05/04/1908 to 06/10/1989
Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her parents divorced when she was 10. Her early interests were in dance. To Bette, dancers led a glamorous life, but then she discovered the stage. She gave up dancing for acting. To her, it presented much more of a challenge. She studied drama in New York City and made her debut on Broadway in 1929. In 1930, she moved to Hollywood where she hoped things would get better for her in the world of acting. She would become known as the actress that could play a variety of very strong and complex roles. She was first under contract to Universal Studios, where she made her first film, called Old Greatheart (1931). After the unsuccessful film The Bad Sister (1931), made the same year, she was fired. She then moved on to Warner Brothers. Her first film with them was Seed (1931). More movies followed, but it was the role of Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1934) that gave Bette major acclaim from the film critics. Warner Bros. felt their seven-year deal with Bette was more than justified.
She began pushing for stronger and more meaningful roles and in 1935, she received her first Oscar for her role in Dangerous (1935). In 1936, she was suspended without pay for turning down a role that she deemed unworthy of her talent. She went to England, where she had planned to make movies, but was stopped by Warner Bros. because she was still under contract to them. Although she sued to get out of her contract, she lost. However, Warner Bros began to take her more seriously after that. In 1938, Bette received a second Academy Award nomination for her work in Jezebel (1938) opposite Henry Fonda. Bette received six more nominations, including one for her role in All About Eve (1950). While she was a genuine star in the 30s and '40s, the '50s and early '60s saw her in the midst of films that all lost money. Then came What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) in which she played a deranged former child star and a rather spooky one at that. This brought about a new round of super-stardom for generations of fans who were not familiar with her work. Two years later she starred in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). Bette was married four times. Her last marriage, to actor Gary Merrill, lasted ten years, longer than any of the previous three. In 1985, her daughter Barbara Davis ("B.D.") Hyman published a scandalous book about Bette called "My Mother's Keeper." Bette Davis died on October 6, 1989, of metastasized breast cancer.