Oscar Actors: Davis, Bette–10 Nominations; 2 Oscars

Bette Davis specialized in portraying suffering actresses: Four out of her ten nominations were for such roles, including “Dangerous” and “All About Eve.”

In her first Oscar role, Dangerous (1935) Davis plays Joyce Heath, a booze-swilling once-famous stage actress bent on her own destruction until she meets an admiring young architect (Franchot Tone) who sponsors her comeback. When her husband (John Eldredge) refuses Joyce a divorce so that she can marry the architect, she attempts to kill both of them by driving her car into a tree. The couple survives, but Joyce’s husband is crippled for life. Returning triumphantly to the stage, Joyce has learned the value of sacrifice.

The 1950 Oscar-winning “All About Eve” (1950) juxtapose the two prevalent stereotypes of the older versus younger actress. Bette Davis, in the greatest performance of her career, plays Margo Channing, the aging star who cannot come to terms with her progressing age (forty), which by today’s standards is young but in the 1950s was considered old. Anne Baxter plays the young, driven Eve Harrington, scheming to take over everything that Margo has–her roles, her friends, and even her lover.

In “The Star” (1952) for which Davis received her ninth nomination, Davis’s Margaret Elliot is a hasbeen, a former Oscarwinner who is now a pathetic, bitter and violent woman. As in Dangerous, an admirer (Sterling Hayden) saves Margaret by convincing her, as in All About Eve, to give up her career and live a more normal, that is, domestic, life.

Davis’s last nomination was for Robert Aldridge’s cult horror flick, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962). She is cast as Jane Hudson, the genius child-star whose talent faded when she grew up, turning her into a demented alcoholic, and sadistic toward her crippled sister (Joan Crawford). Davis gave a flashy, grotesque performance, which opened a new phase in her career as a horror queen.