Fasten Your Seatbelts: Happy 100th Birthday, Bette Davis


This is a fantastic article about Bette Davis, who was born 100 years ago on April 5, from today’s New York Times. It’s a great read for any Bette Davis fan.

The Bold and the Bad and the Bumpy Nights
By Terrence Rafferty
Published: March 30, 2008

Bette Davis, born 100 years ago this week, made her first appearance on film in 1931 and her last in 1989, and like every star of her generation she was always ready for her close-up. The difference with Davis — part of what makes her, I think, the greatest actress of the American cinema — was, she didn’t need it. You could tell what she was thinking and feeling from across the room, even a very large one like the ballroom she swoops into, wearing a red dress, in William Wyler’s Jezebel (1938), scandalizing the haut monde of 1852 New Orleans; unmarried young women like her character, Julie Marsden, are expected to wear white. But Julie wants to make an impression, and she does; and as she takes a turn on the dance floor with her stiff-backed escort, you can see, although most of the sequence is long shots, her growing awareness that she has made a terrible mistake, that she has gone, for once, too far.

Her dancing is limp, reluctant; her shoulders sag; and her head is bowed a little, as if she were trying to hide from the disapproving gaze of the assembled revelers: a shocking sensation for Julie, who, like most every character Davis ever played, is accustomed to looking people straight in the eye. There are close-ups in the scene, but it’s in the long shots that you sense most powerfully the burden of that unfortunate dress on this suddenly humiliated woman, feel the depth of her regret and the strength of her desire to be wearing something, anything, else. Bette Davis could make you see red in black and white.

This article just makes me smile. You can read the entire article here. Enjoy!

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