Intro

I love movies. I have loved movies all my life. I grew up on them. When I was eight years old, I managed to convince myself I would make movies when I grew up. Now I am in the process of getting a degree in Film Studies. I write about film more than ever before, partly because I have to for my classes, mostly because I enjoy it, because I have something to write about. Sometimes it helps me understand the film better; sometimes it helps me understand myself better.
I created this blog as a place to showcase my work, and also as an incentive to keep writing reviews, analyses, and essays over breaks, when there’s no one here to grade me.
I have tried many times, and failed, to explain in a coherent manner why it is that I love films. Here is my best—and most coherent—guess.





Friday, August 9, 2013

All About Bette


“Woman, sir, is a chalice,” a male character says in Jezebel (1938), “a frail, delicate chalice to be cherished and protected.” He’s clearly never met Bette Davis. The scathing gaze radiating from flashing eyes that betray an obvious intelligence and brilliant flamboyance, the deep, scalding voice, the arrogance, toughness, and brittle aggressiveness, no, Bette Davis was no frail and delicate chalice. One of the greatest and most daring female stars of classical Hollywood cinema, an icon and a powerful woman on and off the screen, Bette Davis transcended the limitations of her sexual identity in films as diverse as William Wyler’s Jezebel and The Little Foxes (1940), Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), and Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Never a traditional beauty, she thrived because of  her attitude, her mastery of movement and emotional detail, her personal style, forcefulness and willingness to be disliked and to tap into her vast neurotic potential. Hers is a world of sumptuous glamor and tempestuous emotionalism: the savage lavishness of the Old South, the intellectual New York theater milieu of high class premieres and awards parties, and, finally, Hollywood wealth and decadence decayed into a perverse and outrageous travesty.

In Jezebel, Davis plays Julie Marsden, a rich belle in antebellum New Orleans. Julie exercises the largest possible freedom within a rigidly structured society that allows women no other career than that of coquette. Feminine and flirtatious, Davis looks the part, but her character is too ambitious and intelligent for the docile role society has deemed her worthy of. She values the predominance of her own will more than love and marriage, more than society, indeed, it seems, more than anything. In long tracking shots, the camera swaying, swooping, gliding, dollying, and craning in an unbroken continuity, we see the environment she inhabits; 1852 New Orleans is bustling with activity, and the bourgeoisie is on display, in top hats and carrying canes, discussing purebreds and society balls.  There is something both noble and savagely inadequate about Wyler’s South, and Julie is a reflection and a product of her surroundings; she is “quick and dangerous” like the South itself or, in Amy’s (Margaret Lindsay) words, “strange and beautiful - and a little frightening... because of its strangeness and beauty, I suppose.” The film revolves around Julie; all other characters are drawn to or shy away from her, and it is before her arrivals and after her departures that they fuss and flutter.  Like so many Davis heroines, Julie is admirable and dislikeable in equal measure, and just a bit crazy.

From the first time we see her, we can tell she is different from all the other girls, who she can tell are “just pretty and narrow-minded.” Late to her own party—she “never was on time for anything in her life”—she rides in on a rowdy horse. If he’s scared of the horse biting, she tells the stable boy, “you just plain bite him back,” and it’s not farfetched to imagine she actually would. Flying in the face of convention when she decides to go in still dressed in her riding clothes anticipates her future, more serious sartorial mishap. The outfit suggests dynamism, athleticism, and independence—all improper attributes for a lady. Julie’s fiancée is Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda), a gentle, “business before pleasure” banker who puts up with many of her shenanigans. “Don’t you fret about Pres,” Julie tells Aunt Belle, “I’ve been training him for years,” but he will prove to be less yielding than the horse and not as likely to accept her biting him back. Pre-war Southern society is portrayed as staunchly paternalistic, a world in which women must be kept in check and accept, even appreciate their limitations. A generation ago, we’re told, a man “would have cut him a hickory and he’d have flailed the living daylights out of [a woman like Julie] and then help put lard on her welts and bought her a diamond broach (…) And she’d have loved it.”

Upset because Pres refuses to go with her to the dressmaker’s for her last fitting before the Olympus Ball, Julie decide to change her virginal, pure white dress for a fiery red, knowing exactly the kind of uproar it would cause at an event in which unmarried women traditionally wear white. “Saucy, isn’t it?” she asks, and when her aunt’s response is “and vulgar,” she smiles triumphantly, as if that had been the greatest compliment: “yes, isn’t it?” She insists the times are changing and “girls don't have to simp around in white just because they’re not married.”

