A look back at television appearances made over the years by Hollywood legend Bette Davis, capturing the milestones of her life and career. Narrated by Sylvia Syms.
Browse content similar to Bette Davis. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
If anyone deserves the title of Hollywood legend, it's Bette Davis.
Star of over 100 films,
she was the first person to receive ten Oscar nominations.
She won two Oscars and was the first woman to be awarded
a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.
She was known for her toughness and refusal to compromise,
both in the roles she played, and in her own battles
with movie studios, executives and co-stars.
In her later years, people were riveted by the television interviews
in which she would speak candidly about her life and career.
We begin with an interview from 1958,
when Davis was in the UK filming The Scapegoat with Alec Guinness.
The actor Derek Bond joined her at the Edgewarebury Country Club
where, ignoring the threat of an impending storm,
Davis discussed the beginnings of her film career,
the qualities she looked for in a leading man,
and introduced the audience to her daughter Barbara.
Hello, Miss Davis, I must apologise for our climate.
-Oh, please don't. It's quite like our own.
-Yes, it is.
Miss Davis, you began your career in theatre. Did you intend to stay in the theatre
or did you just look at it as training for the films?
No, I started in the theatre to be in the theatre.
Because when I started in the theatre we had silent pictures
and I don't think any theatre people had any idea what would happen
when sound came in, as we say.
It was a complete revolution, actually,
because they did need actors trained for the theatre because of the sound.
So then there was an enormous...
trek to Hollywood by practically -
they signed practically all of us, to see if we would work there or not.
Did you go to films because you felt there was more scope for an actress in films than in the theatre?
Well, I look back and I don't know.
I guess I felt that it was an opportunity
that I, as a very young person, couldn't afford to miss, probably.
-I didn't go with great anticipation.
-No. Not at all.
But I felt I was probably very fortunate and I should give it a try.
Did you enjoy the change at the beginning?
No, I had a very difficult time in the beginning.
I was not welcomed with open arms.
As a matter of fact, I arrived in the Los Angeles station
and had been told I would be met by the Universal officials,
which was my studio, and no-one was there to meet me at all.
So we kind of staggered to the hotel, finding our way around, my mother and I,
and I called the studio and I said, "Why wasn't anyone there to meet me?"
And they said, "We didn't see anyone get off the train who looked like an actress."
So I said, "Well, I had a dog with me, they should have known!"
But it was incredible, it was a whole new era and we all felt we should try it, I think.
Now, people who have seen you working on the set have written that
you are a very technical actress, always conscious of the camera
and so on and so forth.
But at the same time, you give a sustained emotional performance.
How do these two go together?
Well, I've never actually been very bright about the camera
and the technical part.
This is one thing I've not coped with.
I have a quite hard enough time to do my part of it.
The only time I ever sort of have a problem with a camera is
if I notice it. You see, this is awkward.
As far as the emotional continuity is concerned, this is really training.
-This is the hardest thing, of course, for the theatre actress to do.
When she starts in films. We talked about that a little earlier.
To leave off for half an hour and come back and hit the same pitch.
And I would feel much more pleased with myself if I could do it
if some of the others couldn't, also.
It's just, it's actually,
it's really a training that one must work on very hard.
And actually, George Arliss, who was my great mentor, at the time
when Hollywood was about to go off for me, gave me a very good hint once.
He said, "Never make a scene in front of a camera that you don't remember
"what went before and what went after."
Then it will usually tie in.
Others will just go in without reviewing in your mind
exactly how it was.
But the technical thing of hitting your marks at the same
time as sustaining emotion...
That is, that is practice.
You are honestly...I don't really know how we do it.
Because you must do it without ever looking. It becomes an instinct.
I feel, finally. Not at first. It's extremely hard at first, you know.
You feel like a puppet that can't move.
Let's talk for a moment about the characters you have played.
I read on a poster once that
"Nobody's as good as Bette Davis when she's bad."
You have played quite a number of bad women.
Is it because you think playing nice women is dull?
Well, of course, I never call them bad women.
I have a theory that no one person is all bad,
and no one person is all good.
The only requirement that I have is that
the character at least is definite. Whether good or bad.
I think the more definite people tend to have more sort of evil traits.
The more interesting people.
And that is probably why.
In these very different characters that you play,
how do you get into the character? How do you set about it?
Oh, I just think you pray half the time.
