In a career that spanned six decades, two Academy Awards, and ten Oscar nominations, Bette Davis became one of the greatest screen legends of all time. But, as her epitaph says, “She did it the hard way.” She was in constant battles with co-stars, directors, and studios and struggled with addictions to alcohol and cigarettes. She had four stormy marriages and even her three children brought pain and controversy – one wrote a scathing tell-all book, another had a severe mental disability, and a third was the subject of a prolonged custody battle.
But in her iconic film roles – including All About Eve and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane – Davis transcended her troubles to leave an indelible mark on American cinema. Possessing none of the glamorous beauty of Greta Garbo, she had something more powerful and lasting: a restless, incandescent energy that made her mesmerizing to watch on the big screen.
Here is Davis’s story – her famous feud with Joan Crawford, skirmishes with Errol Flynn, affairs with Howard Hughes and William Wyler – and enough drama, confrontation, and heartache to fill several lifetimes. But she never regretted a single moment. “Being hysterical is like having an orgasm,” Davis once cracked. “It’s good for you.”