Bette Davis

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Bette Davis
Ruth Elizabeth Davis
BirthplaceLowell, Massachusetts, United States

Davis, Bette

(bĕt`ē), 1908–89, American film actress, b. Lowell, Mass., as Ruth Elizabeth Davis. One of the most durable stars of the American screen, she made her debut in 1931. With a strikingly artificial yet emotionally compelling acting style and distinctive features that gave her an unconventional beauty, Davis was difficult to promote as a romantic figure. Her successful early roles included Of Human Bondage (1934) and Dangerous (1935, Academy Award). Frustrated at the lack of better roles, she broke her contract with Warner Brothers and lost a subsequent court case in which the standard seven-year contract binding a performer to one studio was upheld. But Davis found her niche as the troubled woman in search of romance in such films as Jezebel (1938), for which she won another Academy Award, and The Little Foxes (1941). Among her other outstanding films are Dark Victory (1939), Now, Voyager (1942), and the superb All about Eve (1950). When her popularity began to decline in the 1950s, she responded by accepting offbeat, even bizarre, roles in The Catered Affair (1955), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1961), and other 1960s films. With fellow screen legend Lillian GishGish, Lillian,
1896–1993, American stage and movie actress, b. Springfield, Ohio. In 1912 she began her film career with D. W. Griffith. A fragile, delicate beauty, Gish often played a heroine rescued from cruel fate at the last moment.
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, she gave a graceful valedictory performance in The Whales of August (1987).


See her autobiography (1962); biographies by J. Vermilye (1972), C. Higham (1981), B. Leaming (1992), J. Spada (1993), C. Chandler (2006), and E. Sikov (2007).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Davis, Bette


(Ruth Elizabeth Davis). Born Apr. 5, 1908, in Lowell, Mass. American motion picture actress.

Davis studied in drama school, and made her Broadway debut in 1928. From 1930 to 1935 she played ingenues and femmes fatales in films. It was only in the role of Mildred (in Of Human Bondage, based on the W. S. Maugham novel, 1934) that Davis first revealed the inner world of a complex and contradictory personality. In the psychological dramas Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), and Juarez (1939) the Davis heroine took shape—a strong, domineering woman, willing to attain her goal at any price and disdaining public opinion and moral codes. In 1941, Davis created her most significant character, Regina Hubbard, in The Little Foxes (based on L. Hellman’s play). She had roles in several important films of the 1950’s: All About Eve (1950), Storm Center (1956), and The Catered Affair (1956). In the 1960’s she played women affected pathologically by loneliness and frustration: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Dead Ringer (1964), and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965).


The Lonely Life: An Autobiography. New York, 1962.


Kartseva, E. N. Bett Devis. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Davis, Bette

See Davis, (Ruth Elizabeth) Bette.

Davis, (Ruth Elizabeth) Bette

(1908–89) film actress; born in Lowell, Mass. After studying drama she was fired from a stock company in Rochester, N.Y., and then appeared with the Provincetown Players off-Broadway in 1928. She made her Broadway debut in Broken Dishes (1929), and her Hollywood debut in Bad Sister (1931). By 1932 she was becoming known as a dedicated actress with an electrifying style. Able to bring an emotional honesty to the screen, she became a prime box-office attraction between 1935 and 1946 and was nominated for an Oscar ten times, winning it twice in Dangerous (1935) and in Jezebel (1938). An independent woman, she fought her studio for better parts, and got them. Married and divorced four times, she was still active until 1978.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.