You know, I don't think there's much planning that you can do.
If you do a Somerset Maugham story like Of Human Bondage,
you practically have a textbook. This is different.
I mean, you read this book and you know this character from
what he said, inside and out. Which makes it easier.
With an original character, it's sort of your own ideas of her
and just thinking, trying to think of the way she is.
I don't know.
There is a school of thought that thinks that actors should
completely identify themselves with the character.
I think it's called the Method. Do you approve of this?
Well, no, I don't. It probably dates me...
I just...it's just not for me.
I must be fair and say, maybe it is for some people.
I think it's a very un-theatrical kind of acting.
Not that I don't think films...
The prime requisite is a certain reality,
but there is a certain way of giving a performance to your audience.
And I think this is a little like peeking through
keyholes at real-life.
I just don't really understand it. Don't like it, I must say. I don't.
Oh, Beady. Beady, come here. I want you to meet Mr Derek Bond.
-My daughter Barbara.
-Not a very satisfactory day for riding.
How long have you been...have you been over here before to this country?
I've been here once before,
when I was only four years old, but that's pretty hard to remember.
How many foreign countries have you been to, outside America?
This trip is the only time I've been over.
I went to Spain, Italy and France. And this country.
Do you enjoy travelling? Do you like it?
-Oh, yes, very much. But it is work.
-Do you get homesick?
-It's work, is it?
No. I don't get homesick. No.
When you grow up, would you like to be an actress like your mother?
-Not one of my first choices.
-What would you want to do?
I'd like to be a secretary.
-Well, yes. Darling, why don't you run along. See you later.
-Nice to have met you.
Ms Davis, how would you feel
if she had said she wanted to be an actress?
Wanting to be an actress is just...if you want to, you must.
This is a kind of a drive and it's a thing that you absolutely have to do.
And if this were it, then she must.
I could hope for her that her life would run along more normal channels
and that she wouldn't have this great need for expressing herself.
-In this way. But if so...
Do you think people can be happier doing something else?
No, no, I think one is happiest doing what one must do.
You know, I really think I've been an incredibly fortunate person
and had the most wonderfully happy life,
as regards the accomplishment of my life.
-I don't think it's an easy life. You know, I must say.
-Why don't we go in?
-Have some tea.
-Good idea. Thank you.
Your success has given you the authority to
choose your director and your story.
What do you look for first when you're considering a new film?
Well, I try to be very honest and worry most about the story.
And I think increasingly in our business,
since the years I started, the story has become the most important thing.
-And I think, for the most part, I have been able to.
One also has to say, one considers the part as well.
But I think of the two today,
I would prefer the story that I think the audience would like.
I think that's the picture that's selling today more
than just a story that features a sensational performance.
Which once, I must say, we could get away with.
But I don't feel any longer.
You've starred with some very distinguished leading men.
What are the qualities that you would consider the most
important in a leading man?
Oh. Well, I think, that he's a good actor.
You know, that I think that he's a good actor,
and I must say, it's an enormous help to me if he enjoys acting.
Because this makes the film a much happier thing to make. Basically.
Would you say it's important to like somebody you were playing
-with off screen? Or do you just consider the characters?
I think that is... I think one would be very limited to think that way.
I think it has nothing to do with, whatsoever.
I think the talent is the whole thing.
There's many sort of unpleasant people are very talented.
You know, one would limit oneself very much I think
if one cared how much one liked somebody personally.
The bond between mother and daughter
did not remain as warm as was captured in this interview.
As an adult, Barbara claimed her mother had been emotionally abusive.
She accused Davis' fourth husband, Gary Merrill,
who Davis met on the set of All About Eve,
of being a violent alcoholic.
These claims were all strongly denied.
In 1972 Davis was back in the UK and back being interviewed,
this time by Joan Bakewell
in front of an audience at the National Film Theatre.
In your autobiography you confess that it was
when you saw The Wild Duck in the New York theatre,
it was that evening, that very moment, you decided to become an actress.
I sort of always knew I'd do something.
But I'd never sort of... I was 16 then, I believe.
But the girl who played Hedvig was at the Duart Playhouse in Boston.
Eh, we were just twins. And I somehow identified with her.
Plus it was the kind of a part I would love. And I finally played it.
From that moment on, once you had said you wished to be an actress...
Well I continued with school, you know, I graduated from prep school.
