Bette Davis Talking Pictures


Bette Davis

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.


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Transcript


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If anyone deserves the title of Hollywood legend, it's Bette Davis.

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Star of over 100 films,

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she was the first person to receive ten Oscar nominations.

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She won two Oscars and was the first woman to be awarded

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a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.

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She was known for her toughness and refusal to compromise,

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both in the roles she played, and in her own battles

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with movie studios, executives and co-stars.

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In her later years, people were riveted by the television interviews

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in which she would speak candidly about her life and career.

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We begin with an interview from 1958,

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when Davis was in the UK filming The Scapegoat with Alec Guinness.

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The actor Derek Bond joined her at the Edgewarebury Country Club

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where, ignoring the threat of an impending storm,

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Davis discussed the beginnings of her film career,

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the qualities she looked for in a leading man,

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and introduced the audience to her daughter Barbara.

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Hello, Miss Davis, I must apologise for our climate.

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-Oh, please don't. It's quite like our own.

-It is?

-Yes, it is.

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Miss Davis, you began your career in theatre. Did you intend to stay in the theatre

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or did you just look at it as training for the films?

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No, I started in the theatre to be in the theatre.

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Because when I started in the theatre we had silent pictures

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and I don't think any theatre people had any idea what would happen

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when sound came in, as we say.

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It was a complete revolution, actually,

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because they did need actors trained for the theatre because of the sound.

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So then there was an enormous...

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trek to Hollywood by practically -

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they signed practically all of us, to see if we would work there or not.

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Did you go to films because you felt there was more scope for an actress in films than in the theatre?

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Well, I look back and I don't know.

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I guess I felt that it was an opportunity

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that I, as a very young person, couldn't afford to miss, probably.

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-I didn't go with great anticipation.

-You didn't?

-No. Not at all.

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But I felt I was probably very fortunate and I should give it a try.

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Did you enjoy the change at the beginning?

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No, I had a very difficult time in the beginning.

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I was not welcomed with open arms.

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As a matter of fact, I arrived in the Los Angeles station

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and had been told I would be met by the Universal officials,

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which was my studio, and no-one was there to meet me at all.

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So we kind of staggered to the hotel, finding our way around, my mother and I,

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and I called the studio and I said, "Why wasn't anyone there to meet me?"

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And they said, "We didn't see anyone get off the train who looked like an actress."

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So I said, "Well, I had a dog with me, they should have known!"

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But it was incredible, it was a whole new era and we all felt we should try it, I think.

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Now, people who have seen you working on the set have written that

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you are a very technical actress, always conscious of the camera

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and so on and so forth.

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But at the same time, you give a sustained emotional performance.

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How do these two go together?

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Well, I've never actually been very bright about the camera

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and the technical part.

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This is one thing I've not coped with.

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I have a quite hard enough time to do my part of it.

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The only time I ever sort of have a problem with a camera is

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if I notice it. You see, this is awkward.

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As far as the emotional continuity is concerned, this is really training.

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-This is the hardest thing, of course, for the theatre actress to do.

-Yes.

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When she starts in films. We talked about that a little earlier.

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To leave off for half an hour and come back and hit the same pitch.

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And I would feel much more pleased with myself if I could do it

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if some of the others couldn't, also.

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It's just, it's actually,

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it's really a training that one must work on very hard.

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And actually, George Arliss, who was my great mentor, at the time

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when Hollywood was about to go off for me, gave me a very good hint once.

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He said, "Never make a scene in front of a camera that you don't remember

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"what went before and what went after."

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Then it will usually tie in.

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Others will just go in without reviewing in your mind

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exactly how it was.

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But the technical thing of hitting your marks at the same

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time as sustaining emotion...

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That is, that is practice.

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You are honestly...I don't really know how we do it.

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Because you must do it without ever looking. It becomes an instinct.

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I feel, finally. Not at first. It's extremely hard at first, you know.

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You feel like a puppet that can't move.

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Let's talk for a moment about the characters you have played.

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I read on a poster once that

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"Nobody's as good as Bette Davis when she's bad."

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THEY LAUGH

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You have played quite a number of bad women.

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Is it because you think playing nice women is dull?

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Well, of course, I never call them bad women.

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I have a theory that no one person is all bad,

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and no one person is all good.

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The only requirement that I have is that

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the character at least is definite. Whether good or bad.

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And, um...

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I think the more definite people tend to have more sort of evil traits.

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The more interesting people.

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And that is probably why.

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In these very different characters that you play,

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how do you get into the character? How do you set about it?

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Oh, I just think you pray half the time.

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You know, I don't think there's much planning that you can do.

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If you do a Somerset Maugham story like Of Human Bondage,

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you practically have a textbook. This is different.

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I mean, you read this book and you know this character from

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what he said, inside and out. Which makes it easier.

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With an original character, it's sort of your own ideas of her

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and just thinking, trying to think of the way she is.

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I don't know.

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There is a school of thought that thinks that actors should

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completely identify themselves with the character.

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I think it's called the Method. Do you approve of this?

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Well, no, I don't. It probably dates me...

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I just...it's just not for me.

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I must be fair and say, maybe it is for some people.

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I think it's a very un-theatrical kind of acting.

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Not that I don't think films...

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The prime requisite is a certain reality,

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but there is a certain way of giving a performance to your audience.

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And I think this is a little like peeking through

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keyholes at real-life.

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I just don't really understand it. Don't like it, I must say. I don't.

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Oh, Beady. Beady, come here. I want you to meet Mr Derek Bond.