When Preston finally sees the dress and is outraged, she challenges him, revolting against being treated like a child, although she may act like one. Asking if he’s concerned she might be mistaken for a prostitute, she quickly corrects herself, “I forgot I’m a child. I shouldn’t know about the girls on Gallatan Street. I’m just supposed to flutter around in white.” Her act of resistance, although it seems trivial, has immediate and negative consequences; in antebellum New Orleans—as well as in thirties Hollywood—a woman has to pay for her vanity. The scene at the ball is almost too painful to watch, as all the other guests move away from her and stare in silence, and point of view shots make us feel firsthand what Julie felt in her act of defiance and disgrace when scandalized couples backed away from her on the dance floor. The same night she has been humiliated, she loses her fiancé, who cannot forgive her, first of all, for tarnishing his reputation and offers not a word of solace after refusing to allow Julie to leave the party. As Preston leaves, her face is for the first time shot in darkness, and although she might say he’ll come back, she knows as well as the audience that won’t happen this time.

One year later, she spends all day tending the house and faithfully awaiting his return from the North. Instead of accusing him of being cruel she blames herself, thinking she had been “vicious” and “selfish” and preparing to beg his forgiveness. Dressed in the white gown she refused to wear for the ball, she is not only pure, but also innocent and vulnerable. Not knowing he has married another woman, she kneels on the floor to apologize, reaching her lowest point in the film. Through the placement of the actors within the frame, Wyler makes it clear he passes no judgment on her when  she kisses a married man, but when she begs for forgiveness she is placed so low as to almost fall off the edge of the screen as Preston towers above. When she realizes he is married and decides to win him back, the camera captures her in a low angle shot that demonstrates the director respects her for her immense strength and resolution. “To think I want to be wept over,” Julie rebuffs her aunt; “I need to think, to plan, to fight.” “But you can’t fight marriage,” the older woman insists. “Marriage?” she questions, the word in italics, “to that washed out little Yankee? Pres is mine; he’s always been mine, and if I can’t have him…”

Charming and feminine, what Molly Haskell would call a “superfemale,” Julie flirts with and pits two men against each other: Preston, enlightened by his trip to the North, and Buck Cantrell (George Brent), a Southern gentleman through and through, old-fashioned, “course and loud,” but with a deeply ingrained code of honor and morality. When Buck battles it out with Ted (Richard Cromwell) over some heated words, Julie, despite all her flowery femininity, regrets the prerogatives only ascribed to men: “Sometimes I envy them… To face the one you hate, to kill or be killed, to settle something, we can’t do that, women.” Because she is a woman, and because she has sinned, she must, in the heavily contrived end, make herself “clean again the way [Amy] is clean.” For this, she must make the ultimate sacrifice, accompanying the sick Preston to the condemned Lazarette Island, ensuring herself almost certain death. In the last scene, a low angle profile shot, she is completely redeemed, an almost divine image of altruism and martyrdom. In becoming selfless, however, Julie loses her self—the defining characteristics and flaws of her individualism. In the profile shot, she is neither facing us nor the hellish fire that burns in the background, transcending her individuality, her environment and all the suffering that comes with it, and becoming neither something less nor something more than what she was, but something else entirely: she is no longer a person but a symbol; her viewpoint is not singular but becomes plural, a representation of all women who, like Jezebel, “did evil in the sight of God” and must repent.

“Well I reckon princesses, they just naturally grows up to be queens, that’s all,” Cato says about Julie in Jezebel, and playing the appropriately named Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes, Davis is just that—a Southern queen bee with one hell of a sting. Her third collaboration with Wyler after Jezebel and The Letter (1940), this grim and malignant melodrama, shot by cinematographer Gregg Toland in sharp focus and hard, realistic textures, centers on a trio of revoltingly greedy siblings, and Regina, as the one sister, is the greediest and the most monstrous of the three. As a woman, she has no power in the ruthless, ambitious post-Civil War Alabama, but she rules her household and her life with relentless self-interest. Regina’s authority is made apparent even before she appears onscreen, when we’re told “she ain’t nobody to keep waiting.” When we do see her, it’s on a high balcony, commanding attention through her very being—the way she talks, her gestures and poised confidence—as well as her placement above all the other characters. In the following scene she is cutting roses in the garden to be placed in vases; like her, the flowers are beautiful but thorny, and are being carved, curtailed, and contained in much the same way she has been by society.

