It is our Patron Saint Miss Bette Davis' birthday today! Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect...
To celebrate, here are a couple of choice extracts from The Devil in Miss Davis, a rather marvellous anecdotal article by veteran director William Frye that was published in Vanity Fair in 2010:
...when Bette Davis decided she wanted to go somewhere, you went. Naturally, we didn’t have a reservation, and [the club] Mocambo was jammed. There was a line of people standing behind a red rope waiting to get in. Bette was no more going to join that queue than fly to the moon. She marched up to the maître d’ and said, “We want a table for two.”And this [on the aftermath of Miss Davis being upstaged by Miss Crawford at The Oscars]:
“I’m terribly sorry, Miss Davis, there’s not an empty table in the room. Would you like to go to the bar and wait until one becomes available?”
“No,” she said haughtily. “Put one up.”
Moments later, we were escorted into the main room. Right next to the stage, where everyone could see us, they had put up a table about the size of a silver dollar. As Bette was being seated, she spotted two people at the door who were also having trouble getting in - Esther Williams and her husband, Ben Gage. “Esther! Ben!” she called across the room. “Come join us! There’s lots of room!”
They, too, jumped the line, and two more chairs were brought to our table. We danced and drank until the club closed.
Olivia de Havilland became very upset. She said it was terrible that Bette had lost, terrible that Joan Crawford had stolen the night, terrible, too, that the world would wake up the next morning to pictures of Crawford clutching an Oscar and assume she’d won it for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ...There was only one Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (5th April 1908 – 6th October 1989)
At that moment I made the most inappropriate comment I’ve ever made in my life - the wrong thing at the wrong time in front of the wrong person. I still cringe to recall it. I suddenly said, “Well, you have to admit, when Crawford came out on that stage, with that dress and that array of diamonds, she did look like the movie star of all time.”
There was dead silence. Olivia stopped commiserating. Bette stopped slicing bread. I stopped rocking.
“What did you say?” Bette asked, looking up. When I didn’t reply, she came at me with the knife. Pressing it to my chest, she repeated, “What did you say?”
I sat frozen in the rocker, imagining blood dripping down my pleated evening shirt, and repeated the monumentally stupid - but accurate - thing I’d said a few seconds earlier. After another interminable silence, she took the knife away. “You make me sick” was all she said.
Then she went back to slicing bread, and the party resumed. After more drinks, everybody had scrambled eggs and toast. I got home at five a.m. The “evening” had started 12 hours earlier. Neither of us ever mentioned the knife incident again.