And then I was very fortunate in a mother who allowed me
to spread my wings, and she saw to it that I went to New York,
to a dramatic school, which is the proper training, really.
Which you do much more in England than they do in America.
And, eh, it just sort of went on from there.
Well, I was going to remark on the fact that your mother's backing of your ambition,
and her total dedication to your career...
Was incredible - and without being a stage mother.
She was never around where I worked at all.
Just her belief was extraordinary. I don't quite know why she had it. I certainly didn't in the beginning.
How dare those Hollywood moguls,
at the time when you first went from New York to Hollywood,
suggest that you couldn't be as sexy and glamorous as any other star.
Well, according to their standards, you see, I wasn't.
Now this was really in the very beginning of talking pictures,
and all of us who came up from the theatre were,
were not actressy kind of people.
You know, we sort of have our own colour hair,
and maybe a couple of teeth crooked. We looked totally different.
And they were very, very puzzled. You know?
And off-screen we didn't go around all dressed up, say like a Harlow or somebody would, you know.
So they just did not understand us at all.
So we just were... You know, they called me the little brown wren.
But then, finally, you see nobody helps you when you go,
about make-up or about the camera. It's a wholly new profession, really.
And finally, they find out, you know, the best way to wear your hair,
they put a make-up on you that does the best for you.
It's just a slow process of...
getting to look on the screen what you really thought you looked like in life!
I thought I was fairly attractive till I got to Hollywood.
But I didn't for a very long. You know?
But you did have to fight off all their attempts
-to glamorise you in their terms?
-Oh, yes. Yes.
Hepburn, Margaret Sullivan and I were the three who really fought it.
You know, fought the ... Although when I went to Warner's,
they made me, you know, really bleach my hair.
And I knew it was going to limit me with parts, so I snuck down one day
and had it, you know, put back, the ash blonde hair I'd always had.
And one year later Mr Wallis sent for me
and said, "You've had your hair re-dyed."
One year later! He'd never seen it!
But if I had gone for permission he wouldn't have allowed it, you see.
And I didn't want to go through life with a very bleached head of hair.
But it was the factory getting to work, because they even suggested changing your name, didn't they?
Oh, yes. They wanted to call me Bettina Dawes.
And to be a little vulgar in this illustrious group,
I said, "I refuse to be called between the drawers all my life!"
Which I would have. No question.
It's very well you joking about it now,
-but of course, at the time for a young...
It was absolutely heartbreak.
Yes, I remember sitting in the outer office of Mr Laemmle.
He was talking to somebody, and he was talking about me,
not knowing I was there, and he said,
"Yeah, she's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville."
And you see, you're so right...
I was defeated.
And, for instance, they would say,
"Who wants to get HER at the end of the picture?"
And this does...
And this really does...catastrophic things to your ego,
and I didn't have a lot of ego, and never have had lots, anyway,
which is a big misnomer about actors.
We have very little ego, basically.
So, how did you salvage what little was left of your confidence?
Well, it just all...
At least I could hold my head high in a film of his,
which was an important film.
Then I had five or six more years, you know,
when I came to England and fought the whole thing.
But you just had to hang on,
and Ruthie, my mother, was...
you know, so cute when all the years went by
and these awful things were said about you, she'd always say,
"It's the best fruit the birds pick at,"
and I thought it was so sweet.
You know, she said, "Just remember..."
Because it was heartbreaking, of course it was.
At that period of time,
Warner Brothers must have thought you were...
although their top star, a very difficult property indeed.
No, I don't think so. I was...
We weren't allowed...
Warner's was a marvellous workmanlike studio, as opposed to Metro.
Metro was really...beautiful, glamour place.
There was no red carpet for any actor at Warner's. Absolutely not.
We were not allowed this.
And we just all worked very, very hard and...
I wouldn't... You know, those 18 years were my life,
and they were very, very good to me.
And I regret, today, that the young people
don't have contracts to work under,
because the contract gives you a...continuity.
You see, that's what I mean by longevity. Nobody could escape me.
You know, you made eight or ten pictures a year, you know?
You know, you really did.
And also, the Warner product was the first sold for television,
and this was many, many years ago now,
65 films of which were mine.
So, I just sort of kept on going, you know.
But I was fortunate there, too.
Is it true that you were called the fourth Warner brother?
By Bob Hope, yes.
Oh, absolutely! Absolutely adorable.
