Happy Birthday Bette Davis

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.50.04 PM


In honor of what was to be her 112th birthday, I am, in all seriousness, posting her final film, Larry Coen’s THE WICKED STEPMOTHER (1988). Although crippled, immobilized and ravaged by cancer and strokes, the 80 year old star proves here that she still had it. Oh, boy did she ever! The stilted mannerisms and affectations – that impossible stentorian barking – which so often, especially later in her career, prevented her from giving any performance that was not cartoon-ish – are all on full display here, but the wonder of it all is that,  in one final burst of demented energy, she makes them all work beautifully, and she, who never did as much real comedy as she should have, was never so goddam FUNNY. At that final point in her life, evinced by so many half tiresome/half charming talk show and awards season appearances, she had basically turned herself into a complete cartoon – as exaggerated and bizarrely stylized as any Looney Tunes staple from her old studio Warners, and, with the ferocious intensity of the Tasmanian Devil, itself, here, she actually amplifies her hammy schtick, is even MORE over-the-top, and zaps this final vehicle into high hilarity.

She is wonderfully abetted by a very lovable cast of familiar movie faces, bearing screen histories themselves: Tom Bosely, Lionel Stander, Evelyn Keyes, Colleen Camp, Seymour Cassel, David Rasche, Tony Torn. Plus luscious, luscious Barbara Carrera as…Bette Davis. That beauty came in – as a last minute solution of Coen’s- to replace Davis in scenes she could not complete, and I think Bette would have cheered at this idea, as if – back in her youthful heyday, Jack Warner had prevailed upon the unlikely but spectacular likes of, say,  Dolores del Rio to fill in for her, once referred to as a little brown wren with as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville.

watch here:



  1. Larry Coen on the fascinating, tortured making of the movie

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