Bette Davis Poster

Quotes (81)

  • [when told by director Robert Aldrich that the studios wanted Joan Crawford as her co-star for Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] I wouldn't piss on Joan Crawford if she were on fire.
  • [in 1982] Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should ALL be bigger than life.
  • Getting old is not for sissies.
  • I see - she's the original good time that was had by all.
  • Until you're known in my profession as a monster, you're not a star.
  • At 50, I thought proudly, 'Here we are, half century!' Being 60 was fairly frightening. You want to know how I spent my 70th birthday? I put on a completely black face, a fuzzy black afro wig, wore black clothes, and hung a black wreath on my door.
  • I went back to work because someone had to pay for the groceries.
  • I'm the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.
  • [on rival Joan Crawford] She has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.
  • [on her character in All About Eve (1950)] Margo Channing was not a bitch. She was an actress who was getting older and was not too happy about it. And why should she be? Anyone who says that life begins at 40 is full of it. As people get older their bodies begin to decay. They get sick. They forget things. What's good about that?
  • Gay Liberation? I ain't against it, it's just that there's nothing in it for me.
  • Success only breeds a new goal.
  • What a fool I was to come to Hollywood where they only understand platinum blondes and where legs are more important than talent.
  • I have never known the great actor who... didn't plan eventually to direct or produce. If he has no such dream, he is usually bitter, ungratified and eventually alcoholic.
  • There was more good acting at Hollywood parties than ever appeared on the screen.
  • I would advise any woman against having an affair with a married man believing he will ever leave his wife, no matter how often he says his wife does not understand him. Love is not as necessary to a man's happiness as it is to a woman's. If her marriage is satisfactory, a woman will seldom stray. A man can be totally contented and still be out howling at the moon.
  • The male ego, with few exceptions, is elephantine to start with.
  • To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.
  • I'd marry again if I found a man who had fifteen million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he'd be dead within a year.
  • An affair now and then is good for a marriage. It adds spice, stops it from getting boring. I ought to know.
  • [referring to her parents' divorce when she was 7] Of course I replaced my father. I became my own father and everyone else's.
  • I will never be below the title.
  • If you want a thing well done, get a couple of old broads to do it.
  • Today everyone is a star - they're all billed as 'starring' or 'also starring'. In my day, we earned that recognition.
  • [about Katharine Hepburn's tie for the 1968 Oscar with Barbra Streisand] I wanted to be the first to win three Oscars, but Miss Hepburn has done it. Actually it hasn't been done. Miss Hepburn only won half an Oscar. If they'd given me half an Oscar I would have thrown it back in their faces. You see, I'm an Aries. I never lose.
  • [referring to her fourth husband, Gary Merrill] Gary was a macho man, but none of my husbands was ever man enough to become Mr. Bette Davis.
  • [when told that "at one time" she had a reputation for being difficult] At one time?! I've been known as difficult for 50 years, practically! What do you mean "at one time"? Nooo, I've been like this for 50 years. And it's always always to make it the best film I can make it!
  • Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why [Joan Crawford] always plays ladies.
  • [when told not to speak ill of the dead] Just because someone is dead does not mean they have changed!
  • [on sex] God's biggest joke on human beings.
  • [commenting on the death of long-time nemesis Joan Crawford] You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good.
  • [commenting about her mother, an aspiring actress] I had to be the monster for both of us.
  • If Hollywood didn't work out, I was prepared to be the best secretary in the world.
  • I have been uncompromising, peppery, infractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile and offtimes disagreeable. I suppose I'm larger than life.
  • [Joan Crawford] and I have never been warm friends. We are not simpatico. I admire her, and yet I feel uncomfortable with her. To me, she is the personification of the Movie Star. I have always felt her greatest performance is Crawford being Crawford.
  • [after having blown the same line several times in Hollywood Canteen (1944), in which she plays herself] I don't know what's wrong with me, but I think I just can't play myself. I don't know how! But, if you give me a drink - give me a cigarette - give me a gun - I'll play any old bag you want me to. I just can't play myself!
  • Beyond the Forest (1949) was a terrible movie! It had the longest death scene ever seen on the screen.
  • I was a person who couldn't make divorce work. For me, there's nothing lonelier than a turned-down toilet seat.
  • [before taking her final flight in 1989] I want to die with my high heels on, still in action.
  • I always had the will to win. I felt it baking cookies. They had to be the best cookies anyone baked.
  • When I die, they'll probably auction off my false eyelashes.
  • My favorite person to work with was Claude Rains.
  • [on John Wayne] I certainly would have given anything to have worked with John Wayne. He's the most attractive man who ever walked the earth, I think.
