Bette Davis was, of course, not only a great and popular actress who launched a one-woman rebellion against the studio contract system than led to fundamental changes in the way Golden-age Hollywood did business.
As we pointed out earlier, she asserted her independence long before the feminist movement was even heard of.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here with the answers to the first half our first Bette Davis quiz, which we published in toto on Friday.
The questions were are based on the actress’ autobiography, The Lonely Life, first published in 1962, and updated to just before her death at 81 in Paris on Oct. 6, 1989. Ok, here we go:
Question: Davis’ first movie appearance came in 1931 when she was in her early 20’s in Universal’s melodrama, Bad Sister, starring Conrad Nagle. Prior to this appearance, her confidence was shaken by a rude remark blurted out by a studio executive. Can you name this exec, and identify what he said? 1) Studio co-founder Mark Dintenfass, who mocked Davis’ “bad breath”; 2) studio boss Carl Laemmle, who cracked that Davis had “as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville“; or 3) studio co-founder Charles Bauman who complained of Bette’s “New England accent?”
Answer: 2) Davis overheard this crack in the studio boss’ outer office. “It was a long time after that before I regained my security,” she wrote. Laemmle’s reference was to then Universal comedian Slim Summerville, a thin-lipped, bird-beaked veteran whose facial features “made people laugh.” Ironically, he had a featured role in Bad Sister.
Question: In her autobiography, Davis is discreet about most aspects of her private life, and is remarkably restrained in criticizing other performers. But she lets loose on one particular actress. Which one? 1) Joan Crawford, 2) Faye Dunaway; 3) Olivia DeHavilland or 4) Jane Fonda?
Answer: 2) Dunaway, with whom Bette costarred in the 1976 tv movie about evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson titled The Disappearance of Aimee. “Miss Dunaway was without doubt the most impossible costar I’ve worked with,” Davis wrote. “She was never on time and never knew her lines.” Ouch!
Question: One of Davis’ biggest professional regrets is that she never got to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. True or false?
Answer: True. “(The part of Scarlett O’Hara) could have been written for me,” wrote Bette. GWTW producer David Selznick asked Davis’ home studio at the time, Warner Bros., if both Bette and Erroll Flynn could be borrowed for the picture. “The thought of Mr. Flynn as Rhett Butler appalled me. I refused,” said Davis. She had portrayed a Southern Belle in Jezabel, for which she’d received her second Oscar.
Question: Who was Davis’ favorite director (and sometime lover)? 1) Orson Welles, 2) Joseph L. Mankiewicz; 3) Michael Curtiz; or 4) William Wyler?
Answer: 4) Wyler, who directed Bette in such titles as 1938’s Jezebel, 1941’s The Little Foxes and most memorably (for our money) in 1940’s The Letter. She referred to Wyler as “the love of my life.”
Question: Can you name the title of the movie, directed by Bette’s Now, Voyager costar Paul Henreid, in which she starred in the TWO leading roles: that of the mousy sister and also that of the rich, glamorous twin she murders?
Answer: 1964’s Dead Ringer for Warner Bros. The movie is not the best example of Bette’s work but it is immensely entertaining, two servings of the actress for the price of one.
Question: Despite their successful pairing in director Robert Aldrich’s 1962 drama Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Bette Davis could not overcome her longstanding loathing of Joan Crawford. True or false.
Answer: False. Bette wrote that she and Crawford “got along famously (during the movie’s production) much to the huge disappointment of the Hollywood press.” Both Davis and Crawford were considered “two old broads” at the time of the movie’s production and thus were deemed by the big studios “unbankable” at the box office. Produced independently, Baby Jane was “a sensation…(proving) how wrong the bankers were.”
We’d love to hear how you fared in the first part of our answer session, so let us know. Were we too hard, too easy, what?
Be sure to check for Part II of our answers tomorrow.