Bette Davis, a Life in One Archival Folder | Los Angeles Public Library
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Bette Davis, a Life in One Archival Folder

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,
Bette Davis signs books for fans at a Hollywood book store,1988.
Bette Davis signs books for fans at a Hollywood book store,1988. [Photo credit: Leo Jarzomb, Herald Examiner Collection]

The library’s Los Angeles Herald Examiner photo collection spans seven decades, from the mid-1920s to 1989 and is a treasure trove of all things Los Angeles. For many years, the newspaper gravitated to stories of a more sensational slant which naturally drew them to the city’s many residing movie stars. What resulted are mini collections documenting the lives and the careers of our glamour gods, reflecting early career triumphs, marriages (and often subsequent divorces), children, career zeniths, and transitions into honored legends (or slides into notoriety). It can be an odd feeling to hold an abridged story of someone’s life within the contents of an archival folder, though it’s always fascinating.

Bette Davis, one of Hollywood's biggest stars, often found herself under the watchful eye of the local newspaper "photogs." Here is a brief look at Bette Davis’ life in Los Angeles courtesy of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

Bette Davis receiving an Academy Award, 1935

Bette Davis received the Best Actress Academy Award for the 1935 Warner Bros. feature Dangerous. This was also her first of ten official Academy Award nominations (she won a second award for 1938’s Jezebel), though she had also received a write-in nomination the previous year for her performance in Of Human Bondage. She is pictured here on March 5, 1936, at the Biltmore Hotel with Irving Thalberg, producer, who accepted the Best Picture award on behalf of MGM for Mutiny on the Bounty, Frank Capra, president of the academy, and Victor McLaglen, whose work in The Informer won him the Best Actor award.

Bette Davis at a 1937 costume party

By 1937, Bette was established enough to gain invites to the coveted costume parties thrown by William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. Davis is pictured here at Davies’ Santa Monica “Ocean House” with (left to right) actress Irene Dunne (partially obscured by photo editing), Hearst, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and actress Mary Brian.

Bette Davis at the Hollywood Canteen in 1942

 

In 1942, Bette and fellow actor John Garfield established the Hollywood Canteen, a club for wartime servicemen that was staffed by celebrities. Davis devoted a great deal of time to operating the club and considered it one of her greatest accomplishments. She is shown here delivering the welcome speech. Kay Kyser, whose band played at the opening, holds the microphone.

Bette Davis with Marlene Dietrich and Bob Hope in front of the Hollywood Hall of Honor

 

Another image of Bette at the Hollywood Canteen. Here, she is pictured with Marlene Dietrich and Bob Hope in front of the Hollywood Hall of Honor which paid tribute to actors serving in the military.

Bette Davis in 1942 with husband number two, Arthur Austin Farnsworth

Davis is pictured here in 1942 with husband #2, Arthur Austin Farnsworth (Davis’ first marriage to Harmon Nelson ended in divorce in 1938). Davis would become a widow in 1943 when Farnsworth died unexpectedly.

Bette Davis in 1945 with her bridegroom William Sherry

Bette was married a third time in 1945. She is pictured here with her bridegroom William Sherry. This union would last five years and produce a daughter, Barbara (aka B.D.).

Bette arrives at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with her mother Ruth, 1950

Bette arrives at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with her mother Ruth, for the premiere of All about Eve in 1950. Bette’s performance as Margot Channing earned her an Academy Award nomination and gave the world the line, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Bette Davis and daughter B.D. greet husband number four, Garry Merrill at the airport

All about Eve not only gave Bette one of her most enduring roles, but also provided her with husband #4, co-star Garry Merrill. The couple would adopt a daughter, Margot, and a son, Michael, and Merill would also adopt B.D. Here, she and B.D. greet him at the airport upon his return from Germany where he was making a film.

Bette, daughter B.D., and a canine friend in 1955.

 

Bette, daughter B.D., and a canine friend in 1955.

Bette is shown with 16-year-old bride-to-be B.D. before the wedding in 1963.

Bette is shown with 16-year-old bride-to-be B.D. before the wedding in 1963.

Bette greets former Warner Bros. alum, Olivia de Havilland, at LAX in 1964.

Bette greets former Warner Bros. alum, Olivia de Havilland, at LAX in 1964. De Havilland had flown in from Paris to replace an ailing Joan Crawford in the film Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte opposite Bette. Accompanying de Havilland are her children Benjamin and Gisele.

Bette is shown presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to actor Charlton Heston at the 50th Academy Awards

Bette is shown presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to actor Charlton Heston at the 50th Academy Awards, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on April 3, 1978. Photo credit: Chris Gulker.

Bette Davis presents an award to Elizabeth Taylor during a ceremony at the Ahmanson Theatre in 1981

Davis presents the Filmex Trustees Award to Elizabeth Taylor during a ceremony at the Ahmanson Theatre in 1981. The Herald Examiner captioned this image, "Bette Davis introduces La Liz.”

Davis is surrounded by the press during a Hollywood book signing for the paperback release of This ‘N That.

Davis is surrounded by the press during a Hollywood book signing for the paperback release of This ‘N That. Assistant Kathryn Sermak is seated next to Davis. Photo credit: Leo Jarzomb.

Bette Davis at a 1988 book signing in Hollywood.

The indomitable Bette Davis at a 1988 book signing in Hollywood. Photo credit: Leo Jarzomb.


 

 

 

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