We had this marvellous Warner employees party every year,
and he emceed it this particular year.
He got up and introduced, "Miss Bette Davis, the fourth Warner brother."
That was lovely.
That was the film where you first worked with Olivia de Havilland, wasn't it?
Well, she and I were there together, many, many years.
-She's my great friend.
-She's become a great friend of yours...
She's always been a great friend of mine.
Is it's difficult for stars to be close friends?
Well, actors, as a group, are not my passion...
-What about one by one?
Though, I always, socially, loved writers and directors.
Much more interested.
A group of actors together can be rather...
tiresome, and whose rushes were what, and all this, you know.
You said the most remarkable thing in your book,
which rather bewildered me, but it sounds very splendid,
"An actor is always less than a man..."
Oh, this is a French... a very old French saying.
"..an actress more than a woman."
That's right. It's a very old French saying.
Do you agree with that, and...?
Yes, I have to be very honest. I think...
I don't think you can make generalities,
and I think there are very many exceptions, certainly...
that beautiful man Claude Rains and our beautiful man Mr Tracy
and Mr Cooper and Mr Gable, certainly were not less than men.
it's a strange profession for a man, truthfully.
Steve McQueen, for instance, does all this motorcycling, you know,
to keep him sure he's a man.
He told me that!
No, because he's the most marvellous guy, Steve McQueen. He's just great.
And he told me one night... I said, "Why do you take a chance?
"You're one of the few...
"smashing young men that have come along, and we need you desperately."
He said, "Because it's a strange profession for a man,
"and I just want to stay in something else to keep being a man."
Miss Davis, something I've wanted to ask you for 30 years...
To marry you?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Three others got in the way!
How did you get started on the stairs?
All your marvellous entrances were down stairs...
You've just made a wonderful one now.
I haven't lived on stairs.
I don't know, it just always happens.
And also, stairs are very, very dramatic.
You know, they are truthfully dramatic.
I've killed men on stairs...
I don't know. It's...
it's a strange thing,
because I say that about myself in all the parts, you know.
In Madame Sin, we're making now,
there's a gorgeous staircase, and I said to the director,
"You, of course, are going to have me come down those stairs!"
He said, "I never thought of it!"
The success of the interviews like this
led to Davis touring the world with her show,
Bette Davis In Person And On Film.
In 1975, a book, and that tour, brought her to the UK once more,
and to an appearance on the Parkinson show.
Thank you! Thank you very much.
I was at a press conference the other day
which had 150 journalists at it, which was for you.
And I doubt if Henry Kissinger, or any head of state,
would have got more journalists there.
But somebody asked a question of you there
about what it was like to be a Hollywood legend,
and you denied that you were.
You see, unless I am performing...
..I don't really think of myself very often in the professional...
..professional part of my life, I really don't.
And... so therefore,
there's no way you could think of yourself as a legend and...
..I can't help but be complimented.
You must not ignore this and say, "Well, it's just nothing."
But I don't think of it. I don't think of myself that way.
-At all. No.
But, I mean, if you accept,
if you look back on the history of Hollywood, there have been, what,
I suppose, three great women stars, haven't there?
Garbo, Hepburn, yourself.
Would you... Would you agree with that running order?
Well, I will accept the running order, yes.
Of course, I'd be happier if I got first billing, but I'll take it.
I was putting them in historical perspective.
No, if I am included with those two fabulous women, I am delighted.
What, in fact...? You're over here now...
Apart from the book, you're touring, aren't you?
And you're doing a show?
Yes, it is an evening...
..with me, on film and on stage.
And audience participation, which is what...
Oh, my part of it, yes, is absolutely with the audience.
What kind of...? What's the most...?
What's the question you get asked most of all?
Because you've done this all over America, haven't you?
Oh, I was in Australia and New Zealand
all the first part of this year, which was a fabulous, fabulous trip,
and I found a fabulous country.
Well, they're very, very varied.
There IS one question I am always asked.
Did I name the Oscar?
And fascinatingly enough,
the only night I was not asked this question
was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the night of the Oscar show,
which I thought was very, very strange.
I'm always asked that.
I was asked that everywhere in Australia and New Zealand.
-What's the answer?
Well, I feel I did.
Well, my first husband's middle initial was O,
and he never would tell me what it was,
because he detested the name so,
and finally, I found out that his middle name was Oscar...