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-My daughter Barbara.

-Hello, Barbara.

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-Not a very satisfactory day for riding.

-No.

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How long have you been...have you been over here before to this country?

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I've been here once before,

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when I was only four years old, but that's pretty hard to remember.

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How many foreign countries have you been to, outside America?

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This trip is the only time I've been over.

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I went to Spain, Italy and France. And this country.

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Do you enjoy travelling? Do you like it?

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-Oh, yes, very much. But it is work.

-Do you get homesick?

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-THEY LAUGH

-It's work, is it?

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No. I don't get homesick. No.

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When you grow up, would you like to be an actress like your mother?

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-Not one of my first choices.

-What would you want to do?

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I'd like to be a secretary.

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-A secretary?

-Well, yes. Darling, why don't you run along. See you later.

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-Goodbye.

-Nice to have met you.

-And you.

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Ms Davis, how would you feel

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if she had said she wanted to be an actress?

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Oh, well...

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Wanting to be an actress is just...if you want to, you must.

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This is a kind of a drive and it's a thing that you absolutely have to do.

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And if this were it, then she must.

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I could hope for her that her life would run along more normal channels

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and that she wouldn't have this great need for expressing herself.

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-Mm-hmm.

-In this way. But if so...

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Do you think people can be happier doing something else?

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No, no, I think one is happiest doing what one must do.

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You know, I really think I've been an incredibly fortunate person

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and had the most wonderfully happy life,

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as regards the accomplishment of my life.

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-I don't think it's an easy life. You know, I must say.

-Yes.

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-Why don't we go in?

-Yes.

-Have some tea.

-Good idea. Thank you.

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Your success has given you the authority to

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choose your director and your story.

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What do you look for first when you're considering a new film?

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Well, I try to be very honest and worry most about the story.

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And I think increasingly in our business,

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since the years I started, the story has become the most important thing.

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-Yes.

-And I think, for the most part, I have been able to.

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One also has to say, one considers the part as well.

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But I think of the two today,

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I would prefer the story that I think the audience would like.

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I think that's the picture that's selling today more

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than just a story that features a sensational performance.

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Which once, I must say, we could get away with.

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But I don't feel any longer.

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You've starred with some very distinguished leading men.

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What are the qualities that you would consider the most

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important in a leading man?

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Oh. Well, I think, that he's a good actor.

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You know, that I think that he's a good actor,

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and I must say, it's an enormous help to me if he enjoys acting.

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Because this makes the film a much happier thing to make. Basically.

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Would you say it's important to like somebody you were playing

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-with off screen? Or do you just consider the characters?

-No.

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I think that is... I think one would be very limited to think that way.

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I think it has nothing to do with, whatsoever.

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I think the talent is the whole thing.

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There's many sort of unpleasant people are very talented.

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You know, one would limit oneself very much I think

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if one cared how much one liked somebody personally.

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The bond between mother and daughter

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did not remain as warm as was captured in this interview.

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As an adult, Barbara claimed her mother had been emotionally abusive.

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She accused Davis' fourth husband, Gary Merrill,

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who Davis met on the set of All About Eve,

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of being a violent alcoholic.

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These claims were all strongly denied.

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In 1972 Davis was back in the UK and back being interviewed,

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this time by Joan Bakewell

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in front of an audience at the National Film Theatre.

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In your autobiography you confess that it was

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when you saw The Wild Duck in the New York theatre,

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it was that evening, that very moment, you decided to become an actress.

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I sort of always knew I'd do something.

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But I'd never sort of... I was 16 then, I believe.

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But the girl who played Hedvig was at the Duart Playhouse in Boston.

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Eh, we were just twins. And I somehow identified with her.

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Plus it was the kind of a part I would love. And I finally played it.

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From that moment on, once you had said you wished to be an actress...

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Well I continued with school, you know, I graduated from prep school.

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And then I was very fortunate in a mother who allowed me

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to spread my wings, and she saw to it that I went to New York,

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to a dramatic school, which is the proper training, really.

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Which you do much more in England than they do in America.

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And, eh, it just sort of went on from there.

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Well, I was going to remark on the fact that your mother's backing of your ambition,

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and her total dedication to your career...

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Was incredible - and without being a stage mother.

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She was never around where I worked at all.

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Just her belief was extraordinary. I don't quite know why she had it. I certainly didn't in the beginning.

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How dare those Hollywood moguls,

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at the time when you first went from New York to Hollywood,

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suggest that you couldn't be as sexy and glamorous as any other star.

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Well, according to their standards, you see, I wasn't.

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Now this was really in the very beginning of talking pictures,

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and all of us who came up from the theatre were,

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were not actressy kind of people.

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You know, we sort of have our own colour hair,

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and maybe a couple of teeth crooked. We looked totally different.

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And they were very, very puzzled. You know?

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And off-screen we didn't go around all dressed up, say like a Harlow or somebody would, you know.

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So they just did not understand us at all.

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So we just were... You know, they called me the little brown wren.

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But then, finally, you see nobody helps you when you go,

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about make-up or about the camera. It's a wholly new profession, really.

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And finally, they find out, you know, the best way to wear your hair,

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they put a make-up on you that does the best for you.

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It's just a slow process of...

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getting to look on the screen what you really thought you looked like in life!

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I thought I was fairly attractive till I got to Hollywood.

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But I didn't for a very long. You know?

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But you did have to fight off all their attempts

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-to glamorise you in their terms?

-Oh, yes. Yes.

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Hepburn, Margaret Sullivan and I were the three who really fought it.

