Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bette Davis postscript

Some people are better on screen than in real life. Bette Davis may be one of those people. Rex Reed reviews Ed Sikov's Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis. It makes me not want to read any more about her. My memories of her acting persona are better than reality. Maybe that's the best way to remember actors. She's one of the few actors to make a Southern accent sound natural.

Sikov's accurate descriptions of her daunting final days evoke the central piece of the Bette Davis puzzle: the self-imposed loneliness that comes with hard-earned iconoclasm. Instead of becoming pensive and generous, she grew strident, paranoid and desperate. She had stayed too long at the fair and couldn't find the exit, so she spent a lot of time in a rage, guzzling alcohol, writing nasty letters and slamming the door on old friends. She was still awesome, but also frightening - and pathetic.

Sikov sums her up as "a warrior to the end". But I'll stick with Ann Sothern, who, at the time of Davis's death, said, "Bette, rest in peace - and honey, wherever you are, lighten up."

H/T Arts & Letters Daily

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