..and the rear end of the Oscar looked like him.
..and I always called it Oscar.
Now, the Academy refuses to accept this,
-and I sort of willingly say, "The Academy."
But that's my memory of it. Of course, it was a long time ago.
When you first went there,
you said you were a puzzlement to all these people,
and, indeed, you must have been.
Did they ever try to tart you up, glamorise you?
Oh, yes! Oh, yes!
In a film called Fashions Of 1934.
Yes, they made me up as nearly as possible to look like Miss Garbo.
Which, of course, was utterly impossible.
They gave me a lovely long bob,
and the nice beautiful, wide mouth
and long, long lashes.
It was really sickening, because it wasn't my type.
And, thank God, I had brains enough to know that, you know,
and I never let them do that again.
Yes. How do you mean you never LET them do that again?"
I just didn't. I just said, "You cannot...
"Either fire me let me be what I personally am."
You cannot be somebody else, or a copy, or anything else.
But as a contract artist, of course,
I would imagine that that took a certain amount of guts, didn't it?
Yes, I was a meddler for my own good,
but it becomes self preservation, really.
If it had continued that way...
And they did that with so very many theatre people they brought out.
You know, changed all their teeth, changed their noses,
And those who had any individuality...
just never made it.
Because they just looked phoney.
Of course, I suppose, Of Human Bondage was, in fact, the film...
That was the first step on the ladder,
and that was a loan out to RKO.
-Yes, that was the first...rung. That's right.
-You played a Cockney, didn't you?
-Yes, I did.
Can you still do the accent?
Well, I'm not going to sit here and do it.
I just wondered if you could, that's all.
Oh, yes, I received many compliments.
Of course, when I started the film, with an all-English cast,
particularly Mr Leslie Howard, they were very, very distraught.
-Oh, very upset that an American girl was playing it, yes.
-But you gradually won them over?
COCKNEY ACCENT: "Oh, I don't mind!" That's what Mildred said.
COCKNEY ACCENT: I don't mind!
But the thing about it was, Mildred was a ladylike Cockney.
It's much easier to do the very broad Cockney.
But she always tried to be a lady, you see, so we had to be as...
It had to be very legitimate speech.
-I worked very hard on it for many months before I did it.
Did you ever feel, because you cornered a market in Hollywood,
at one point in your career, of playing...
not evil women, but...?
No, they were very, very...
-I played just as many others.
-Evil is remembered more.
Evil is... For instance, newspaper people know this.
You know, they don't print many good things about people.
There is a...
-mad interest in evil in all human beings, I really think.
And a remembrance of it. Definitely.
Well, let me put it another way. In some of those movies, certainly,
you played a rather intimidating woman.
Oh, I had some marvellous parts, like Little Foxes.
You know, marvellous women to play, that were very difficult.
I wondered if in fact, that sort of image that grew up around that
time, if it had ever affected your relationships with men
off-screen or with your fellow actors...
-..or whether they arrived with a preconceived notion of you.
Oh, I think because I played many women of that kind,
-there is a preconceived notion of me.
-How true would it be?
I never behaved that way.
I mean imagine going home
and being Mildred in Bondage all evening at dinner, you know.
Of course, a lot of actors would say you must live the part,
-that you must...
-Well, everybody to his own.
I am not going to criticise an actor who has to do that.
Maybe that's the way that actor has to...Paul Muni did that. Always.
What, took the part home?
Oh, Bella Muni, his wife, said she had lived with more men,
than any woman in the world!
I'm going to ask you a question actually, which is a quote from
a book, not that book, but your first, your autobiography, which was
written in 1963, in which you said, "all my marriages were a farce."
-In The Lonely Life?
-That's right, The Lonely Life.
-I said they were a farce?
Well, that was a strange thing for me to say.
There must have been something before that quote and after it.
It was the last chapter, as I remember it, when you summed up
your life and you were talking about the difficulties of being the career
woman, the star and at the same time, maintaining marriage status.
Yes, well it is difficult, no question,
so that's what I must have meant, that they seemed like farces,
because they did not turn out to be,
neither successful or real marriages.
Would you...how would you feel about working in today's more permissive
cinema, when in your day...
Well, I wish we had had some of the permissive...
I wish we could have had half...what is today. We could have been
more honest in all the love stories
and I wish today,
they did it half as much.
