Sunday, November 9, 2014

Twice a Best Actress: Bette Davis

Bette Davis has a complex history with the Academy. But unlike her Oscar rival, Katharine Hepburn, who never showed up any of the times she won and generally seemed uninterested in them, Davis was very vocal about how much the award meant to her. She even claimed that she was the one that gave the statue its nickname of Oscar, naming the little bald gold man for her then husband's middle name. (The Academy denies that her story is true.) She was the first performer to garner 10 acting nominations (only Streep, Nicholson, and Hepburn have surpassed her in nominations) and unofficially has 11 nominations thanks to her write-in vote in 1934. Unlike most stars that claim it's an honor just to be nominated, Davis made it known that winning was very important to her. She was disappointed that Luise Rainer beat her by a year to become the first actor to win two awards and even more disappointed that she wasn't able to become the first to win three. Despite amazing work in Now, Voyager, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and perhaps her most famous role in All About Eve (a best actress lineup so impressive that not only was Davis unable to win that year, but Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond lost as well) somehow that elusive third Oscar never came. And of the two she did one, she didn't feel she deserved one of them. We're looking closely at those films that won her the award, Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938), for this week's edition of our blogger roundtable discussion of Twice a Best Actress from Fisti at A Fistful of Films. Make sure to read everyone's take on her work here. And let us know your thoughts on this Hollywood legend.

Bette Davis

Best Actress 1935

Elisabeth Bergner Escape Me Never
Claudette Colbert Private Worlds
Bette Davis Dangerous
Katharine Hepburn Alice Adams*
Miriam Hopkins Becky Sharp
Merle Oberon The Dark Angel

My thoughts on Davis as Joyce Heath in Dangerous: "...the film continually lets Davis down as it allows her to indulge in her worst theatrical instincts..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) C-

Best Actress 1938

Fay Bainter White Banners
Bette Davis Jezebel*
Wendy Hiller Pygmalion
Norma Shearer Marie Antoinette
Margaret Sullavan Three Comrades

My thoughts on Davis as Julie Marsden in Jezebel: "I was immediately impressed by how modern Davis is in it, using subtlety and stillness..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) B+

*My Choice for Best Actress winner, however I haven't seen Norma Shearer in "Marie Antoinette" which I'm told is a worthy winner. And I just want to mention Fay Bainter who became the first person to receive 2 acting nominations in the same year, winning supporting for her work as Julie's Aunt Belle in "Jezebel".

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