Although she cannot participate and benefit financially from the deal her brothers Ben (Charles Dingle) and Oscar (Carl Benton Reid) are setting up with William Marshall (Russell Hicks), she has more tact and a better sense of business than the two of them combined, and she refuses to be silenced like her sister-in-law Birdie (Patricia Collinge). Regina can sting as well as soothe, and when the men talk she sits between them to interject and control the conversation and charm her way into sealing the deal in a manner her brothers never could, even kicking Ben when he stirs his coffee too loudly. While Birdie has had her voice taken away from her through her marriage, Regina takes part in the meeting and even toasts with the men. After Marshall has left, she sits down with them as if she were preparing to occupy her throne, leaning back in the velvety armchair in a low angle shot. She plans to go to Chicago with her daughter, Alexandra (Teresa Wright), she tells them, and later take trips to New York and Paris, “and have what I want, everything I want,” which comes down to independence, freedom, and cold hard cash. As she admits, she married Horace (Herbert Marshall) because she was lonely, “not in the way people usually mean. I was lonely for all the things I wasn’t gonna get.” Regina thought Horace could get the world for her, but when he didn’t she decided to do it herself, even if she risked ruling it alone.

“You’re our sister,” Ben tells her; “we want you to benefit from everything we do,” as if she has no part in it whatsoever. And benefit she will, asking for a larger share of the profits in exchange for her husband’s sorely needed investment. When her brothers laugh it off, she assures them “I don’t ask for things I don’t think I can get,” circling them like a prey animal. Regina does things her own way, refusing to give in to the Southern belle etiquette her family ascribes to. “How many times did mama tell you it’s unwise for a good-looking woman to frown? How many times have I told you that softness and a smile will do more to the hearts of men?” her brothers ask, but looking down on them from the top of the stairs, she guarantees she knows what she’s doing. Her cruelty and inhumanity, her need to “eat up the whole earth and all the people on it” will get her what she wants, but at what price? Although not actually killing her husband, she indifferently waits in the shadows and watches him suffer and die, which might be even more gruesome than if she had done it herself. The camera remains on her face throughout this scene, captured in a closeup in the foreground while Horace struggles in the background; her calm and watchful expression is more chilling than witnessing the death.

A little fox that spoils the vines, in the end Regina gets what she wants, but she is no freer than she was in the beginning. Alienating Alexandra, she is left alone in the prison she has built for herself. In the last scene of the film she stands at the top of the stairs, but the carefully constructed mise-en-scene makes it clear that although she has made it to the top she is bound by the actions that led her there. Shot from behind in the foreground, Regina looks trapped; we see what she sees: the railing in front of her resembling prison bars, with strong pillars on each side and rails on the upper edge of the frame on the other side of the room next to the wall. She is caged, with no escape in any direction, and as she watches Alexandra leave with David through the bars in the foreground, the only thing she can do is step back into darkness and pull the curtain in willing isolation, the last poignant symbol of her separation from the outside world.

Mankiewicz’s All About Eve is perhaps Bette Davis’ best known movie, and one of the greatest she has ever starred in. She plays Margo Channing, an aging, acid creature with a cantankerous ego and a stinging tongue whose bravura and quick wit mask an underlying vulnerability and throttled passion. The film tells the story of young ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a breathless fan whose bright eyes brim with false sincerity and humility who worms herself into Margo’s good graces and circle of friends only to betray her. But although Eve is the title character, and the one who is receiving the award in the first scene, the movie truly is all about Margo Channing. She is not defeated by the end of All About Eve, but victorious, her will and personality triumphant over the superficial, fleeting qualities of youth and beauty; while Eve is a type, Margo is an individual.

