Confessions of a Hollywood legend
This article is from 2010.
Grant Smeaton’s verbatim recreation of a famous encounter between a 63-year-old Bette Davis and talk show host Dick Cavett in 1971 leaves you with an aching nostalgia for the days when chat show guests – and celebs in general – were worth tuning into. Smeaton’s brilliant performance captures many of the familiar nuances of Davis’s character: the imperious rise and fall of her voice, her pursed lips, her poise. Gordon Munro, resplendent in a synthetic hairpiece, also nails Cavett’s ingratiating disingenuousness, and the power relationship between the two ‘good friends’ is fascinating.
Cavett’s questions are often simply bulldozed by the actress, who turns her body and attentions to her audience. But she’s a gift of an interviewee, albeit one who can’t be bothered to listen to the questions. Frank, detailed and (sometimes unintentionally) funny confessions on everything from her relations with studio bosses to her views on ‘women’s lib’, even losing her virginity, come pouring out in a kind of self-justifying purge.
Cavett touches a nerve when he contrasts Davis’s career with tragic stars like Monroe and Garland. ‘Those actresses didn’t have my discipline,’ rasps Bette. The statement is given added poignancy when you consider the amount of junk Davis was forced to act in before clawing back control over her career, For all her faults Davis was no one’s victim and this highly enjoyable show is a timely reminder of her appeal.
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