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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy Birthday, Bette Davis!

Bette Davis would be 108 years old today had she lived. In fact, she died in 1981, outliving her famed rival Joan Crawford by four years, after suffering a stroke that left her ~ in her final years ~ looking a bit like Vincent Price in House of Wax.

But she was never really known, especially, for her beauty but for her fiery talent.

Often impersonated, she seemed to never be without a cigarette, on-screen or off.

My friend Tracey's late husband Tom told me that, when he was growing up in Westport CT, he was friends with her children and she would bring the kids milk and cookies. She was a good mom by all accounts, except for her daughter BD Sherry Hyman who, in her 1985 book My Mother's Keeper hoped to have written the next Mommie Dearest. Bette had, at that point, just had her massive stroke and the born-again BD wrote about ma's smoking, drinking and cussing. The public didn't buy it, the bio flopped, the tell-all told nothing and Bette recovered and replied, starting her open letter to her daughter with "Dear Hyman...." then immediately cut her daughter from her will.

But Bette will always be known for her classic roles in Hollywood classics and her line deliveries. "I'd love to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair." "But cha are in that chair, Blanche, ya are!"

When Bette co-starred with Lillian Gish as sisters in The Whales of August, an interviewer commented that Gish looked great in her close-ups,  "She should," Davis snapped, "She goddamned invented them!" As for Miss Lillian, she was frail herself and was frightened that, when Bette latched onto her, she'd pull her down into the sand dunes.

So, have a happy birthday, fiery lady until the very end!

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