Stars of the Sil­ver Screen: Bette Davis

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Thurs­day, 8.30pm, Stu­dio ‘‘ Fas­ten your seat­belts, it’s go­ing to be a bumpy night,’’ says Bette Davis, as Margo Chan­ning, in All About Eve. It’s a per­fect quote to be­gin this se­ries of rem­i­nis­cences about Davis, surely one of cinema’s all-time greats. There was never any­thing easy about work­ing with the ac­tress, and she drove many of her co-stars and di­rec­tors up the wall. On the sub­ject of Davis’s un­spec­tac­u­lar looks, his­tor­i­cal nov­el­ist Sarah Grist­wood tells us that when Bette and her mother ar­rived in Hol­ly­wood, the tal­ent scout sent to col­lect them drove away again be­cause there was no one there who looked like a movie star. Derek Mal­colm, cu­ri­ously Grist­wood’s hus­band and a film critic for The Lon­don Evening Stan­dard, says she was first ac­cepted in Hol­ly­wood as an ac­tress rather than a star, and so was given char­ac­ter parts. There are bet­ter, more per­sonal biopics about Davis’s life and times, such as 1994’s If Looks Could Kill. But this is all about her ca­reer. There are fas­ci­nat­ing de­tails about Davis’s end­less quest for con­trol, in­clud­ing a mas­sive court case with Warner Bros. Clev­erly, in­ci­dents in her pro­fes­sional life are in­ter­cut with amaz­ingly per­ti­nent clips from her films.

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