As regards the nudity, of course, we were never faced with this,
-that I would never, ever have done.
No, and there are many young actresses today
-suffering from the fact that they will not do it either.
And they're losing very good parts for this reason.
And what does the future hold then?
You're going round touring with this show.
I do this... This year is the second time.
I shall probably do this show once a year.
I hope next year to go to South America,
and I don't work terribly much any more.
I have just finished a film so this has been a very big year,
-much more working year than usual.
That's what keeps you slim, is it, keeping on the move, keeping busy?
Well, I have always kept on the move, yes, yes.
And if we could just sum up in, I don't know...do you have...
when you read that book back and you look at your career,
is there one sort of philosophy that you have through life
that sums up the book and sums up you?
Well, I think I stated in my comment at the end of this, it took me
a long time to decide what to say.
The one thing I think that really stands by a human being
is their work,
in the long run, over all the years.
One may have great disappointments in all sorts of areas
and even in your work, but if you still have a work you love,
that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Bette Davis, thank you.
I would just say if I'd got one ambition left, it would be
to have played Paul Henreid's part in Now, Voyager.
-Why don't you try it before we go?
-Shall I do it?
I really want to do this. I wonder if the band could give me a...
-Harry, can you play that lovely theme?
-Yes, let's play the theme.
-Now, you take the two cigarettes...
-We can't go on meeting like this.
-My dear, it was perfect!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
12 years later, it was another book promotion that would turn Davis
to the BBC, this time on the Wogan show.
Now aged 79, a series of strokes had left her looking very frail.
But the personality, forceful but fun, was as evident as ever.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Can I just establish, before we start, how we call you,
because there is a sort of argument - is it Bet or Betty?
It is supposed to be Bet.
It is taken from the French
Balzac's Cousine Bette,
the original pronunciation Bet and it took me 15 years
to educate everybody to say Betty
and I found out that they were all right, but of course, Betty I prefer.
-You prefer Betty?
-I prefer it.
I accept either now, just as long as they call the name,
-that's all I care.
-A lot of people here call you Bet
and I think in America it's Betty, isn't it? Mostly Betty.
No, sometimes it's Beet.
-Yes. I don't like that very much.
Do you like visiting here, visiting England?
Oh, England is really my second home.
I was born and brought up in New England.
And we're all the same kind of people, after all.
We all came from here. Yes, this is really a second home to me, England.
Somebody said or misquoted you perhaps, as saying,
you didn't like being here or something, didn't they?
-Yes, that I detested coming here.
-Yeah. Why should they say that?
I think those things we just forget,
pretend they weren't said, because it's absolutely absurd.
I adore coming to England.
I've been here, made about eight films here
and I look forward to coming here for my book.
-Which you've just done, of course, your book.
You've also made eight films here, you've made 100,
we were totting them up, you made about 100 films.
-The last was your hundredth film, I think.
-Nearly. Something like that.
What...having been famous, successful,
two Oscars, ten nominations altogether,
there would be a tendency to rest on your laurels, wouldn't there?
-Why do you keep going?
-Oh because I love, love, love making films.
Yes, always will.
Or the roar of the crowd?
There's never really resting on your laurels.
You must get better, get the next thing better than the last one.
That's an incentive.
-Do you remember the beginning?
-Oh, very clearly.
Yes, my memory is very good. Even at this wild age, I remember everything!
We won't be indelicate and ask you how old you are!
Oh, my dear, everybody knows how old I am,
I am 79 and I have never lied about my age in my life!
I have to say, that announcement, you applaud.
Applaud with great pleasure. I don't applaud, darlings.
Can you distinguish now, can you look back over the 100 films
and say, that was the favourite person I worked with.
-You mean director or actor?
-Actor, for a start.
Well, I think my favourite person to work with was Claude Rains.
Who I consider one of our greatest actors, I really do.
Who was your unfavourite?
AUDIENCE MUTED LAUGHTER
Well...Edward G Robinson was kind of a pig about his...
LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH
Yes, I had to kiss him in a scene as a very young girl
and I didn't care about that very much, no. No.
He was the kind that would go to the editor
and say, "Now, you know that long scene, speech that Bette has,
"I have a lot of thoughts to get over so you can keep cutting back to me!"
Yes, he was quite a pig.
But you had a reputation of being a pretty tough woman yourself.
You wouldn't have tolerated that, surely?
