New York Times reporter Terrence Rafferty has a wonderful ode to the famous (and infamous) golden age movie star Bette Davis, on the occasion of her centennial—born one hundred years ago. In “The Bold and the Bad and the Bumpy Nights,” Rafferty highlights Davis’s scandalous turn as Julie Marsden in “Jezebel,” who shows up to a party as the quintessential “woman in red” (while everyone else wears white), only to regret this brazen decision and long for a too-late redemption.
At the center of Davis’s “performer’s soul” was always the mantra “better to be noticed, for whatever reason, than ignored,” writes Rafferty, about some of Davis’s rather baffling role choices. “But on the occasion of her centennial, it’s worth remembering Davis as she was in her prime, in the 1930s and ’40s, when she commanded the screen with something subtler and more mysterious than the fierce, simple will that carried her through the mostly grim jobs of work that followed. (Though the will was there from the start, and her formidable technique never wholly deserted her.) In her heyday, as the reigning female star at Warner Brothers, she was as electrifying as Marlon Brando in the ’50s: volatile, sexy, challenging, fearlessly inventive. She looked moviegoers straight in the eye and dared them to look away.”
Click here to read the full memorial-ode to the actress that Rafferty describes as “drama in the flesh.”