The opening scene plunges us into the world these characters inhabit, a world in which “a lifetime is a season and a season a lifetime,” and graciousness and genteel manners hide a marked capacity for ruthlessness, a world in which what people say and what they mean is never the same thing and one’s intentions are only a matter of interpretation, like the plays themselves. “Real diamonds in a wig, what a world we live in!” one character exclaims, and, indeed, everything is an act in this world, not the least of which the syrupy, stirring story Eve has created for herself: “Eve… Eve the golden girl, the cover girl, the girl next door, the girl on the moon. Time has been good to Eve. Life goes where she goes. She’s been profiled, covered, revealed, reported, what she eats and what she wears, whom she knows and where she was and when and where she’s going. Eve… You all know all about Eve.” Our guide though this universe is theater critic and commentator Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), his voiceover dripping with sarcasm. The Sarasin Society award presenter praises Eve’s greatness and generosity, but certain audience members’ faces tell a different story: Margo, playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), his wife Karen (Celeste Holme), and director Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill) sit and stare with a mix of amusement, disbelief, and hatred. And when the presenter has finished his speech and the applause thunders, they refuse to clap.

Margo, cold and calm, enveloped in a constant cloud of cigarette smoke which acts almost as a visible representation of her charisma, is “a star of the theater. She made her first stage appearance at the age of four in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; she played a fairy and entered quite unexpectedly stark naked. She has been a star ever since. Margo is a great star, a true star; she never was nor ever will be anything less or anything else.”  As the characters’ remembrances bring us back in time, we witness Margo’s greatness. Finishing a performance of Lloyd’s latest play, the suggestively entitled “Aged in Wood,” she makes her way to her dressing room and asks the playwright to “write me one about a nice normal woman who shoots her husband.” Arrogant, vain, and vociferous, she insists that fans are not people, not knowing Eve is outside the door. When Karen brings her in, Margo watches her with a mix of skepticism and interest and believes her story of hardship and adoration; of course Margo has no problem accepting that others would want to devote their lives to her. In her dressing room, with no makeup on, her hair a post-wig mess, in short, “looking like a junkyard,” Margo’s appearance suggests the actress is letting her guard down and that she is in a vulnerable position. After she gets dressed and once again looks the part, she seems to have regained control of the situation as she accompanies Bill to the airport, but right before his departure she lets her true feelings show, telling him not to get “stuck on some glamor puss” in Hollywood. Margo becomes protective over Eve, almost motherly, saying she’s “forgotten they grew that way” and seeing the young girl as “a lamb loose in our big stone jungle.” Although, as Bill tells her later on, “outside of a beehive, Margo, you wouldn’t be considered queenly or motherly.”

Soon, she has let Eve into her home and heart, accepting her as assistant, “sister, lawyer, mother, friend, psychiatrist; (…) the honeymoon was on.” But something seems off from the beginning, perhaps because of the intensity of Eve’s eyes whenever she looks at Margo, but she refuses to see it, and there is a price she has to pay for her pride. By the film’s most famous scene—beginning with the iconic “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a bumpy night”—Margo is suspicious of Eve, but no one around her understands and she can’t quite explain why she is jealous of the girl when it comes to Bill. Davis delivers the ensuing pithy and pungent remarks fully and boldly, and it’s a pleasure to watch her take everything other characters say and twist it to fit her purpose. The staccato rhythm and pacing of the high-velocity dialogue sounds like music. “A girl with so many interests,’ Margo remarks about Eve and, told it is a rare quality continues “so many rare qualities (…) so many qualities so often (…) and so young! So young and so fair!” When another guest remarks Eve has a “quality of quiet graciousness”—which no one could accuse Margo or Davis of—she snaps “among so many quiet qualities,” raising her eyebrows so high that it looks like any more strain would make them pop right off her face. 

The arrival of DeWitt with Miss Casswell (a glowing, scene-stealing young Marilyn), “a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Arts” further antagonizes Margo, who is left to hold her coat while DeWitt walks away holding Eve’s arm. Surrounded by beauty and youth, Margo does the only thing she can: drink until she can’t hold a martini glass anymore, daintily depositing her olives in the coffee cups Birdie (Thelma Ritter) systematically tries to push on her. And if her guests don’t like her behavior, she loudly proclaims, she “suggest[s] they accompany [Bill] to the nursery.” Confessing she is forty years old, she “suddenly feel[s] as if [she’s] taken all her clothes off,” concluding that, “Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it twenty years from now. I hate men.”