You'd have said to the director, keep the camera on me, wouldn't you?
-I'd have left that up to the director.
Of course, the director plans all that. We don't plan it.
But you never made suggestions like say, Edward G would say,
-you'd never suggest anything to director?
No, no, no, no.
Was there any actor and you worked with so many,
but was there any actor that you wanted to work with, but never did?
Oh, of course.
I never worked with Clark Gable, I never worked with Gary Cooper,
actually I never worked with any of the so-called
terrific male stars of the day.
See, we worked with people in our own studios.
Was there any part that you desperately wanted?
Yes, for many, many years I wanted to play Mary Lincoln.
And start her out early before the White House and go on,
but it never worked out.
Yes, I very much wanted to do that. You have to ask me about my book!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
-You see, I know you are enormously popular in England
and I am thrilled to be on your show!
I came on this show to sell a book.
-I am in England to sell a book!
-Oh, I don't know!
We're glad to see you, whether you come to sell a book or not!
Yes, I am a saleswoman.
-I think they're probably...
-Selfridge and company bought my book
and I must say, I'm very proud of it.
A lot of the information,
obviously, now I am talking to you about the book,
-because it's a biography...
-No, no, this is not a biography.
-No, no, not all about my films. They're never mentioned.
-No. This And That is exactly what it says.
This and that, odds and ends and odds and ends.
Now, in England they've added two words - "A Memoir".
Well, there are of course many, many memories,
but it's really not necessarily that,
but it's not autobiographal at all.
-But it's about you.
-It's just about things I think.
-And people you've met.
-And people I have met. Yes.
And we worked very hard on it and we're very thrilled. It was on
the New York Times best seller list for four months,
which is terrific.
So, we can sit here and say it's successful at home,
we hope it will be successful here.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I appreciate very much you gave me
this opportunity to talk about my book.
You had and still have a reputation, for being
a formidable lady, both to work with and indeed you had a one-woman
strike against the studios, didn't you, against Warner Brothers?
Yes, because I wanted good directors and good scripts.
And I signed for a film here in England
and Mr Warner took me to court and I lost here.
But in the long run, what do they say, I lost the...
-You lost the battle but won the war.
-..battle but I've won the war.
Yes. By the seriousness of my getting good films
which I was not getting and I knew I would never go anywhere
if I didn't have help with good scripts.
What gave you that drive?
Was it your mother, who I know was an enormous inspiration to you?
No, I was complaining constantly about my bosses,
the men who paid me
and I got sick of complaining
and I said you must, you must do something about it or just don't talk
about it, which is true, so that's what I did, hoping it would work out.
And you won the war.
And he had an option on Gone With The Wind
and the last visit with him in the office,
he said, "Oh, I, I..."
I said I was going on suspension, I was not going to work for a while.
He said, "I have optioned the most wonderful book for you.
"The title is Gone With The Wind",
and I looked at him and I said, I'll bet it's a pip!
And off I went
-and when I came back from England, it was a pip!
-It was a pip.
-It was a pip.
-But you can't win them all, for goodness sake.
What about a film of your life?
Oh, I hope never done while I'm here.
Who would you like to play the part?
Well, we'd have to do some searching!
I don't know.
I am very against these life stories on film with people alive.
I mean, for instance, I don't know who would play Ruthie, my mother.
No, it would kill me, it would really kill me.
I don't want it done and my life really and truly,
has basically been work.
There's not a lot else in my life but that.
And I think it would be extremely dull.
-I really do.
-You had three husbands.
I knew you were going to say that, I almost said it for you!
-Well, that wasn't...
-It wasn't an uneventful life!
-Sorry, it ISN'T an uneventful life!
No, so, you find three men that are my three husbands and they're
nothing like the husbands were.
No, but I knew you'd say that, of course!
Well, I just hope it's never done.
While I'm around.
I hope you'll continue to delight us with your performances.
I do thank you for this, really and truly.
-It was a great pleasure.
-It's nice to meet you.
I believe, in former years,
we couldn't make time to be on your show, isn't that right?
-Yes, I remember now.
-So it's good to have you.
And you're incredibly attractive!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Two years after this appearance, Davis died of breast cancer.
Her passing away made front page news across the world
and ended another chapter from the golden age of Hollywood.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A retrospective look at television appearances made over the years by Hollywood legend Bette Davis, capturing the milestones and highlights of her life and career.