Happy birthday, Bette Davis
Thanks, Roger Ebert, for reminding me that today is the birthday of a real actress -- one of the most amazing talents to ever grace the silver screen. A talent who makes the likes of Jennifer Aniston look like amateur hour and is indeed the stuff of which Hollywood legends are made.
I'm talking about one of my favorite actresses of all time: Bette Davis. And, although she passed away over 20 years ago, her movies are still required viewing -- at least in my house. In honor of what would have been her 102nd birthday, I offer my top five favorite Davis films:
1. "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"
By the time Davis took on the role of an aged vaudeville child star with murderous tendencies, she was herself already considered over-the-hill by Hollywood standards. But rather than turn to the Botox of her era, Davis gamely transformed herself into a grotesque overgrown spoiled brat and ended up with an Academy Award nomination. Truly remarkable performance perfectly counter-balanced by Joan Crawford as Jane's long-suffering sister/victim.
2. "All About Eve"
Ego-centric actresses, backstabbing, greasy gossip columnists -- what's not to like? Again, Davis portrays an aging actress but this time she faces off against the unscrupulously ambitious Anne Baxter who does her best to steal Davis's thunder. Silly girl. Look for a cameo from a young Marilyn Monroe. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night:
3. "Now, Voyager"
In one of Davis's rarer sympathetic turns, she plays an introverted Boston spinster who escapes her mother's domineering grasp to find romance. Along the way she trades chaste collars for designer gowns. And while the ending is happy-ish, it's not story book. And that's kind of refreshing.
4. "The Petrified Forest"
A super-young Davis holds her own with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart in this dialogue heavy (it was adapted from a Broadway play) movie about gangsters who invade a sleepy desert inn while on the run from cops.
5. "Return from Witch Mountain"
That's right -- I'm including this schlocky Disney offering in which Davis plays an evil spinster who, along with an equally rotten brother played by Christopher Lee, attempt to brainwash good little Tony and Tia into committing crimes. It's B-movie fare, but Davis deserves total props for vamping through the film like some unholy skeleton sucking down cigarettes.
Agree, disagree? Share your thoughts about Davis and her career below...
| April 5, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
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