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You know, fought the ... Although when I went to Warner's,

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they made me, you know, really bleach my hair.

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And I knew it was going to limit me with parts, so I snuck down one day

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and had it, you know, put back, the ash blonde hair I'd always had.

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And one year later Mr Wallis sent for me

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and said, "You've had your hair re-dyed."

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One year later! He'd never seen it!

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But if I had gone for permission he wouldn't have allowed it, you see.

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And I didn't want to go through life with a very bleached head of hair.

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But it was the factory getting to work, because they even suggested changing your name, didn't they?

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Oh, yes. They wanted to call me Bettina Dawes.

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LAUGHTER

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And to be a little vulgar in this illustrious group,

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I said, "I refuse to be called between the drawers all my life!"

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Which I would have. No question.

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It's very well you joking about it now,

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-but of course, at the time for a young...

-Heartbreak.

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It was absolutely heartbreak.

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Yes, I remember sitting in the outer office of Mr Laemmle.

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He was talking to somebody, and he was talking about me,

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not knowing I was there, and he said,

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"Yeah, she's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville."

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LAUGHTER

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And you see, you're so right...

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I was defeated.

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And, for instance, they would say,

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"Who wants to get HER at the end of the picture?"

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LAUGHTER

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And this does...

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True!

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And this really does...catastrophic things to your ego,

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and I didn't have a lot of ego, and never have had lots, anyway,

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which is a big misnomer about actors.

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We have very little ego, basically.

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So, how did you salvage what little was left of your confidence?

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Well, it just all...

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At least I could hold my head high in a film of his,

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which was an important film.

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Then I had five or six more years, you know,

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when I came to England and fought the whole thing.

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But you just had to hang on,

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and Ruthie, my mother, was...

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you know, so cute when all the years went by

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and these awful things were said about you, she'd always say,

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"It's the best fruit the birds pick at,"

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and I thought it was so sweet.

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You know, she said, "Just remember..."

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Because it was heartbreaking, of course it was.

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At that period of time,

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Warner Brothers must have thought you were...

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although their top star, a very difficult property indeed.

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No, I don't think so. I was...

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We weren't allowed...

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Warner's was a marvellous workmanlike studio, as opposed to Metro.

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Metro was really...beautiful, glamour place.

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There was no red carpet for any actor at Warner's. Absolutely not.

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We were not allowed this.

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And we just all worked very, very hard and...

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I wouldn't... You know, those 18 years were my life,

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and they were very, very good to me.

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And I regret, today, that the young people

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don't have contracts to work under,

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because the contract gives you a...continuity.

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You see, that's what I mean by longevity. Nobody could escape me.

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You know, you made eight or ten pictures a year, you know?

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You know, you really did.

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And also, the Warner product was the first sold for television,

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and this was many, many years ago now,

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65 films of which were mine.

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So, I just sort of kept on going, you know.

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Again, longevity.

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But I was fortunate there, too.

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Is it true that you were called the fourth Warner brother?

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By Bob Hope, yes.

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LAUGHTER

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Oh, absolutely! Absolutely adorable.

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We had this marvellous Warner employees party every year,

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and he emceed it this particular year.

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He got up and introduced, "Miss Bette Davis, the fourth Warner brother."

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That was lovely.

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That was the film where you first worked with Olivia de Havilland, wasn't it?

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Well, she and I were there together, many, many years.

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-She's my great friend.

-She's become a great friend of yours...

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She's always been a great friend of mine.

0:17:480:17:50

Is it's difficult for stars to be close friends?

0:17:500:17:53

Well, actors, as a group, are not my passion...

0:17:530:17:55

LAUGHTER

0:17:550:17:57

-..socially.

-What about one by one?

-Socially.

0:17:570:17:59

Though, I always, socially, loved writers and directors.

0:17:590:18:03

Much more interested.

0:18:030:18:05

A group of actors together can be rather...

0:18:050:18:09

tiresome, and whose rushes were what, and all this, you know.

0:18:090:18:12

You said the most remarkable thing in your book,

0:18:140:18:16

which rather bewildered me, but it sounds very splendid,

0:18:160:18:18

"An actor is always less than a man..."

0:18:180:18:21

Oh, this is a French... a very old French saying.

0:18:210:18:23

"..an actress more than a woman."

0:18:230:18:25

That's right. It's a very old French saying.

0:18:250:18:27

Do you agree with that, and...?

0:18:270:18:29

SHE SIGHS

0:18:300:18:32

LAUGHTER

0:18:320:18:33

Yes, I have to be very honest. I think...

0:18:330:18:35

I don't think you can make generalities,

0:18:350:18:38

and I think there are very many exceptions, certainly...

0:18:380:18:40

that beautiful man Claude Rains and our beautiful man Mr Tracy

0:18:400:18:45

and Mr Cooper and Mr Gable, certainly were not less than men.

0:18:450:18:49

But...

0:18:490:18:50

it's a strange profession for a man, truthfully.

0:18:500:18:54

Steve McQueen, for instance, does all this motorcycling, you know,

0:18:540:18:57

to keep him sure he's a man.

0:18:570:18:58

LAUGHTER

0:18:580:19:00

He told me that!

0:19:000:19:01

APPLAUSE

0:19:010:19:04

No, because he's the most marvellous guy, Steve McQueen. He's just great.

0:19:040:19:08

And he told me one night... I said, "Why do you take a chance?

0:19:080:19:12

"You're one of the few...

0:19:120:19:14

"smashing young men that have come along, and we need you desperately."

