Davis, Bette (1908-1989)
The Bette Davis collection includes scrapbooks, juvenilia, correspondence, manuscripts, journals and diaries, photographs, printed material, artwork, memorabilia, audio recordings, and video recordings. There are over one hundred scrapbooks in the collection, documenting Davis’ life and career from her childhood through to ca. 1989. They contain photographs, newspaper clippings, programs, correspondence, manuscripts, memorabilia, and other items. Notable material includes Davis’ family photographs; items regarding Davis’ early stage career (1928-1930), including the Provincetown Playhouse’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Earth Between, and Davis’ Broadway debut in Broken Dishes; material regarding Davis’ fights with the Warner Bros. Studio; and material regarding Davis’ work with the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. Juvenilia in the collection includes a program from the Lowell High School Annual Exhibition in Calisthenics, May 29, 1901; Davis’ fourth grade report card from the Winchester Public Schools; Davis’ “Notebook of Household Hints” from 1921; notes taken by Davis while attending Newton High School, ca. 1923; one copy of The Newtonian, Davis’ high school yearbook, 1924; and enrollment papers for the John Murray Anderson - Robert Milton School of Theater and Dance in New York, 1927-1928. Additional items are present in the scrapbooks described above. Correspondence in the collection primarily consists of letters to and from Davis’ family. Letters from some notable figures are also present, including Laurence Olivier, Anna Magnani, Helen Hayes, Tennessee Williams, and Ted Kennedy. The scrapbooks described above contain several pieces of fan mail to Davis, as well as congratulatory telegrams from various show-business figures. Manuscripts in the collection include several items written by Davis. These include an article titled “The Story of Our Daughter Margot, Retarded”; poetry; and various speeches. The latter include a speech promoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt for President (Sep. 1944) and speeches for Davis’ World War II war bond drive. Some manuscripts in the collection are pieces written by members of Davis’ family. These include a draft of an unpublished biography of Davis, written by her uncle, Dr. Paul Favor; and an article by Davis’ mother, Ruth Favor Davis. Other manuscripts in the collection consist of Davis’ copies of various radio play scripts, stage play scripts, and screenplays. Notable stage play scripts include Solid South, by Lawton Campbell, autographed by Campbell; Ms. Moffat, bound and decorated by Davis, with extensive handwritten notes, corrections, and revisions, and including the musical score; and Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana, with extensive holograph notes, bound in red leather, and dated 1962. Most of Davis’ screenplays are mimeograph copies bound in red leather, with titles in gold on the spine; some include photographs bound into the pages. Titles include Dangerous (1935), The Petrified Forest (1936), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), The Old Maid (1939), The Letter (1939), The Little Foxes, with handwritten notes (1941), Old Acquaintance (1943), Stolen Life (1946), All About Eve (1950), Payment on Demand (1951), Another Man’s Poison (1952), The Star, with three photographs (1953), The Virgin Queen, with 15 photographs (1955), Storm Center, with 40 photographs (1956), The Catered Affair, with 20 photographs (1956), and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with handwritten notes (1962). Also present are scripts and production material for Family Reunion (1981) and Right of Way, with photographs of Jimmy Stewart (1983). In addition, the collection includes a bound copy of The White Cliffs, by Alice Duer Miller, with Davis’ handwritten marginalia, with a carbon copy of the narration script for a radio adaptation titled The White Cliffs of Dover (1940). Journals and diaries in the collection include Davis’ travel diary, dated May 3 to July 15, 1958; ten appointment diaries for the years 1967-1970; and a notebook kept by Kathryn Sermak, Davis’ personal assistant in her later years. Photographs in the collection consist of photographs of Davis and her family, as well as numerous film stills. Many photographs are present in the scrapbooks described above. The Davis family photographs include several photos from the 1910s and 1920s. Other photographs include signed prints of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, a signed print of Ted Kennedy, three signed prints of Davis, and two prints of Davis with Anwar Sadat. The film stills include three bound albums of photos: All About Eve (1950), Payment on Demand (1951), and Another Man’s Poison (1952). Printed material in the collection includes several programs from various plays and films, numerous newspaper and magazine clippings, press books and other publicity items, sheet music, several film posters (some in French), and lobby cards for several films. Artwork in the collection includes a pen and ink portrait of Davis by Abner Dean; a portrait of Davis by James Montgomery Flagg; a pen and ink caricature of Davis by Al Hirschfeld; an enamel-on-metal portrait of