Bette Davis: #1 Classic Female Film Star

23 Mar

BETTE DAVIS

1908-1989

   They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.  The grand dame of Classic Hollywood has to go to Miss Bette Davis.  Known for her fiery temperament, blunt responses and of course incredible acting, who but Bette could be number 1 on my list?

Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born in 1908 and was a die hard Yankee till the day she died.  She started out in theatre and was discovered by Hollywood talent scouts.  When she first came to Hollywood in 1930, Universal Pictures signed her on and decided to make her a “glamor girl”.  Well, it didn’t work and after several bad pictures, Bette moved onto Warner Bros. and never looked back.

Davis’ first breakthrough film that put her on star status was 1934’s Of Human Bondage in which she played low-class, conniving waitress Mildred.  Excellent film, by the way!  My other favorite films of hers in the 3o’s are The Cabin in the Cotton  (1932) in which she famously said, “I would kiss ya, but I just washed my hair!”  Other favorites include 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932) with Spencer Tracy, The Petrified Forest (1936), That Certain Woman (1937), Jezebel (1938), The Sisters (1938), and The Old Maid (1939).

The 40s would definitely be the definitive decade of Bette’s film career. After winning two Oscars in the last decade, she could do no wrong.  All This and Heaven Too (1940), The Letter (1940), The Great Lie (1941), The Little Foxes (1941), The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942), Now, Voyager (1942), Old Acquaintance (1943), Mr. Skeffington (1944), The Corn is Green (1945) and A Stolen Life (1946) were a succession of hits with excellent casts and scripts.  Unfortunately Bette’s career hit a snag by the mid to late 40s and she was being handed mediocre parts.

“Fasten your seat belts, its going to be a bumpy night!” cried her character Margo in All About Eve (1950), the film that revived her career.  Following that, more hits such as Phone Call From a Stranger (1952), The Star (1952), The Virgin Queen (1955) and The Catered Affair (1956) but once again, Bette’s career hit another slump.

   Fortunately for Davis and her nemesis Joan Crawford, a little script called Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) came their way and the movie became their biggest hit in years.  It’s a cult classic and showcases Davis’ acting chops to the hilt.  She plays a mentally unstable woman who dresses in pigtails and creepy heavy makeup while torturing her wheelchair bound sister. This also brought about Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) another horror film, this time with Olivia de Haviland.

The 70s and early 80s were very good to Davis.  She made several made for TV films and even did the stage version of The Corn is Green in which the setting now took place in present day America with an all-black cast and she as the white teacher pushing her student for greatness.  Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979), White Mama in 1980 (an absolute favorite of mine, you can find it on YouTube), The Watcher in the Woods (1980), Right of Way (1983) are just a few of the many films she made at this time.

In 1984, Bette suffered a major stroke and the following year, another major blow: her daughter B.D. Hyman’s tell-all memoir My Mother’s Keeper. Bette was devastated since she and B.D. had been close for several years so they never spoke again.  Bette turned to writing herself and published a couple of books as well.  She also surprisingly kept acting for mostly TV and some film while also making several public appearances and interviews.  She passed away in 1989 and will be forever missed.  I wish I could have met her but I was too small to even know who the great Bette Davis was by the time she died.  Yes, Bette may have had her faults, but no one can deny: She was a damn good actress.

Classic Film Actresses Countdown #2-5

22 Mar

2.Barbara Stanwyck- Aww, Babs!  She almost ties with #1 on my list.  Always the fiery, spunky spitfire was Ms. Stanwyck.  She seemed to bring such a vivacious and thought-provoking side to her characters.  I first saw her in Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and I thought she was hilarious.  That’s the thing with Barbara- she could do both comedy and drama!  Now that’s an actress!  Like Crawford, she also had a tumultuous relationship with her adopted son but it probably points to the fact that she also had a tough childhood.  Nevertheless, her films speak for themselves.  In early pre-code film Baby Face (1933), she plays one of cinema’s first slutty office women.  You are required to see her in Stella Dallas (1937) which is a tearjerker about a mother’s sacrifices for her only child.  My other favorites: Remember the Night (1940), Meet John Doe (1941), Lady of Burlesque (1943), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Clash By Night (1952) and The Thorn Birds (1983).

