes of Davis. She showed us that with wit, style & camp, it is possible to transcend the hard, unhappy, hateful & often humiliating world that was handed to us.