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Bette Davis Accepts the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1977



at the beginning of my career 48 years ago how could I have possibly imagined I would be standing here tonight the recipient of such fabulous compliments for my work I am truly overcome the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award is to me the frosting on the cake of my career this is a treasured evening that will always be in my heart I thank all of you who came here to talk about me tonight in 1926 there was a young girl from Lowell Massachusetts who had a dream she wanted to become an actress her name was Ruth Elizabeth Davis commonly known as Betty she was not beautiful she was not tall and willowy she had a tiny high-pitched voice that would not have been heard beyond the first row in any theater but she did have drive and ambition she did not know whether she had talent or not she had a great champion who worked in slaved for many years to help her dream come true without this great champions belief in her there never would have been the great success she finally attained the champions name was Ruth favored Davis she was her mother how her eyes would have sparkled if she have been here tonight in this room tonight many associates who have helped me along the way I am grateful to all of you collectively there are four people however I am eternally in debt to first George Alice who cast me in my first Warner film the man who played God because of this film I was signed to a contract at Warner Brothers which lasted 18 years in spite of some quotes from mr. Warner Remis Minnelli we really in the long run respected each other I think he finally did respect me he said so once anyway I am truly indebted to Jack Warner who during all the years gave me the opportunity to have a successful career he was my professional father I had known I was often and obstreperous daughter but he was often an obstreperous father next I am indebted to Hal Wallis who is head of production under Jack Warner I thank him for the unbelievable opportunities he gave me as an actress by buying great novels and plays having scripts written for me my debt to William Wyler is enormous he was the first great director I had worked with because of his direction of me and his direction of the film I for the first time became a box-office star I often said at that time if Willie asked me to jump in the Hudson River I would have and I would have Willie Charles Lord a businesses I was set when we were making the private lives of Elizabeth and Essex I said to him I have my nerve attempting to play Elizabeth the first to say nothing of the fact I am only 30 years old and in the description 60 he said never not dare to hang yourself one must always attempt the impossible if one is to grow as an artist I am proud I have been privileged to join the ranks of my four predecessors John Ford Orson Welles James Cagney and William Wyler I will take second billing to any of them any time I'm sure like me all of them had dreams that obviously came true as I say good night I would like to quote my favorite line from all the pictures I have made I'd love to kiss you but I just washed my hair you

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Comments
  • Love her so much. The greatest actress of all time. No one can ever touch her. Amazing talent . Will never be forgotten.

  • After 1945 she became pure ham. By the time she received this award she was an unemployed alcoholic. The last ten years of her life she was going on T.V. telling lies about her past co-stars just so she could get some attention. She was a tragic figure. Hollywood pittied her. Read the biography on her written by Barbara Leaming.

  • A LEGEND. Bette Davis the greatest actrees in Hollywood's history and in the world along with Katharine Hepburn. Of human bondage, Dangerous, Jezebel, The letter, The little foxes, Now Voyager, All about Eve, What ever happened to Baby Jane?

  • I have heard that my favorite of her films was also hers. Mr. Skeffington. An incredible character study of vanity with a twist at the end worth of O'Henry.Major tear-jerker

  • What a beautiful lady. I was reading a book when Bette was almost Scarlett O Hara in “ Gone With The Wind “. They did not give her the role because she was not that beautiful enough that Vivien Liegh was perfection. First of all how dare you say that Bette Davis was not pretty!? I think that Bette was prettier than Vivien Liegh. We should have more actresses like Bette Davis and was an actress with such emotion. Bette Davis was an astonishing actress ahead of her time.

  • It's Miss Davis's command of language, Patrician phrasing, voice projection, clear and precise enunciation, emphasis on key signifiers and lilt, the killer staccato and punctured delivery, the raspiness caused by smoking and even the steely timbre of her voice well before the heavy smoking had any real effect… all of this weaponry within her canon of work, plus the underrated and understudied magic of "affect" and "affectation" (which is one of the great tools of a dramatic actor or actress). Bette Davis was THE great mannerist par excellence in modern times. Far better than any postmodern or neo-mannerist painter even. Her performances contain the aristocratic agency of mannerism within them. Watch the way she uses pause, or turns around at just the right moment, the way she flashes those saucer-like google eyes, or darts the eyeballs to the side, always at precisely the right moment. This is mannerism. A now forgotten art form which appeared in European art around 1520 and lasted until the end of the 16th century. However, art is a continuous phenomenon – not discontinuous – it is revived and reworked by other artists in later times in various formats and genres – and Bette Davis and other great actors of her generation developed this Italianate style and gave it life in the motion picture arts in Hollywood – which also owes a great deal to this late High Renaissance art form and to Græco-Roman artificiality in wet plasterwork, terracotta pottery, bas relief and the dramatic arts before that. These days we favour a more naturalistic acting style, more in keeping in the line of descent of the early phase Renaissance masters (Da Vinci, Michaelangelo) but Davisian mannerism has all the elements of a Bronzino Painting, or Cellini sculpture. It frightens us… no!! terrifies us by the slow burn of the artificial stare. The Davisian stare is Medusean in scale and penetrates the viewer viscerally. A Davis mannerist performance is intellectually sophisticated and favours a counterbalance of compositional tension (those fabulous staircase scenes in All About Eve, for example), and artificial elegance (the shoot out on the porch in The Letter). Modern day mannerists like Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep have tried to imitate the style ad infinitem, but I have not seen it used anywhere so "affectedly" and economically as when Davis uploads it like a Master painter onto the canvas of the silver screen.

  • She was and will always be a legend and superstar! God broke the mold when He created her. She was one of the only two female Actresses in the late 1940’s to carry a film on her name alone. The other was Judy Garland! Bette Davis was the greatest dramatic Actress in the history of movies. In my opinion, she surpassed even Katharine Hepburn. Garland was and still is The Greatest singer and Entertainer that God ever put on this Earth.

  • she had a great mom who supported her crazy dream! good! like steven spielberg's mom who took her son out in the desert to make little films, etc.

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