THE 68-YEAR-OLD SCREEN LEGEND TALKS ABOUT LIFE IN AND OUT OF HOLLYWOOD.
Byline: Nancy Collins, October 1976
It’s all the new actors. They simply have no responsibility to their lines. Christ, in all those 100 years I worked, we were always responsible for our lines or we’d be murdered. If you are a pro, you are always prepared when you arrive. And I was prepared. I was too scared not to be.
“You know a star can wreck a set, my dear. And, funnily enough, with all my reputation, I never blew on a set. NEVAH….”
“Basically, I’m this big hausfrau-type woman. If I have my own kitchen, flowers and a fireplace, I’m happy….”
“I didn’t work with any big male stars. Female stars didn’t in those days. We were meant to carry the picture by ourselves. It was the woman’s era in pictures mainly because the industry made mostly romances. Which is what people wanted to see then and what they still want to see, only Hollywood can’t seem to understand that now.
“After the war, of course, movies became consumed with the problems of men. And they’re still writing men’s problems. Of course, men do have enormous problems today, I must admit….”
“My dear, it is nevah, nevah, nevah going to be a woman’s world. It’s always going to be a man’s world. It’s always going to be a man’s world or else men are going to be miserable. Men always have to feel they are winning — whether it’s a director or a husband you’re talking about — or else they cannot take it. And believe me, I speak from a lot of experience….”
“I look at my old films and think I was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. Age gives you that kind of wonderful perspective. But then, I never wanted to be a glamorous woman — a romantic lead. I wanted to play interesting women.”
Then what made Bette Davis, Bette Davis?
“Drive and guts. It took a lot of guts,” Davis answered unhesitatingly. “You see, my dear, if you want something, you must always work. And I was always a worker. I owe nobody anything except my own sweat.
“A good part of my drive came because I was always the breadwinner. I never, for instance, took alimony from one of my husbands and, in one instance, I paid him alimony.”
Does Davis feel that perhaps she married men who were weaker than she?
“Of course,” she snaps. “All famous women do that. We don’t want to be on the run — at least regarding our career. I was always desirous of being a good wife, and I think I was. But I just didn’t have the energy for both.
“The man, my dear, is never going to make a marriage work. If it works, the woman does it. I’ve always thought sex was God’s biggest joke on human beings. If that urge gets to you, you don’t know a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g until it’s over and then you look at what you’ve got beside you on the pillow and say, MY GAWD, I don’t believe what I’ve ended up with….”
“If I were just starting out now, I would never go into acting. I would have been an analyst or a criminal lawyer. I think I would have been a smashing criminal lawyer.
“Every executive who first looked at me had the same comment: ‘What man is going to want to end up with her at the end of a movie?’ They had no idea what to do with a face like mine.
“My dear, I have no era. I was acting ‘back then,’ before ‘back then,’ and I am acting now. My era will end the day they put me in the grave. And even then I will still have learned all of the lines for my funeral before they take me away.”