"All the boys think she's a spy: she's got Bette Davis eyes!"Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television and theatre. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres; from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, though her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.After appearing in Broadway plays, Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930, but her early films for Universal Studios were unsuccessful. She joined Warner Bros. in 1932 and established her career with several critically acclaimed performances. In 1937, she attempted to free herself from her contract and although she lost a well-publicized legal case, it marked the beginning of the most successful period of her career.Until the late 1940s, she was one of American cinema's most celebrated leading ladies, known for her forceful and intense style. Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative, and her confrontations with studio executives, film directors and costars were often reported. Her forthright manner, clipped vocal style and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona which has often been imitated and satirized.Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. During her career she received 10 nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won twice, and she was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and thrice divorced, and raised her children as a single parent.Her final years were marred by a long period of ill health, but she continued acting until shortly before her death from breast cancer, with more than 100 film, television and theater roles to her credit. She also lucked out with the above Kim Carnes song catapulting her back into the pop culture spotlight.In 1999, Davis was placed second, behind Katharine Hepburn, on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female stars of all time.
—Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes"
Bette Davis films with pages on TV Tropes include:
- The Dark Horse (1932)
- Of Human Bondage (1934)
- The Petrified Forest (1936)
- Jezebel (1938)
- Dark Victory (1939)
- The Letter (1940)
- The Little Foxes (1941)
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
- Now, Voyager (1942)
- Watch on the Rhine (1943)
- Mr. Skeffington (1944)
- All About Eve (1950)
- Pocketful Of Miracles (1961)
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
- Burnt Offerings (1976)
- Death on the Nile (1978)
- Return from Witch Mountain (1978)
- The Whales of August (1987)
Tropes relating to Bette Davis and her work include:
- As Herself: In Hollywood Canteen. She reportedly kept flubbing her lines on set, and joked that playing herself was hard.
- Award Snub: In 1934, her universally lauded performance in Of Human Bondage was actively prevented from being nominated for an Oscar by Jack Warner, as she'd done the film while on loan to another studio. The outrage was so great that the Academy changed its rules for that year to allow Davis to be nominated in a write-in vote. It was so obviously a deliberate snub that she got the award the following year for Dangerous as basically an open apology. This is the reason that the Academy Awards now have Price-Waterhouse overseeing the voting process.
- Catch Phrase:
- "What a dump!" (in "Beyond the Forest")
- "Ah'd love t' kiss ya, but ah jes washed ma hayuh," (in "The Cabin in the Cotton")
- "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" (in "All About Eve")
- Deadpan Snarker: Notorious for snide comments and one-liners in interviews, and her movie roles.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- She claimed one of the girls in her drama school was sent home for being too shy, and it was predicted she'd never make it as an actress. The girl was Lucille Ball.
- After completing her first film, she overheard the Universal executive saying, "She's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville. Who wants to get her at the end of a picture?"
- Subverted later in life as she wrote to Meryl Streep and told her that she would be her generation's top actress. She also believed that Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand would be living legends as well.
- No Pronunciation Guide: People freely pronounced her name as either 'Betty' or 'Bet' and still do so to this day. According to Joan Crawford, however, Davis hated being called "Bet".
- Pretty in Mink: Wore several stylish furs in much of her movies, including a dress with fur trimmed pockets in All About Eve.
- Punny Name: Defied. The studio initially wanted her to be called 'Bettina Dawes'. She refused because she didn't want a name that sounded like "between the drawers".
- Self-Deprecation: When What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? were filming a scene where studio executives trash Jane Hudson's performances in movies, Bette Davis supplied them clips of her own old movies.
- Smoking Is Cool: Most of her movie roles featured her character smoking.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Bette was known for her clear blue eyes◊, making it understandable that the song named after them was very popular.