0:19:140:19:18

He said, "Because it's a strange profession for a man,

0:19:180:19:22

"and I just want to stay in something else to keep being a man."

0:19:220:19:26

Interesting.

0:19:260:19:27

Miss Davis, something I've wanted to ask you for 30 years...

0:19:270:19:31

LAUGHTER

0:19:310:19:33

To marry you?

0:19:350:19:36

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:19:360:19:38

Three others got in the way!

0:19:470:19:48

LAUGHTER

0:19:480:19:50

How did you get started on the stairs?

0:19:510:19:54

All your marvellous entrances were down stairs...

0:19:540:19:56

You've just made a wonderful one now.

0:19:560:19:58

I haven't lived on stairs.

0:19:580:20:00

I don't know, it just always happens.

0:20:020:20:04

And also, stairs are very, very dramatic.

0:20:040:20:07

You know, they are truthfully dramatic.

0:20:070:20:10

I've killed men on stairs...

0:20:100:20:11

LAUGHTER

0:20:110:20:14

I don't know. It's...

0:20:140:20:16

it's a strange thing,

0:20:160:20:17

because I say that about myself in all the parts, you know.

0:20:170:20:21

In Madame Sin, we're making now,

0:20:210:20:22

there's a gorgeous staircase, and I said to the director,

0:20:220:20:25

"You, of course, are going to have me come down those stairs!"

0:20:250:20:29

He said, "I never thought of it!"

0:20:290:20:30

LAUGHTER

0:20:300:20:32

The success of the interviews like this

0:20:340:20:37

led to Davis touring the world with her show,

0:20:370:20:40

Bette Davis In Person And On Film.

0:20:400:20:43

In 1975, a book, and that tour, brought her to the UK once more,

0:20:440:20:49

and to an appearance on the Parkinson show.

0:20:490:20:53

APPLAUSE

0:20:530:20:56

Thank you! Thank you very much.

0:21:080:21:11

I was at a press conference the other day

0:21:170:21:19

which had 150 journalists at it, which was for you.

0:21:190:21:22

And I doubt if Henry Kissinger, or any head of state,

0:21:220:21:26

would have got more journalists there.

0:21:260:21:28

But somebody asked a question of you there

0:21:280:21:30

about what it was like to be a Hollywood legend,

0:21:300:21:33

and you denied that you were.

0:21:330:21:34

Well...

0:21:340:21:35

You see, unless I am performing...

0:21:370:21:39

..I don't really think of myself very often in the professional...

0:21:400:21:44

..professional part of my life, I really don't.

0:21:470:21:50

And... so therefore,

0:21:500:21:51

there's no way you could think of yourself as a legend and...

0:21:510:21:55

..I can't help but be complimented.

0:21:560:21:59

You must not ignore this and say, "Well, it's just nothing."

0:21:590:22:02

But I don't think of it. I don't think of myself that way.

0:22:020:22:04

-You don't?

-At all. No.

0:22:040:22:06

But, I mean, if you accept,

0:22:060:22:07

if you look back on the history of Hollywood, there have been, what,

0:22:070:22:10

I suppose, three great women stars, haven't there?

0:22:100:22:12

Garbo, Hepburn, yourself.

0:22:120:22:15

Would you... Would you agree with that running order?

0:22:150:22:18

Well, I will accept the running order, yes.

0:22:180:22:21

LAUGHTER

0:22:210:22:22

Of course, I'd be happier if I got first billing, but I'll take it.

0:22:220:22:25

LAUGHTER

0:22:250:22:26

I was putting them in historical perspective.

0:22:260:22:29

No, if I am included with those two fabulous women, I am delighted.

0:22:290:22:34

What, in fact...? You're over here now...

0:22:340:22:36

Apart from the book, you're touring, aren't you?

0:22:360:22:38

And you're doing a show?

0:22:380:22:40

Yes, it is an evening...

0:22:400:22:42

..with me, on film and on stage.

0:22:430:22:46

And audience participation, which is what...

0:22:460:22:49

Oh, my part of it, yes, is absolutely with the audience.

0:22:490:22:52

What kind of...? What's the most...?

0:22:520:22:55

What's the question you get asked most of all?

0:22:550:22:57

Because you've done this all over America, haven't you?

0:22:570:22:59

Oh, I was in Australia and New Zealand

0:22:590:23:02

all the first part of this year, which was a fabulous, fabulous trip,

0:23:020:23:06

and I found a fabulous country.

0:23:060:23:08

Well, they're very, very varied.

0:23:090:23:12

There IS one question I am always asked.

0:23:120:23:14

Did I name the Oscar?

0:23:140:23:15

And fascinatingly enough,

0:23:170:23:18

the only night I was not asked this question

0:23:180:23:21

was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the night of the Oscar show,

0:23:210:23:25

which I thought was very, very strange.

0:23:250:23:28

I'm always asked that.

0:23:280:23:29

I was asked that everywhere in Australia and New Zealand.

0:23:290:23:32

-What's the answer?

-Uh...

0:23:320:23:34

Well, I feel I did.

0:23:350:23:37

How?

0:23:370:23:38

Well, my first husband's middle initial was O,

0:23:380:23:42

and he never would tell me what it was,

0:23:420:23:45

because he detested the name so,

0:23:450:23:47

and finally, I found out that his middle name was Oscar...

0:23:470:23:50

..and the rear end of the Oscar looked like him.

0:23:510:23:55

LAUGHTER

0:23:550:23:57

Really?

0:23:570:23:58

..and I always called it Oscar.