  • [on Errol Flynn] He was just beautiful . . . Errol. He himself openly said, "I don't know really anything about acting," and I admire his honesty because he's absolutely right.
  • [on director Lindsay Anderson] I think he's a very talented man, but I think he's a difficult man to work with. He really prefers theatre and not film, and that's a little depressing, I must say.
  • [on Errol Flynn] He was not an actor of enormous talent -- he would have admitted that himself -- but in all those swashbuckling things he was beautiful.
  • [in 1977, on why she was still working] So I am up to my ears in taxes and debts, and that's why I come out of my house in Connecticut every few years and work. I can hole up for just so long, then I gotta get out and stir things up again. It's half for income and half for me.
  • [during tension on the set of The Whales of August (1987) about her esteemed costar Lillian Gish] She ought to know about close-ups! Jesus, she was around when they invented them!
  • I think acting should look as if we were working a *little* ... It's like the juggler who loses it twice and then gets it, you know, finally. Which is a very old-fashioned theory today. See, you mustn't have *any* idea that *anybody* knows the camera's on them at all. You see: it's just life. Well, we all have life, 24, 12 hours a day, and sometimes we want to forget life, you know. And I think it should be a *little* larger than life. A little bit theatrical.
  • [to TV interviewer Dick Cavett] People say, when I'm coming on with someone like you for ninety minutes, "Don't you want to know what's going to happen?" I *don't* want to know the questions ahead, because number one, I trust your taste, but if you should ask me something that I *really* don't want to go into, I'd give a *perfectly* nice smile, not insulting, and say, "I don't want to talk about it." Nobody can *make* you talk about something. So if I'm *fool* enough to talk about it, then it's not your fault, it's mine. Like many bad interviews, this is what happens: it's the actor's fault. They get five good hookers in them, and tell their life story. Well, you cannot blame the interviewer who goes out and prints it. ... Anybody who does an interview with drinks is a fool. Because we all know we talk more with drinks.
  • [of the studio executives] Four compliments a year, we never would have asked for so much money. Truthfully! They never knew it! Actors are complete suckers for good parts, you know, and just saying, "You did a *good* job, Bette!" Never. Never. Never.... I think it would've made a whole different salary scale in California, yes, I do. They only respected you by how much money you made. You could be the same actress at six-fifty a week or thirty thousand a week, and you're a *much* better actress at thirty thousand a week.
  • [on being idolized and spoiled while traveling] This is *part* of the reward, but boy, you don't get that for a long time! And that must never be your motive. See that *can't* be the motive. Because that isn't what you want the most. You want to get on that stage and work.
  • On work: This became a credo of mine...attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.
  • On desire: From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it.
  • On sexual politics: I am a woman meant for a man, but I never found a man who could compete.
  • On growth: I have always been driven by some distant music -- a battle hymn no doubt -- for I have been at war from the beginning. I've never looked back before. I've never had the time and it has always seemed so dangerous. To look back is to relax one's vigil.
  • On experience: Old age ain't no place for sissies.
  • The weak are the most treacherous of us all. They come to the strong and drain them. They are bottomless. They are insatiable. They are always parched and always bitter. They are everyone's concern and like vampires they suck our life's blood.
  • [on working with Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] We were polite to each other - all the social amenities, 'Good morning, Joan' and 'Good Morning, Bette' crap - and thank God we weren't playing roles where we had to like each other. But people forget that our big scenes were alone - just the camera was on me or her. No actresses on earth are as different as we are, all the way down the line. Yet what we do works. It's so strange, this acting business. It comes from inside. She was always so damn proper. She sent thank you notes for thank you notes. I screamed when I found out she signed autographs: 'Bless you, Joan Crawford.'
  • You can't tell me that any man who has really loved a woman, or vice versa, can really be friends again after a divorce. And kidding about it is like tying a pink ribbon on a machine gun.
  • [After hearing that Joan Crawford cried copiously over "Dark Victory"] Joan always cries a lot. Her tear ducts must be very close to her bladder.
  • "I am returning to the stage, to refine my craft." That's what Hollywood actors always say. But that's a bunch of BS. No one leaves movies for the stage unless they can't get work; and I'm no exception.
  • [Of her longtime rival] We must hand it to her. Where she came from and all that--she accomplished *much*. She became a movie star, and I became the great actress. There is of course a need for both in this business, but you have to know *when* to put a stop to the nonsense that goes with the job. Stars are people *too*. They have to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom too, without applause or a standing ovation. But I don't *think* Joan Crawford ever sleeps. She never *quits* being Joan Crawford. I find that tedious and quite insane.
  • When I was filming Dangerous in 1935, I had a crush on my costar, Franchot Tone. Everything about him reflected his elegance, from his name to his manners. He had a great deal going for him, including Miss Joan Crawford.
