Bette Davis

Actress of Film + Television and Theater
Born Apr 5, 1908

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Bette Davis.


1908 Birth Ruth Elizabeth Davis, known from early childhood as "Betty," was born on April 5, 1908, at 22 Chester Street, Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Harlow Morrell Davis, a law student from Augusta, Maine, and Ruth Augusta "Ruthie" (née Favór), from Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. … Read More
1915 7 Years Old In 1915, Davis's parents separated and Betty and Bobby attended a Spartan boarding school called Crestalban in Lanesborough, which is located in the Berkshires.


1921 13 Years Old In 1921, Ruth Davis moved to New York City with her daughters, where she worked as a portrait photographer. … Read More
1926 18 Years Old She attended Cushing Academy, a boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, where she met her future husband, Harmon O. Nelson, known as "Ham." In 1926, she saw a production of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck with Blanche Yurka and Peg Entwistle, a well-known Broadway actress who killed herself in 1932 by jumping off the H of the Hollywood Sign. … Read More


1929 21 Years Old After performing in Philadelphia, Washington and Boston, she made her Broadway debut in 1929 in Broken Dishes, and followed it with Solid South.
1930 22 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1930, Davis moved to Hollywood to screen test for Universal Studios.
1931 - 1932 2 More Events
1936 28 Years Old Convinced that her career was being damaged by a succession of mediocre films, Davis accepted an offer in 1936 to appear in two films in Britain. … Read More
1937 29 Years Old …  For her performance in the film she was awarded the Volpi Cup at the 1937 Venice Film Festival. … Read More


1938 - 1939 2 More Events
1940 32 Years Old …  Davis and Farnsworth were married at Home Ranch, in Rimrock, Arizona, in December 1940.
1941 33 Years Old 1 More Event
In January 1941, Davis became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but antagonized the committee members with her brash manner and radical proposals. … Read More
1942 34 Years Old 1 More Event
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Davis spent the early months of 1942 selling war bonds. … Read More
1943 35 Years Old In August 1943, Davis' husband, Arthur Farnsworth, collapsed while walking along a Hollywood street and died two days later. … Read More
1945 37 Years Old In 1945, Davis married artist William Grant Sherry, who also, when necessary, worked as a masseur. … Read More
1947 39 Years Old 1 More Event
…  In 1947, the U.S. Treasury named Davis as the highest paid woman in the country, with her share of the film's profit accounting for most of her earnings. … Read More


1948 40 Years Old In 1948 Davis was cast in the melodrama Winter Meeting; and, although she was initially enthusiastic, she soon learned that Warner had arranged for "softer" lighting to be used to disguise her age. … Read More
Despite the lackluster box office receipts from her more recent films, in 1949, she negotiated a four-film contract with Warner Bros., which paid $10,285 per week and made her the highest-paid woman in the United States. … Read More
1950 42 Years Old On July 3, 1950, Davis' divorce from William Sherry was finalized, and on July 28 she married Gary Merrill. … Read More
1951 43 Years Old In January 1951 Davis and Merrill adopted a 5-day-old baby girl they named Margot, named after the character Margo Channing. … Read More
1952 44 Years Old Davis and Merrill adopted a baby boy, Michael, in 1952, and Davis appeared in a Broadway revue, Two's Company directed by Jules Dassin. … Read More


1959 51 Years Old …  During the same time, she tried television, appearing in three episodes of the popular NBC western Wagon Train as three different characters in 1959 and 1961; her first appearance on TV had been February 25, 1956, on General Electric Theatre.
1960 52 Years Old 1 More Event
As her career declined, her marriage continued to deteriorate until she filed for divorce in 1960.
1961 53 Years Old In 1961 Davis opened in the Broadway production The Night of the Iguana to mostly mediocre reviews, and left the production after four months due to "chronic illness." … Read More
1962 54 Years Old 1 More Event
In September 1962, Davis placed an advertisement in Variety under the heading of "Situations wanted—women artists," which read, "Mother of three—10, 11 & 15—divorcee. … Read More


1972 - 1981 3 More Events
1983 75 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1983, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.
1988 80 Years Old During 1988 and 1989, Davis was fêted for her career achievements, receiving the Kennedy Center Honor, the Legion of Honor from France, the Campione d'Italia from Italy and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Lifetime Achievement Award. … Read More
She collapsed during the American Cinema Awards in 1989 and later discovered that her cancer had returned. … Read More
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