0:23:590:24:01

Now, the Academy refuses to accept this,

0:24:010:24:04

-and I sort of willingly say, "The Academy."

-I see.

0:24:040:24:07

But that's my memory of it. Of course, it was a long time ago.

0:24:070:24:10

When you first went there,

0:24:100:24:11

you said you were a puzzlement to all these people,

0:24:110:24:14

and, indeed, you must have been.

0:24:140:24:15

Did they ever try to tart you up, glamorise you?

0:24:150:24:18

Oh, yes! Oh, yes!

0:24:180:24:20

In a film called Fashions Of 1934.

0:24:200:24:24

Yes, they made me up as nearly as possible to look like Miss Garbo.

0:24:250:24:30

Which, of course, was utterly impossible.

0:24:300:24:33

They gave me a lovely long bob,

0:24:330:24:35

and the nice beautiful, wide mouth

0:24:350:24:38

and long, long lashes.

0:24:380:24:40

It was...

0:24:400:24:41

It was really sickening, because it wasn't my type.

0:24:410:24:45

And, thank God, I had brains enough to know that, you know,

0:24:450:24:48

and I never let them do that again.

0:24:480:24:49

Yes. How do you mean you never LET them do that again?"

0:24:490:24:52

Because you...you...

0:24:520:24:53

I just didn't. I just said, "You cannot...

0:24:530:24:56

"Either fire me let me be what I personally am."

0:24:560:25:00

-Yes.

-You cannot...

0:25:000:25:01

You cannot be somebody else, or a copy, or anything else.

0:25:010:25:05

But as a contract artist, of course,

0:25:050:25:06

I would imagine that that took a certain amount of guts, didn't it?

0:25:060:25:10

Well, yes.

0:25:100:25:11

Yes, I was a meddler for my own good,

0:25:110:25:14

but it becomes self preservation, really.

0:25:140:25:17

If it had continued that way...

0:25:170:25:19

And they did that with so very many theatre people they brought out.

0:25:190:25:23

You know, changed all their teeth, changed their noses,

0:25:230:25:28

changed everything.

0:25:280:25:30

And those who had any individuality...

0:25:300:25:33

just never made it.

0:25:330:25:35

Because they just looked phoney.

0:25:350:25:37

Of course, I suppose, Of Human Bondage was, in fact, the film...

0:25:370:25:40

That was the first step on the ladder,

0:25:400:25:42

and that was a loan out to RKO.

0:25:420:25:44

-Yes, that was the first...rung. That's right.

-Yes.

0:25:440:25:47

-You played a Cockney, didn't you?

-Yes, I did.

0:25:470:25:50

Can you still do the accent?

0:25:500:25:51

Well, I'm not going to sit here and do it.

0:25:510:25:53

HE LAUGHS

0:25:530:25:54

I just wondered if you could, that's all.

0:25:540:25:56

Oh, yes, I received many compliments.

0:25:560:25:58

Of course, when I started the film, with an all-English cast,

0:25:580:26:02

particularly Mr Leslie Howard, they were very, very distraught.

0:26:020:26:06

-Really?

-Oh, very upset that an American girl was playing it, yes.

0:26:060:26:09

-Really?

-Very.

-But you gradually won them over?

0:26:090:26:12

COCKNEY ACCENT: "Oh, I don't mind!" That's what Mildred said.

0:26:120:26:15

LAUGHTER

0:26:150:26:16

COCKNEY ACCENT: I don't mind!

0:26:160:26:17

APPLAUSE

0:26:170:26:19

But the thing about it was, Mildred was a ladylike Cockney.

0:26:210:26:24

It's much easier to do the very broad Cockney.

0:26:240:26:27

But she always tried to be a lady, you see, so we had to be as...

0:26:270:26:31

It had to be very legitimate speech.

0:26:310:26:34

-I worked very hard on it for many months before I did it.

-Yes.

0:26:340:26:37

Did you ever feel, because you cornered a market in Hollywood,

0:26:370:26:40

at one point in your career, of playing...

0:26:400:26:44

not evil women, but...?

0:26:440:26:45

No, they were very, very...

0:26:450:26:47

-I played just as many others.

-You did?

0:26:470:26:49

-Evil is remembered more.

-Yes.

0:26:490:26:52

Evil is... For instance, newspaper people know this.

0:26:520:26:56

You know, they don't print many good things about people.

0:26:560:26:59

There is a...

0:26:590:27:01

-mad interest in evil in all human beings, I really think.

-Yes.

0:27:010:27:05

And a remembrance of it. Definitely.

0:27:050:27:07

Well, let me put it another way. In some of those movies, certainly,

0:27:070:27:10

you played a rather intimidating woman.

0:27:100:27:13

Oh, I had some marvellous parts, like Little Foxes.

0:27:130:27:16

You know, marvellous women to play, that were very difficult.

0:27:160:27:20

I wondered if in fact, that sort of image that grew up around that

0:27:210:27:24

time, if it had ever affected your relationships with men

0:27:240:27:27

off-screen or with your fellow actors...

0:27:270:27:29

-No.

-..or whether they arrived with a preconceived notion of you.

0:27:290:27:32

Oh, I think because I played many women of that kind,

0:27:320:27:36

-there is a preconceived notion of me.

-How true would it be?

0:27:360:27:41

I never behaved that way.

0:27:410:27:43

I mean imagine going home

0:27:430:27:46

and being Mildred in Bondage all evening at dinner, you know.