  • I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache.
  • [on the making of Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)]: I can't tell you what I went through during those weeks that shooting stopped, waiting for Crawford to get well. It was sheer torture.
  • [on Joan Crawford]: I was not Miss Crawford's biggest fan, but, wisecracks to the contrary, I did and still do respect her talent. What she did not deserve was that detestable book written by her daughter. I've forgotten her name. Horrible. I looked at that book, but I did not need to read it. I wouldn't read trash like that, and I think it was a terrible, terrible thing for a daughter to do. An abomination! To do something like that to someone who saved you from the orphanage, foster homes, who knows what. If she didn't like the person who chose to be her mother, she was grown up and could choose her own life. I felt very sorry for Joan Crawford, but I knew she wouldn't appreciate my pity, because that's the last thing she would have wanted, anyone being sorry for her, especially me. I can understand how hurt Miss Crawford had to be. Well, no I can't. It's like trying to imagine how I would feel if my own beloved, wonderful daughter, B.D., were to write a bad book about me. Unimaginable. I am grateful for my children and for knowing they would never do to me anything like what Miss Crawford's daughter did to her. Of course, dear B.D., of whom I'm so proud, is my natural child, and there always are certain risks in adopting. Gary [Merrill] and I adopted two babies, because when we married I was too old to have our own. We were very pleased with our little boy, Michael, but our adopted daughter, who was a beautiful baby, was, brain-damaged. I never have had regrets, though, because I think we provided for her better than anything else that could have happened to her, and we gave her some happiness in her life. You can't return a baby like you can a carton of cracked eggs.
  • [on Miriam Hopkins] Miriam is a perfectly charming person, socially. Working with her is another story. Miriam used, and I must give her credit, every trick in the book. I became fascinated watching them appear one by one. When she was supposed to be listening to me, her eyes would wander off into some world in which she was the sweetest of them all. Her restless little spirit was impatiently awaiting her next line, her golden curls quivering with expectancy. Miriam was her own worst enemy. I usually had better things to do than waste my energies on invective and cat fights.
  • [on Greta Garbo] Oh, Garbo was divine. Soooo beautiful. I worshipped her. When I became a star, I used to have my chauffeur follow her in my car. I always wanted to meet her.
  • [when asked if she and Joan Crawford were ever up for the same role] We were two different types entirely. I can't think of a single part I played that Joan could do. Not one. Can you?
  • [on The Unforgiven (1960) Oh yes, I had a chance to go to Mexico, to play 'Burt Lancaster's mother. I turned it down. I'll be damned if I play Burt Lancaster's mother after thirty years in the business.
  • [on Cool Hand Luke (1967)] Warner Brothers asked me to play Paul Newman's mother in Cool Hand Luke. They offered me $25,000 for one day's work. I said 'No.' I would have been on and off the screen in three minutes. That would be a cheat to the audience.
  • Warner Brothers sent me a letter saying they wanted to use a clip from Now, Voyager (1942) in the Summer of '42 (1971). They implied that they wanted to use it as a laugh. My lawyer wrote back saying, if they wanted a clip to laugh at, why didn't they choose a scene from one of their current films.
  • [Burnt Offerings (1976)] Karen Black changes her makeup in the middle of the scene, so nothing matches on the screen. She sleeps all day, never goes to rushes and you can't hear a bloody thing she says on the set. When I made movies you could hear me in a tunnel.
  • [on Elizabeth Taylor's declining to have Davis as her co-star in A Little Night Music (1977)] She is such a fool. One would think that after all her years in the business she would want to work with a professional.
  • [after attending President Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration] Miss Lillian [the President's mother] doesn't like any women. She was perfectly terrible to all of us at the inauguration. She only wanted to see the men. When any women came up to her, she just glared at us like this!
  • [on her second husband, Arthur Farnsworth] Farney was a real charmer, but an alcoholic who was tied to his mother's apron strings... and what a mother. Christ, what a cold bitch.
  • [on The Star (1952), (1983)] Oh, yes, that was [Joan] Crawford. I wasn't imitating her, of course. It was just that whole approach of hers to the business as regards the importance of glamor and all the off stage things. I adored the script.
  • [When asked by Johnny Carson about who she was inspired by] No-one, but that I always envied Katherine Hepburn's looks.
  • I don't think of myself as a character actress. That's become a phrase that means you've had it.
  • [In 1987, when Barbara Walters asked her whether Margo's line from All About Eve (1950) applied to her "Funny business a woman's career: The things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster, you forget you need them when you go back to being a woman"] I didn't have anything to forget. I remained a woman. I mean, anybody that marries four times in the midst of a great big career basically loves being a woman almost as much. So I never forgot I was a woman on my way up.