Halfway through the party scene, she stands next to a huge oil painting of herself; this is her image, and her greatness, and no wet-behind-the-ears girl can take it away from her, she seems to say, and by this point in the film no one would argue with that statement. But the last shot of the scene is of another painting of Margo, this time smaller. By the end of the party the character has been diminished, both by Eve’s plotting and her own childish behavior. Margo doesn’t know who and what she is, her identity tied up too closely to her onstage persona and her occupation as an actress, “a breed apart from the rest of humanity, (…) the original displaced personalities.” “So many people know me,” she tells Karen. “I wish I did. I wish someone told me about me.” She is Margo Channing, Karen says; “and what is that besides something spelled out in light bulbs, besides something called a temperament, which consists mostly of swooping about on a broomstick and screaming at the top of my voice?”

The day after the party, when she finds out Eve has been her understudy and her reading at the rehearsal was “fresh and new and full of meaning,” she is standing next to an almost life-size caricature of herself, and her insecurities and mercurial outbursts of jealousy and rage have turned her into just that. Her remarks, steeped in sarcasm and self-mockery, also diminish her. When DeWitt tells her she used to be full of music and fire, she says, “that’s me—an old kazoo and some sparklers.” As Karen says, Margo tends to compensate for underplaying onstage by overplaying in real life, and her showdown with Bill and Lloyd, appropriately set on the theater stage, is a perfect example. While Bill wants to make peace and move on with their lives, she refuses to give in, considering his terms “unconditional surrender,” and proclaims she “won’t be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.” It is only when he throws her on the bed and literally holds her down that she listens to what he is saying, but concludes “it’s obvious [he’s] not a woman,” and therefore can’t understand.

But it is her womanliness that she wishes to regain, hating Eve for being “so young, so feminine, so helpless—all the things I want to be for Bill.” She would gladly give up her career in the theater for him, but she wouldn’t know where to begin: “Funny business, a woman’s career. The things you drop on the way up the ladder so you can move faster, you forger you need them again when you get back to being a woman. There’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not—being a woman. Sooner or later we have to work at it, no matter how many careers we’ve had or wanted.” And here lies the main difference between men and women and the way they are portrayed onscreen (at least in the fifties); while men can have their cake and eat it too, maintaining their career and financial independence while having a family, women’s main job is that of wife and mother, and an actual career would get in the way. And the things Margo dropped on her way up the ladder are her traditional female characteristics, the femininity and helplessness she envies Eve for. In the business world she has to take on masculine qualities in order to thrive, implying that only by relinquishing their sexual identity can women reach the top. As a representative for the female sex it is implied you need men, because, as Margo says, without a man “you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office and a book of clippings, but you’re not a woman.” So, in the end, Margo becomes a woman, crying as Bill holds her to his chest, and declaring she doesn’t need make-believe anymore, onstage or off, because she’s “finally got a life to live.” Her glowing career, wealth, fame, and close friends are apparently worthless if she’s not married. The point of All About Eve, however,  is not that women can’t make it on their own, which would set feminists around the world ablaze with indignation, but that this particular woman doesn’t want to. Margo is neither flawless nor fearless, but her uncertainties and faults are what make her real, and that’s part of the reason we root for her and not Eve.

Davis went from a star of the theater to a washed up child star in Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? An exercise is old-fashioned horror tropes and techniques, the movie boils down to a horror of confinement, capturing two sisters, Blanche (Joan Crawford) and Jane Hudson in the claustrophobic intimacy of an gloomy, decayed Hollywood mansion as old and worn as the title character. Baby Jane is a caricature, a travesty, a grotesque exaggeration of Davis’ exaggerations. While the actress used to bite off her lines, now she plain snarls, shrieks and shrills like a maniac; her commanding presence becomes domineering and terrifying; and her eyes, which in other films dart with intelligence and alertness now lie fully and startlingly open, intensely focusing with evil, demented glee. It’s like a reflection of Davis as seen in a funhouse mirror: we can make out a bold outline that vaguely resembles reality, but the image has been distorted almost beyond recognition. Only 54 when the movie was shot, Bette Davis looks like she’s pushing seventy in the heavy, monstrous makeup.