0:27:460:27:49

Of course, a lot of actors would say you must live the part,

0:27:490:27:52

-that you must...

-Well, everybody to his own.

0:27:520:27:56

I am not going to criticise an actor who has to do that.

0:27:560:27:59

Maybe that's the way that actor has to...Paul Muni did that. Always.

0:27:590:28:03

What, took the part home?

0:28:030:28:05

Oh, Bella Muni, his wife, said she had lived with more men,

0:28:050:28:08

than any woman in the world!

0:28:080:28:11

I'm going to ask you a question actually, which is a quote from

0:28:110:28:14

a book, not that book, but your first, your autobiography, which was

0:28:140:28:17

written in 1963, in which you said, "all my marriages were a farce."

0:28:170:28:21

-In The Lonely Life?

-That's right, The Lonely Life.

0:28:210:28:24

-I said they were a farce?

-Mmm.

0:28:240:28:26

Well, that was a strange thing for me to say.

0:28:300:28:33

There must have been something before that quote and after it.

0:28:330:28:36

It was the last chapter, as I remember it, when you summed up

0:28:360:28:40

your life and you were talking about the difficulties of being the career

0:28:400:28:44

woman, the star and at the same time, maintaining marriage status.

0:28:440:28:47

Yes, well it is difficult, no question,

0:28:470:28:50

so that's what I must have meant, that they seemed like farces,

0:28:500:28:53

because they did not turn out to be,

0:28:530:28:56

neither successful or real marriages.

0:28:560:28:58

Would you...how would you feel about working in today's more permissive

0:28:580:29:01

cinema, when in your day...

0:29:010:29:03

Well, I wish we had had some of the permissive...

0:29:030:29:06

I wish we could have had half...what is today. We could have been

0:29:060:29:12

more honest in all the love stories

0:29:120:29:14

and I wish today,

0:29:140:29:17

they did it half as much.

0:29:170:29:19

As regards the nudity, of course, we were never faced with this,

0:29:190:29:23

-that I would never, ever have done.

-You wouldn't?

0:29:230:29:27

No, and there are many young actresses today

0:29:270:29:29

-suffering from the fact that they will not do it either.

-No.

0:29:290:29:32

And they're losing very good parts for this reason.

0:29:320:29:35

And what does the future hold then?

0:29:350:29:36

You're going round touring with this show.

0:29:360:29:40

I do this... This year is the second time.

0:29:400:29:42

I shall probably do this show once a year.

0:29:420:29:45

I hope next year to go to South America,

0:29:450:29:48

and I don't work terribly much any more.

0:29:480:29:51

I have just finished a film so this has been a very big year,

0:29:510:29:55

-much more working year than usual.

-Yes.

0:29:550:29:57

That's what keeps you slim, is it, keeping on the move, keeping busy?

0:29:570:30:00

Well, I have always kept on the move, yes, yes.

0:30:000:30:03

And if we could just sum up in, I don't know...do you have...

0:30:030:30:07

when you read that book back and you look at your career,

0:30:070:30:11

is there one sort of philosophy that you have through life

0:30:110:30:14

that sums up the book and sums up you?

0:30:140:30:16

Well, I think I stated in my comment at the end of this, it took me

0:30:180:30:21

a long time to decide what to say.

0:30:210:30:23

The one thing I think that really stands by a human being

0:30:260:30:30

is their work,

0:30:300:30:32

in the long run, over all the years.

0:30:320:30:35

One may have great disappointments in all sorts of areas

0:30:370:30:41

and even in your work, but if you still have a work you love,

0:30:410:30:44

that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

0:30:440:30:48

Bette Davis, thank you.

0:30:480:30:49

I would just say if I'd got one ambition left, it would be

0:30:490:30:52

to have played Paul Henreid's part in Now, Voyager.

0:30:520:30:54

-Why don't you try it before we go?

-Shall I do it?

-Come on.

0:30:540:30:57

I really want to do this. I wonder if the band could give me a...

0:30:570:31:00

-Harry, can you play that lovely theme?

-Yes, let's play the theme.

0:31:000:31:03

-That's right.

-Now, you take the two cigarettes...

0:31:030:31:05

MUSIC PLAYS

0:31:050:31:07

SHE HUMS

0:31:070:31:09

-We can't go on meeting like this.

-My dear, it was perfect!

0:31:110:31:15

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:31:150:31:16

12 years later, it was another book promotion that would turn Davis

0:31:230:31:26

to the BBC, this time on the Wogan show.

0:31:260:31:30

Now aged 79, a series of strokes had left her looking very frail.

0:31:310:31:37

But the personality, forceful but fun, was as evident as ever.

0:31:370:31:43

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:31:430:31:45

Can I just establish, before we start, how we call you,

0:32:010:32:05

because there is a sort of argument - is it Bet or Betty?

0:32:050:32:10

It is supposed to be Bet.

0:32:100:32:13

It is taken from the French

0:32:130:32:15

Balzac's Cousine Bette,

0:32:150:32:18

the original pronunciation Bet and it took me 15 years

0:32:180:32:23

to educate everybody to say Betty

0:32:230:32:27

and I found out that they were all right, but of course, Betty I prefer.

0:32:270:32:32

-You prefer Betty?

-I prefer it.

0:32:320:32:34

I accept either now, just as long as they call the name,

0:32:340:32:36

-that's all I care.

-A lot of people here call you Bet

0:32:360:32:39

and I think in America it's Betty, isn't it? Mostly Betty.

0:32:390:32:42

No, sometimes it's Beet.

0:32:420:32:44

-Beet?

