Friday, June 18, 2010

Bette Davis

Bette Davis, 1908 -1989, needs no introduction and if you are looking for detailed biographical information there are sufficient resources on the web, including this one. This post gives us a glimpse of the 28(!) films she made from 1931, when she entered the business at age 23 to 1935, when she won her first Oscar. There is very little material for a few of the films, but they are all represented. They all have a link to their IMDB page.

Double-click on the images for a larger view.

Before film, Bette made her mark on Broadway. This is a still for the play Broken Dishes. It opened at the Ritz Theater on November 5, 1929 and ran 158 performances. It was one of two performances that got Bette noticed by Hollywood.

The Bad Sister (1931)
We can see here that Bette still had the Broken Dishes look, plain and mousy.

Seed (1931)
Bette is third from the left, though hard to distinguish.

Waterloo Bridge (1931)
We start to see Betty emerge with a more sophisticated look.

Way Back Home (1931)
Shown in these two stills with Frank Albertson.

This is all I could find - Not sure it was ever on TCM, but if so, I missed it.

The Man Who Played God (1932)
Bette credited George Arliss with giving her a real break by choosing her for the role.

So Big (1932)
This is Stanwyck's picture, but note the review in Movie Mirror, July 1932

The Rich Are Always With Us (1932)
Bette's look is continuing to mature. Here she plays a "flirt" named Malbro.

Bette and Warren William, good enough for me.

The Cabin In The Cotton (1932)
The is the film where we get one of her classic lines,
"I'd like to kiss you but I just washed my hair."

Three On A Match (1932)
Bette looks great here, but this film also stars and has good performances by Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak, who is particularly strong. A film worth seeking out.

20,000 Years In Sing Sing (1932)
Bette stars with Spencer Tracy. A new, cleaner (I trust) print was just released on Warner Archive Classics.

Parachute Jumper (1933)
Patricia 'Alabama' Brent is Bette's character and she sports a southern accent.

The Working Man (1933)
Bette's second outing with George Arliss.

Ex-Lady (1933)

Bureau Of Missing Persons (1933)
Did she murder her husband? Pat O'Brien is on the case.

Not Nick and Nora, but a very good pairing with the same comedy/drama mix.

Jimmy The Gent (1934)
Hasn't yet seen release on VHS or DVD. Gagney and Davis, com'on.

Fog Over Frisco (1934)
She's got the wicked thing working well in the crime drama.

Of Human Bondage (1934)
Ok, so this is the one that screams major star on the horizon. Many feel this should have been her first Oscar performance, and I am in agreement, especially against the competition that year. The last frame grab is when Bette is giving Howard these manic, crazed and memorable lines:
"You cad!, you dirty swine! I never cared for you not once! I was always makin' a fool of ya! Ya bored me stiff, I hated ya! It made me SICK when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because ya begged me, ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH!"

Housewife (1934)
Bette and George Brent

Bordertown (1935)
Three great publicity stills from Bordertown.

The Girl From 10th Avenue (1935)
Alison Skipworth is a hoot in a small role counseling Bette on getting someone's goat.

Bette as bookkeeper to a mobster.

Dangerous (1935)
Bette wins the Oscar for her performance as Joyce Heath, an actress with high highs, and low lows. This role may have presaged All About Eve (1950).
It's said Bette liked her performance and the Oscar, but felt this was a consolation prize for not being given the Oscar for Of Human Bondage.

To conclude:
Many people seem to think of Bette as always looking like Baby Jane Hudson, and are surprised to see how, dare I say, alluring, she was in her early films. I hope this post will open some eyes to the total package that was Bette Davis, one of America's great actresses.