More than just Bette Davis eyes

By OGT Blog Squad Member Stacia Woycheck

The Old Greenbelt Theater features Monday Matinees, a free classic movie the first Monday of each month. This Monday, March 4 at 1pm, Of Human Bondage will be shown, starring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. Since we are just one week past the 2019 Academy Awards, it seems appropriate to spotlight the third most Oscar nominated actress of all time, Bette Davis.

Making her film debut in 1931, Bette Davis was under contract with Warner Brothers for the first twenty-one movies she made during her career. However, she was unhappy, unchallenged and disenchanted with the roles she was given and just didn’t fit into the glamour girl stereotype expected at that time. She was relentlessly trying to convince Jack Warner to loan her out to another studio. Finally, she succeeded and he agreed to loan her to another production company, mostly because he didn’t see her as ‘star material.’ That company was RKO Pictures and the film was Of Human Bondage. Playing the role of Mildred Rogers, she found her niche as a vixen and discovered the depth in her character that she craved. Davis did her own makeup and public relations for this film, something that had never been done before. Her performance received rave reviews and she was considered to be a shoe in for an Oscar nomination, but alas she was not nominated.

Enter Hollywood scandal. Ms. Davis didn’t officially make the ballot for Best Actress, but there was ensuing outrage and she ultimately received a controversial write-in nomination. However, the 1934 Best Actress award went to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Subsequently, rumors circulated that the awards were fixed and the self-serving producers interfered with the nominations. This created such an uproar that the scandal worked in Davis’ favor giving her more publicity and exposure than if she would have won the award, sealing her movie star status. Not only was it a turning point for her career, it was a turning point for the Oscars. The next year write-in ballots were eliminated and to insure integrity in calculating the votes, Price Waterhouse (now Price Waterhouse Cooper) began their long tenure as official vote talliers. Davis returned to Warner Brothers and continued in roles that were similar to those dissatisfying roles in which she had previously acted. She tried, unsuccessfully, to break her contract. In 1936, she was nominated for another Oscar, this time an official nomination, for her role as Joyce Heath in Dangerous. She attended the award ceremony in protest and wore an unattractive wide-collared dress said to resemble that of a domestic service worker. She won the award that year, but she was less than thrilled, she believed she won the Academy Award as a consolation prize for the previous snub.

Ms. Davis went on to win another Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Julie Marsden in Jezebel in 1939 and in true trailblazer style, she became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1941. Over her remarkable fifty-eight year career, she acted in over one hundred films.

Most notable quote: “My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”

Come see OF HUMAN BONDAGE on Monday, March 4 at 1 pm. FREE SCREENING.


ABOUT STACIA

Stacia’s love of old movies began as a child, when her mother would take her to the matinee to see classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen. She fast became a Humphrey Bogart and Old Hollywood fan. Her favorite class as an undergraduate student was Film Appreciation. She loves the charm of the Old Greenbelt Theater and volunteers to spread the word. She loves to travel and when she isn’t traveling, she is planning her next trip, painting, or playing with her dog.

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