3.Joan Crawford- Being as controversial as she is, I had to put her in my top three.  I must admit her acting is not my favorite and several of her movies are bombs BUT I find Ms. C very fascinating.  Mildred Pierce (1945) is her defining screen moment in which she deservedly won an Oscar for playing the mother who would do anything for her ungrateful daughter.  How ironic?  I mean, let’s not forget Mommie Dearest, her adopted daughter’s tell-all memoir that shattered Joan’s image forever.  Remember “NO WIRE HANGERS!” and the 1981 creepy, campy film starring Faye Dunaway?  I’ve read Christina’s book and I believe every word of it.  BUT Joan the actress however, was the epitome of a star no matter what.  Her few other shining films Sadie McKee (1934), This Modern Age (1931) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1961) are amazing.  As nutty as her personal life was, she was always the STAR!

4.Natalie Wood- I have been a huge fan since I saw her in Splendor in the Grass (1961).  I also played her role as Deanie in a play here in Hollywood a couple years ago so Natalie has a special place in my heart.  She’s also hilarious in The Great Race (1965) and heartbreaking in West Side Story (1961).  She died tragically in a drowning accident and I’ve always thought there was much more to the story than reported.  Natalie Wood was the “IT” girl of the ’60s.  She’s an icon in my eyes.

5.Elizabeth Taylor– She was the last of the old, glamorous Hollywood stars before she sadly passed last year.  I was devastated and my friend Shane and I went to visit her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Violet eyes and raven black hair, this beauty sizzled with all the handsome actors of her day from Monty Clift to James Dean and Paul Newman.  My faves of hers are Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), A Place in the Sun (1951) and especially Suddenly Last Summer (1959) where she plays tragic mental ward patient Catherine.  We love you Liz, eight marriages and all!

Honorable Mentions: Janet Leigh, Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Grace Kelly

 

*Check out my MARCH 16 & 20 BLOGS FOR #11-15 AND #6-10 COUNTDOWNS!*

Headshot Photographer Search Part 1

21 Mar

So I am in the process of getting new headshots and I need to find a great photographer who will not only capture my type and essences, but also has extremely high quality looking shots.  I searched all over from my image consultant teacher’s website to Backstage Magazine to LA Casting’s photographer page and referrals from other actors.

I am a huge fan of one casting director’s blog where she goes into great detail of how to create great headshots. And what makes a great headshot and what doesn’t.  I used her advice and the advice of several other industry insiders in my search for photographers with the gift of showcasing actors to their best.

Anyway, fortunately I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5 choices so the next step is meeting with each photographer to get a feel for their work and who they are.

Day 1- (Friday, March 16) I met with a big name photographer whose studio is in Hollywood.  He was voted one of the best headshot photographers in L.A. by Backstage’s West Readers poll the last couple of years.  He was extremely open and warm and likes for actors to experiment in their shoots.  He’s a big fan of actors hiring their own personal make-up/hair artist.  I told him I’ve had bad experiences in the past with bad make-up artists ruining my pictures.  He also did a little bit of name dropping which is kinda annoying.  I wasn’t blown away but he’s only my first interview. Nonetheless, he shoots a lot of women with my skin tone so that was good.

Day 2- (Saturday, March 17) I met with another photographer who was referred to me by my on-camera teacher and fellow actor Jamison Haase.  Her studio is located in Sherman Oaks and it is a really cute place.  I really loved this photographer-she was so real and sincere about helping actors.  Unlike a lot of photographers in LA who will remain nameless, she is not all about the money.  I was only supposed to be there 20 minutes and wound up leaving and hour and a half later.  We went through her work and she told me her actors success stories after taking her shots.  She also went into detail how each photo showcased their type.

Stay tuned for updates!!

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20 Mar

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Classic Stars Countdown Cont’d. 6-10

20 Mar

This is part two in my favorite actresses of the Golden Era countdown.  You can check out #11-15 from my post on March 16th.

6.Audrey Hepburn– Who doesn’t love Holly Golightly?  I was first introduced to Audrey and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) when I was 12 and flipping channels.  I fell in love with that movie.  Right after, I tuned into My Fair Lady (1964) and several years later The Children’s Hour (1961).  Audrey could do no wrong in my eyes!    I plan on seeing Sabrina and Funny Face very soon.

7.Katherine Hepburn– I LOVED this woman when I was a little kid because she played Jo March in Little Women (1933), Rose Sayer in The African Queen (1951) and Christina Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).  As I got older, I discovered other actresses and their films but rediscovered my love for Kate’s work when I saw her in Alice Adams (1935).  I think the latter is her best role to date.

8.Jean Harlow– America’s FIRST blonde bombshell before Marilyn.  Jean is such a lovable sweetheart in all her films.  I love her personality and fun loving attitude.  Sadly she passed away from health problems at only 26 but her films will never die.  Dinner at Eight (1933), The Girl From Missouri (1934), Platinum Blonde (1931) and Bombshell (1933) are my personal favorites.

