LETTERS OF NOTE: Bette Davis vs Her Daughter

It's been a good long while (two months, in fact) since a Letter of Note graced the virtual pages of this here blog. So having left things with two giants of cinema - namely Federico Fellini and Martin Scorsese - it's only fitting that we pick up with the one of the biggest personalities in the history of Hollywood: Bette Davis.
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In 1987, the double-Oscar winner and ten-time nominee was nearing the end of her extraordinary life. Aside from her role that year in Lindsay Anderson's last film, The Whales of August, she had effectively retired from the film business in 1980. In the intervening years she had undergone surgery for breast cancer and suffered a series of strokes which had left her partially paralysed. But the biggest blow to her came in 1985, when her estranged daughter Barbara Hyman published the book My Mother's Keeper, in which she accused her mother of being amongst other things a bully and an alcoholic.
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Two years on from the book's publication, during which time there was an outpouring of public sympathy for Davis, she finally responded to her daughter's allegations in her memoir, This 'N' That. Specifically, the book closed with a letter to her daughter, written in the same sardonic, pitying and yet classy tone that she had made her own.
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You can read the full text of the letter here. For more on classic Hollywood melodrama, check out my review of Sunset Boulevard. I shall be reviewing what some consider Davis' masterpiece, All About Eve, in the near-future, so watch this space!

Daniel

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