Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first thespian to accrue ten nominations.
After appearing on Broadway in New York, the 22-year old Davis moved to Hollywood in 1930. After some unsuccessful films, she had her critical breakthrough playing a vulgar waitress in Of Human Bondage (1934) although, contentiously, she was not among the three nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress that year. The next year, her performance as a down-and-out actress in Dangerous (1935) did land Davis her first Best Actress nomination, and she won the award. Davis was known for her forceful and intense style of acting.
In 1937, she tried to free herself from her contract with Warner Brothers Studio; and although she lost the legal case, it marked the start of more than a decade as one of the most celebrated leading ladies of U.S. cinema. That same year, she starred in Marked Woman, a film that’s regarded as one of the most important in her early career. Her portrayal of a strong-willed 1850s southern belle in Jezebel (1938) won her a second Academy Award for Best Actress and was the first of five consecutive years in which she received a Best Actress nomination. The others were for Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941) and Now, Voyager (1942). Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist in her craft. She could be combative and confrontational with studio executives and film directors, as well as with her co-stars, expecting the same high standard of performance and commitment from them as she expected from herself. Her forthright manner, idiosyncratic speech, and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona that has been often imitated.
She played a Broadway star in All About Eve (1950), which earned her another Oscar nomination and won her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress. Her last Oscar nomination was for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which also starred her famous rival Joan Crawford, who was not nominated. At the last stage of her career, her most successful films were Death on the Nile (1978) and The Whales of August (1987). Her career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite a long period of ill health she continued acting in film and on television until shortly before her death from breast cancer in 1989. She admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. She was married four times, divorcing thrice and widowed once as her second husband died unexpectedly thus raising her children largely as a single parent. Her daughter, B. D. Hyman, wrote her version of her childhood, My Mother’s Keeper.
Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, a club venue for food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen during World War II, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In 1999, Davis placed second behind Katharine Hepburn on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of the classical Hollywood cinema era. (Source)