Ruth Elizabeth Davis, popularly known as Bette Davis, was born on April 5, 1908, and began her acting career in 1929. Davis — who was known to play unsympathetic and sardonic roles — had a career that spanned five decades and credits in over 100 films. Her talent was versatile as she featured in diverse genres of film ranging from comedy to horror, crime to historical films, and even romance. Davis was the belle of the “Acting Ball,” and her talent is worth celebrating, especially on her special day!
Ruth Elizabeth Davis
April 5, 1908
October 6, 1989 (age 81)
Ruth Elizabeth Davis, popularly known as Bette Davis, was and still is a recognized name in the film industry. Past generations wanted to be as good as her, present generations draw inspiration from her, and future generations will still revere her, all because of her ageless talent. Born on April 5, 1908, in Lowel, Massachusetts, Davis was the daughter of Harlow Morell Davis and Ruth Augusta. Davis was an Aries and of English, Scottish, and Welsh Ancestry. Her parents separated in 1915, and she was placed in a boarding school. She later moved to New York with her mother in 1921 and changed the spelling of her name to ‘Bette’ — after Bette Fischer.
Davis was inspired to go into acting and started auditioning for roles. She landed her first paying gig for “George Cukor’s Theater Company” in New York — playing a Broadway chorus girl. By 1929, Davis landed her first professional role in “The Wild Duck” as Hedwig. She made her Broadway debut the same year in “Broken Dishes.” Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930, when she was 22 years old, for a screen test, but she failed. However, in 1931 she made her film debut in “Bad Sister.” Davis’ contract was terminated in 1932 after she had appeared in six failed films. She was about to move back to New York when she landed her big break in the 1932 film, “The Man Who Played God.” After this film, she received a five-year contract for Warner Bros.
Davis’ initial critical recognition came in 1934 when she played Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage.” The film was a success, and in 1953 Davis won her first Academy Award for “Dangerous.” A legal case against Warner Bros. and scores of films later, Davis eventually won her second Academy Award in 1938 for “Jezebel.” She went on to star in multiple high-grossing films including: “The Corn is Green” (1945), “A Stolen Life” (1946), and several others, earning her the title of the highest-paid woman in the United States. Davis had a fruitful five-decade-long career, and in 1987 she completed her penultimate role in “The Whales of August” on Broadway. Davis survived breast cancer but suffered four strokes and paralysis. On October 6, 1989, she passed away. During her lifetime, Davis married four times and was widowed once. She left behind three children and several grandchildren.
Blanche Yurka selects Davis to play Hedwig in “The Wild Duck.”
After a string of screen tests, Davis lands her debut role in “Bad Sister.”
Davis lands her big break as the female lead in “The Man Who Played God.”
Davis wins the award for ‘Best Actress’ for her role in “Dangerous.”
Davis appears in the box-office hit, “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,” which became the only color film made at the peak of her career.
After a five-decade career, Davis becomes the first woman recipient of the American Film Institute Award.
Why We Love Bette Davis
She was a pioneer
Asides from being a pioneer in her craft, Davis was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She served well before tendering her resignation.
She was an adept actress
Davis played role after role until she perfected her craft and became Hollywood’s highest-paid actress. Her characters are still iconic to this day.
She was an entrepreneur
From establishing “The Hollywood Canteen'' for which she received the distinguished civilian service medal to creating her own production company, BD Productions, Davis was a go-getter. She was a hard-working serial entrepreneur.
5 Surprising Facts
Peg Entwistle inspired her
Davis saw “The Wild Duck” with actress Peg Entwistle and decided to go into Theater.
She had several abortions
Davis had multiple abortions during her first marriage to Harmon Oscar.
She smoked 100 cigarettes a day
Davis was an avid smoker who consumed over 100 cigarettes daily in her later life.
She once shaved her hairline and eyebrows
Actors do some crazy things to portray the characters they play — for Davis, it was shaving her eyebrows and hairline for the role of Elizabeth I of England.
She opened a club
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Davis opened a club, “The Hollywood Canteen,” to entertain servicemen with Cary Grant, Jule Styne, and Warner.
Bette Davis FAQs
Did Bette Davis have an affair?
Davis had an affair with Howard Hughes when she was still married to Nelson.
What was Bette Davis’ last husband’s name?
Gary Merrill was her last husband’s name.
What is so special about Bette Davis’ eyes?
Davis’ eyes were bold and beautiful, but they could’ve been indicative of Graves’ disease.
Bette Davis’s birthday dates