9.Marilyn Monroe– Well I don’t have to say much about this lady.  Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe because this woman knew how to sustain an IMAGE.  Sadly deceased since 1962, the media makes modern day society feel as though she is still with us.  Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) is my all-time favorite MM film because it goes against her normal sexpot type.  She plays a deranged babysitter out to kill.  If you don’t know her other films, don’t worry you can find ’em anywhere.

10.Lana Turner– As the old Hollywood fable goes, Lana was discovered in a drugstore/soda shop across the street from Hollywood High when a talent agent stumbled upon her and sign her a contract with MGM.  Ever since then and to this day, wannabe actors have flocked to L.A. to get “discovered” themselves.  Thanks, Lana! (sarcasm, j/k!)  My all-time favorite of hers: Imitation of Life (1959) about two mothers’ struggling relationships with their daughters.  Peyton Place (1957), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and the steamy The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), in which she plots to murder her husband are all must-sees!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Clara Bow, Jane Fonda, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Fontaine, Greer Garson, Mae West, Veronica Lake

Weekend Wrap-Up

19 Mar

So Friday was day 1 of my headshot photographer search.  He’s in Hollywood and I went to visit the studio and get to know him.  I’m writing a series on my research in finding the right photographer.  More to come!

Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and was probably the best one I ever had.  First I had another casting director workshop that morning with a head casting director from a huge primetime crime show on CBS.  He loved my read and had nothing but positive things to say.  I really hope he calls me in.  Since it was St. Patty’s Day, I had on my green.  I told him it must’ve been my lucky shirt.  Everyone laughed hysterically. Saturday was also day 2 of my photographer search and I met a lovely lady in Sherman Oaks.  Her personality was awesome and I we got along really well.  But that night was the end all.  I met up with a fellow actor guy friend of mine at Happy Ending bar in Hollywood.  He had a group of friends who were cool and the place was packed.  We had SO MUCH FUN I can’t even tell you.

I hope everyone else had a safe and fun weekend as well.  xo

Top Golden Age Actresses Ranked 11-15

16 Mar

Well if you’ve been reading my blog the last few months, you probably noticed I love and am obsessed with old movies!  I record movies on Turner Classic Movies weekly and I was ecstatic to see The Artist win best picture at the Oscars this year.  I’ve read tons of biographies on stars from Dorothy Dandridge to Natalie Wood and Jean Harlow.  They just don’t make movies like those anymore.  I’ve compiled a list of my top 15 Female Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age countdown.  So check in every day to see who ranks on my list!

#11-#15

11. Carole Lombard– I saw my first Lombard films just last August during TCM’s Summer Under the Stars.  I was injured and held up in my bed all day so I got a chance to see this woman’s talent in a 24 hour marathon.  What a treat!  From My Man Godfrey (1936) to my personal favorite, Virtue (1932) this star shines!  She died in a plane crash sadly at only 33 years old.

12. June Allyson– Aww, June.  I loved her when I was a little bitty thing in my early years of watching classic movies.  Little Women (1949), Good News (1949) and Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) are films I treasure from my childhood.

13. Norma Shearer– She became a huge star during the Silent Era.  She and Joan Crawford despised each other because Crawford was jealous of MGM’s favoritism of Norma since she was married to studio exec Irving Thalberg.  “The Women” (1939) is one of the best movies of all-time and I especially love her early talkie “Let Us Be Gay” in 1930.  The latter film showcases women’s lib, before there was ever a term.  Norma’s husband leaves her for another and instead of living a depressed life, she gains strength and security in herself.

14. Loretta Young– While I’m not a fan of her as a person, fellow Catholic Loretta Young got knocked up with Clark Gable’s baby in the early 30s and “adopted” her daughter to hide the story from the press.  She refused to admit the truth until her autobiography was published after her death.  Nonetheless, she’s great in The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and especially in early pre-code film Man’s Castle (1933) with Spencer Tracy.  Quite a beauty in her younger years.

15. Miriam Hopkins– Ms. Hopkins’ heyday was in the 30’s when she rivaled Bette Davis because of Davis’ affair with her director husband Anatole Litvak.  Her acting is sometimes over the top, but she’s wonderful as tortured prostitute Ivy in Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde (1931) and flighty actress Aunt Lily in The Children’s Hour (1961).

Honorable Mentions: Judy Garland, Doris Day, Olivia de Haviland, Vivian Leigh, Myrna Loy, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman