Friday, April 04, 2008

Bette Davis at 100

Bette Davis is usually either remembered for her early '40s heyday at Warner Brothers or her campy '60s comeback in a variety of lurid, over-the-top roles (Baby Jane Hudson, anyone?). In celebration of what would have been Bette's 100th birthday (Saturday, April 5th), the Stanford Theatre is showing many of her rare early pre-code films.

Davis arrived in Hollywood with her mother in 1930 and was soon signed to a contract with Universal Pictures. However, they didn't seem to know what to do with her. She appeared in six films (some on loan-out), and her contract was dropped in 1932. However, she landed at Warner Brothers, first starrring in "The Man Who Played God." She really established herself as a major star when Warners loaned her to RKO for "Of Human Bondage," the first film version of Maugham's novel.

Critics responded with good notices for Davis, and there was talk of a write-in Oscar campaign for her. Though no offical nomination materialized, Davis soon wound up with better roles at Warners (and she got her nomination and Oscar the next year for "Dangerous").

The Stanford Theatre kicks off "The Complete Early Films of Bette Davis: 1931-1938" this weekend with "Of Human Bondage" and one of her most famous films, William Wyler's "Jezebel."

And if you can't get to Palo Alto, TCM is also celebrating with 24 hours of Bette on Saturday, May 4. First up at 3:00 am PT, Bette has to wash her hair in "The Cabin in the Cotton." Other highlights include the aforementioned "Jezebel" at 7:30PM, as well as an "Essentials" viewing of "All About Eve" with comments by Robert Osborne and co-host Rose McGowan.

You can also celebrate Bette with two new DVD sets: Warner Home Video's "Bette Davis Collection, Volume 3" (six films) and Fox's "Bette Davis Centenary Celebration Collection" (five films, with a new two-disk version of "All About Eve". Each contains commentaries, featurettes and other extras for your Bette Davis eyes only.