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Bette Davis

Died when: 81 years 184 days
Star Sign: Aries

 

Bette Davis Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (; April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television and theater. With a career spanning 60 years and 100 acting credits, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. She was the first person to garner 10 acting Academy Award nominations. After appearing in Broadway plays, the 22-year old Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930. After some unsuccessful films, she had her critical breakthrough playing a vulgar waitress in Of Human Bondage (1934), although, contentiously, she was not among the three nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress that year. The next year, her strong performance as a down-and-out actress in Dangerous (1935) did land her her first Best Actress nomination, and she won the award. In 1937, she tried to free herself from her contract with Warner Brothers; although she lost the legal case, it marked the start of more than a decade as one of the most celebrated leading ladies of US cinema, known for her forceful and intense style. Her portrayal of a strong-willed 1850s southern belle in Jezebel (1938) won her a second Academy Award for Best Actress and was the first of five consecutive years she received a nomination. The others were for Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941) and Now, Voyager (1942). Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative and confrontational with studio executives and film directors as well as with her co-stars. Her forthright manner, idiosyncratic speech, and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona that has been often imitated. She is perhaps most known for her role as a Broadway star in All About Eve (1950), a Best Picture Academy Award winner, for which she received another Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her last Oscar nomination was for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) also starring her rival Joan Crawford. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite a long period of ill health she continued acting in film or on television until shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1989. She admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships, as she married four times, divorced three times, raised her children as a single parent and had a daughter, B.D. Hyman, who wrote the tell-all book My Mother's Keeper. Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, a club venue for food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen during World War II, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In 1999, Davis placed second behind Katharine Hepburn on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female stars of the Classic Hollywood cinema era.
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