Jane is a blonde, ringletted former child vaudeville star who built her reputation and career on mawkish, saccharine songs like “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy,” playing sweet and innocent onstage while acting like a vicious, spoiled brat off. Blanche, a plain, introspective little girl, grew up to become Hollywood royalty, her cinematic stardom far exceeding and eclipsing Jane’s and driving a wedge of resentment and jealousy between the two. Now Jane spends her days drinking, dreaming of a career she will never have, and slowly torturing her wheelchair-bound sister to death. The “accident” that landed her in the chair is captured before the opening credits in a flurry of quick edits of decontextualized closeups as the morbid, mordant tones of Frank DeVol’s score create a deep sense of uneasiness and confusion which works all the better for the contrived but appropriately shocking explanation at the end. The opening credits are presented over the unsettling image of a Baby Jane doll with her head broken open, and what could be a better metaphor of the character’s mental condition?

Just as the intact doll had been a perfect representation of the little girl—beautiful, still, and lifeless, caught forever in child form, the image of the mashed head expresses Jane’s state of arrested development that evolves—or, actually, devolves—into hysteria and insanity. While Blanche is physically crippled, Jane is mentally stunted; she grew old without growing up. At her age, she sports long curly blonde hair fastened with colorful ribbons, frumpy, frilly little girl costumes and garish, masklike makeup in a failed attempt to look and feel young.  The haphazard production design and mise-en-scene of multiple intersecting and clashing planes of vision, lines, and patterns are a perfect external representation of Jane’s inner state. Perhaps the most outrageous and tragic delusion is a conviction that she can revive her act, and as she prances around the house in creepy, slatternly, girlish dresses, she inspires as much pity as terror. When she steps into the light in front of the mirror the way she used to step into the spotlight, her features contorted into a horrifying, twisted reflection, she breaks down and cries; the strident sounds that escape her mouth are more akin to those of a wounded wild animal.

Blanche chooses to be sentimental and see the best in her sister, remembering her when she was young: “It wasn’t just that she was pretty. She was different. She was so alive…” But time has not been good to her, and alcoholism has only deepened her cruelty and spite; in one scene, shot from inside the liquor cabinet, we see her distorted by empty bottles, perhaps a representation of how she, herself, sees the world. Now Jane torments her sister, who is completely dependent on her, alternately starving her and bringing her a dead and cooked pet canary or a rat on a silver platter, copying her signature for checks, refusing to let her go out or receive visitors, sell the house, even talk on the phone, and finally tying her in her room and putting tape over her mouth. When Blanche tries to reason with Jane and explain they must sell the house—Valentino’s old mansion which Blanche paid for—because they can’t afford it, Jane insists it was in fact “daddy” who bought it for her and firmly tells her sister, “you’re never gonna sell this house and you ain’t never gonna leave it!” As she says this, we notice the pattern of the robe she’s wearing is nearly identical to that of the chair she’s sitting on and the wallpaper in the background; she has become a part of the house, as immovable, lifeless, and permanent as the furniture and decoration. The scene following immediately after shows Blanche wheel herself to the door of the room, only to discover she is hemmed in, trapped by the wall, the railing, and the furniture, so close together it looks like she couldn’t fit a wheelchair through.

After Jane kills their maid and the police start asking her questions, she once again reverts to a childhood state, going to Blanche for help, like a kid throwing a tantrum when he knows he did something wrong but insists it wasn’t his fault and trying to convince her to run away and live on the beach like when they were little. In the last, tragic scene, her delusion is complete. Even more cartoonish,  caricatured and more tragic and grotesque than Norma Desmond when she prepares herself for her closeup, Jane dances on the beach as a crowd gathers to watch in an overhead shot that does, for the first time in the film, make her look small and vulnerable.


“You’re maudlin and full of self-pity,” Addison tells Margo in All About Eve, and while that might apply to the character, it definitely doesn’t apply to Bette Davis. “You’re magnificent!” he continues.  Now that she was. A great star of the studio and immediate post-studio period, she succeeded in capturing the imaginations—if perhaps not the hearts—of so many because of, and not despite, her unconventionality and strength. Admired, disliked, feared, pitied, hated, or despised, the one thing she has never been is overlooked. Her performances draw deep feelings from the audience; although not always positive responses, they are anything but indifferent. In Jezebel, The Little Foxes, All About Eve, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, she rises above traditional notions of femininity and becomes more, transcending gender roles and creating individuals that are forceful, fascinating and completely unique.

 

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