-Yes. I don't like that very much.

0:32:440:32:47

Beet Davis!

0:32:470:32:50

Do you like visiting here, visiting England?

0:32:500:32:54

Oh, England is really my second home.

0:32:540:32:56

I was born and brought up in New England.

0:32:560:32:59

And we're all the same kind of people, after all.

0:32:590:33:02

We all came from here. Yes, this is really a second home to me, England.

0:33:020:33:08

Somebody said or misquoted you perhaps, as saying,

0:33:080:33:10

you didn't like being here or something, didn't they?

0:33:100:33:13

-Yes, that I detested coming here.

-Yeah. Why should they say that?

0:33:130:33:16

I think those things we just forget,

0:33:160:33:18

pretend they weren't said, because it's absolutely absurd.

0:33:180:33:22

I adore coming to England.

0:33:220:33:23

I've been here, made about eight films here

0:33:230:33:26

and I look forward to coming here for my book.

0:33:260:33:31

-Yes.

-Which you've just done, of course, your book.

-Yes.

0:33:310:33:34

You've also made eight films here, you've made 100,

0:33:340:33:37

we were totting them up, you made about 100 films.

0:33:370:33:39

-The last was your hundredth film, I think.

-Nearly. Something like that.

0:33:390:33:43

What...having been famous, successful,

0:33:430:33:48

two Oscars, ten nominations altogether,

0:33:480:33:52

there would be a tendency to rest on your laurels, wouldn't there?

0:33:520:33:56

-Why do you keep going?

-Oh because I love, love, love making films.

0:33:560:34:04

Yes, always will.

0:34:040:34:05

Or the roar of the crowd?

0:34:050:34:08

There's never really resting on your laurels.

0:34:080:34:11

You must get better, get the next thing better than the last one.

0:34:110:34:16

That's an incentive.

0:34:160:34:18

-Do you remember the beginning?

-Oh, very clearly.

0:34:190:34:24

Yes, my memory is very good. Even at this wild age, I remember everything!

0:34:240:34:29

We won't be indelicate and ask you how old you are!

0:34:290:34:32

Oh, my dear, everybody knows how old I am,

0:34:320:34:35

I am 79 and I have never lied about my age in my life!

0:34:350:34:38

APPLAUSE

0:34:380:34:40

I have to say, that announcement, you applaud.

0:34:490:34:54

Applaud with great pleasure. I don't applaud, darlings.

0:34:540:35:00

LAUGHTER

0:35:000:35:02

Can you distinguish now, can you look back over the 100 films

0:35:030:35:06

and say, that was the favourite person I worked with.

0:35:060:35:10

-You mean director or actor?

-Actor, for a start.

0:35:100:35:14

Well, I think my favourite person to work with was Claude Rains.

0:35:140:35:20

Who I consider one of our greatest actors, I really do.

0:35:200:35:24

Who was your unfavourite?

0:35:240:35:27

AUDIENCE MUTED LAUGHTER

0:35:270:35:29

Well...Edward G Robinson was kind of a pig about his...

0:35:290:35:35

LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH

0:35:350:35:37

..and, eh...

0:35:370:35:39

Yes, I had to kiss him in a scene as a very young girl

0:35:410:35:46

and I didn't care about that very much, no. No.

0:35:460:35:49

He was the kind that would go to the editor

0:35:490:35:54

and say, "Now, you know that long scene, speech that Bette has,

0:35:540:35:59

"I have a lot of thoughts to get over so you can keep cutting back to me!"

0:35:590:36:05

Yes, he was quite a pig.

0:36:050:36:07

LAUGHTER

0:36:070:36:09

But you had a reputation of being a pretty tough woman yourself.

0:36:090:36:13

You wouldn't have tolerated that, surely?

0:36:130:36:16

You'd have said to the director, keep the camera on me, wouldn't you?

0:36:160:36:19

-I'd have left that up to the director.

-Really?

0:36:190:36:21

Of course, the director plans all that. We don't plan it.

0:36:210:36:25

But you never made suggestions like say, Edward G would say,

0:36:250:36:29

-you'd never suggest anything to director?

-Heavens, no.

0:36:290:36:32

No, no, no, no.

0:36:320:36:34

Was there any actor and you worked with so many,

0:36:340:36:37

but was there any actor that you wanted to work with, but never did?

0:36:370:36:40

Oh, of course.

0:36:400:36:42

I never worked with Clark Gable, I never worked with Gary Cooper,

0:36:420:36:46

actually I never worked with any of the so-called

0:36:460:36:50

terrific male stars of the day.

0:36:500:36:53

See, we worked with people in our own studios.

0:36:530:36:56

Was there any part that you desperately wanted?

0:36:560:36:59

Yes, for many, many years I wanted to play Mary Lincoln.

0:36:590:37:02

And start her out early before the White House and go on,

0:37:020:37:08

but it never worked out.

0:37:080:37:10

Yes, I very much wanted to do that. You have to ask me about my book!

0:37:100:37:15

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:37:150:37:17

-Well, actually...

-You see, I know you are enormously popular in England

0:37:250:37:29

and I am thrilled to be on your show!

0:37:290:37:32

I came on this show to sell a book.

0:37:320:37:35

-I am in England to sell a book!

-Oh, I don't know!

0:37:350:37:38

We're glad to see you, whether you come to sell a book or not!

0:37:380:37:41

Yes, I am a saleswoman.

0:37:410:37:43

-I think they're probably...

-Selfridge and company bought my book

0:37:430:37:47

and I must say, I'm very proud of it.