Davis as Elizabeth I, by Ellen Wallach (1965); an oil portrait of Davis by Willard Cummings (1962); and other items. Memorabilia in the collection primarily consists of awards given to Davis by various organizations. These include the Newspaper Film Critics of America, for Dark Victory (1940), the U.S. Treasury Dept., “in recognition of Patriotic Services” (1941), the Independent Film Journal (1950-1951), the New York Film Critics Award, for All About Eve (1950), the Foreign Press Association (1952), Photoplay magazine, for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1963), the Hollywood Foreign Press Award (1975), the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award (1977), the American Theatre Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (1982), the UCLA Film Archives Charlie Chaplin Award (1983), a medal from the U.S. Defense Dept. (1983), the Academie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema (1986), a citation from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1986), a Kennedy Center Honor (1987), the British Film Institute Award (1987), a Lincoln Center Award (1989), and several nominations for best actress from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), The Little Foxes (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), All About Eve (1950), The Star (1952), and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Other items in the collection include a crown given to Davis when she and Mickey Rooney were announced as “Box Office King and Queen” in 1939; a copper plate used for printing posters for Two’s Company; Kim Carnes’ platinum and gold records for her song “Bette Davis Eyes”; and a time clock from a factory in Lowell, Massachusetts. Audio recordings in the collection include long-playing records, reel-to-reel tapes, and cassette tapes. Recordings of films and plays include the titles Two’s Company (2 reels, 1 cassette), 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932, reel, incomplete), Of Human Bondage (1934, reel), Front Page Woman (1935, reel), The Petrified Forest (1936, reel), The Battling Bellhop (1936, reel), Dangerous (1936, reel), Marked Woman (1937, reel), That Certain Woman (1937, reel), Dark Victory (1937, reel), Jezebel (1938, reel), Elizabeth the Queen (1939, reel), All This and Heaven Too (1940, reel and records), The Little Foxes (1941, reel), Now Voyager (1942, reel), Old Acquaintance (1943, reel), Watch on the Rhine (1943, reel), Stolen Life (1944, reel), Mr. Skeffington (1944, reel), All About Eve (1950, reel), Crackup (1957, reel), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, reel), Dead Ringer (1964, reel), Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965, reel), The Anniversary (1968, reel), Madame Sin (1972, reel), and Sun City Scandals ‘72 (1972, reel). Recordings of Davis’ talk and variety show appearances include The Dick Cavett Show, Dec. 31, 1969 (cassette), Mar. 11, 1971 (cassette), Nov. 17, 1971 (reel), and May 15, 1972 (reel); This Is Your Life, Mar. 3, 1971 (cassette); The Mike Douglas Show, Jan. 21, 1972 (reel) and Mar. 19, 1976 (reel); The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Feb. 14, 1972 (reel); The Dean Martin Show, Oct. 19, 1973 (reel and cassette); The Dinah Shore Show (cassette); and The Merv Griffin Show (two cassettes). Recordings of award ceremonies include the American Theatre Arts tribute to Davis (cassette); “The American Film Institute Honors Bette Davis” (cassette); “Warner Bros. Salutes Bette Davis” (2 cassettes); and the Film Institute Salute (1977, reel). Other audio recordings include a 78 rpm “test record” for Jezebel; a recording of Of Human Bondage, dated Jan. 24, 1941 (record); The White Cliffs of Dover, Oct. 13, 1940 (record); Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Davis speaking (record, with reel and cassette copies); the Lux Radio Theatre production of The Letter, Mar. 5, 1944 (cassette); “command performance” for the U.S. Armed Forces, broadcast over the U.S. War Dept. Armed Forces Radio (record and reel copy); The U.S. Treasury Hour production “Millions for Defense,” July 30, 1941 (record and reel copy); Davis and Herbert Mars in The Letter, Apr. 22, 1941 (record); “Film Scores for Bette Davis” (compact disc); and other items. Video recordings in the collection include tapes of Jezebel (VHS); Dangerous (film reel and VHS); Strangers (U-Matic); I Wish You Love (film reel); The American Film Institute Salute to Bette Davis (U-Matic and VHS, 1977); The Hollywood Greats: Bette Davis (VHS); Kim Carnes’ video for her song “Bette Davis Eyes” (Beta, 1981); the WLVI television coverage of the Bette Davis exhibit at the Gotlieb Center, Apr. 8, 1990 (VHS); Intimate Portrait: Bette Davis (VHS, 1998); “Bette Davis Inspired Meryl Streep” spot, shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel, May 1999 (VHS); the Bette Davis Award Presentation at Boston University, Sep. 18, 2000 (VHS); Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (DVD, 2006); and Dead Famous 2, Episode 6: Bette Davis (VHS, 2006).
Notable Figures
1. Davis, Bette, 1908-1989
Associated Subjects
1. Women's Studies Collections -- Drama, Film, and Television Subject Guide
2. Theatre and Film Subject Guide
3. Radio Subject Guide
4. Helen Deutsch Research Section