0:37:470:37:49

A lot of the information,

0:37:490:37:52

obviously, now I am talking to you about the book,

0:37:520:37:54

-because it's a biography...

-No, no, this is not a biography.

0:37:540:37:58

-Isn't it?

-No, no, not all about my films. They're never mentioned.

0:37:580:38:01

-Don't they?

-No. This And That is exactly what it says.

0:38:010:38:06

This and that, odds and ends and odds and ends.

0:38:060:38:10

Now, in England they've added two words - "A Memoir".

0:38:100:38:14

Well, there are of course many, many memories,

0:38:140:38:17

but it's really not necessarily that,

0:38:170:38:21

but it's not autobiographal at all.

0:38:210:38:24

-But it's about you.

-It's just about things I think.

0:38:240:38:28

-And people you've met.

-And people I have met. Yes.

0:38:280:38:33

And we worked very hard on it and we're very thrilled. It was on

0:38:330:38:37

the New York Times best seller list for four months,

0:38:370:38:41

which is terrific.

0:38:410:38:43

So, we can sit here and say it's successful at home,

0:38:430:38:47

we hope it will be successful here.

0:38:470:38:50

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:38:500:38:53

I appreciate very much you gave me

0:39:010:39:04

this opportunity to talk about my book.

0:39:040:39:07

LAUGHTER

0:39:070:39:08

You had and still have a reputation, for being

0:39:080:39:11

a formidable lady, both to work with and indeed you had a one-woman

0:39:110:39:17

strike against the studios, didn't you, against Warner Brothers?

0:39:170:39:21

Yes, because I wanted good directors and good scripts.

0:39:210:39:24

And I signed for a film here in England

0:39:240:39:27

and Mr Warner took me to court and I lost here.

0:39:270:39:31

But in the long run, what do they say, I lost the...

0:39:330:39:37

-You lost the battle but won the war.

-..battle but I've won the war.

0:39:370:39:41

Yes. By the seriousness of my getting good films

0:39:410:39:44

which I was not getting and I knew I would never go anywhere

0:39:440:39:48

if I didn't have help with good scripts.

0:39:480:39:52

What gave you that drive?

0:39:520:39:53

Was it your mother, who I know was an enormous inspiration to you?

0:39:530:39:56

No, I was complaining constantly about my bosses,

0:39:590:40:03

the men who paid me

0:40:030:40:05

and I got sick of complaining

0:40:050:40:08

and I said you must, you must do something about it or just don't talk

0:40:080:40:13

about it, which is true, so that's what I did, hoping it would work out.

0:40:130:40:18

And you won the war.

0:40:180:40:20

And he had an option on Gone With The Wind

0:40:200:40:23

and the last visit with him in the office,

0:40:230:40:25

he said, "Oh, I, I..."

0:40:250:40:30

I said I was going on suspension, I was not going to work for a while.

0:40:300:40:35

He said, "I have optioned the most wonderful book for you.

0:40:350:40:41

"The title is Gone With The Wind",

0:40:420:40:45

and I looked at him and I said, I'll bet it's a pip!

0:40:450:40:50

And off I went

0:40:500:40:53

-and when I came back from England, it was a pip!

-It was a pip.

0:40:530:40:57

-It was a pip.

-But you can't win them all, for goodness sake.

-No.

0:40:570:41:00

What about a film of your life?

0:41:000:41:03

Oh, I hope never done while I'm here.

0:41:030:41:06

Who would you like to play the part?

0:41:060:41:07

Well, we'd have to do some searching!

0:41:090:41:14

LAUGHTER

0:41:140:41:16

I don't know.

0:41:160:41:17

I am very against these life stories on film with people alive.

0:41:170:41:22

I mean, for instance, I don't know who would play Ruthie, my mother.

0:41:220:41:27

No, it would kill me, it would really kill me.

0:41:270:41:30

I don't want it done and my life really and truly,

0:41:300:41:35

has basically been work.

0:41:350:41:38

And you...

0:41:380:41:40

There's not a lot else in my life but that.

0:41:400:41:43

And I think it would be extremely dull.

0:41:430:41:47

-I really do.

-You had three husbands.

0:41:480:41:51

I knew you were going to say that, I almost said it for you!

0:41:510:41:55

LAUGHTER

0:41:550:41:58

-Well, that wasn't...

-It wasn't an uneventful life!

0:41:580:42:01

-Well...

-Sorry, it ISN'T an uneventful life!

0:42:010:42:05

No, so, you find three men that are my three husbands and they're

0:42:050:42:09

nothing like the husbands were.

0:42:090:42:11

No, but I knew you'd say that, of course!

0:42:110:42:14

Well, I just hope it's never done.

0:42:160:42:20

While I'm around.

0:42:200:42:22

I hope you'll continue to delight us with your performances.

0:42:220:42:26

I do thank you for this, really and truly.

0:42:260:42:28

-It was a great pleasure.

-It's nice to meet you.

0:42:280:42:31

I believe, in former years,

0:42:310:42:33

we couldn't make time to be on your show, isn't that right?

0:42:330:42:36

-Yes.

-Yes, I remember now.

-So it's good to have you.

0:42:360:42:39

And you're incredibly attractive!

0:42:390:42:41

LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

0:42:410:42:43

Two years after this appearance, Davis died of breast cancer.

0:42:430:42:48

Her passing away made front page news across the world

0:42:480:42:52

and ended another chapter from the golden age of Hollywood.

0:42:520:42:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:100:43:13

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.


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