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Bette Davis won her first Academy Award for her performance in Dangerous.
Originally, Davis turned down the role, until convinced that it had something she could sink her teeth into.
Davis was partially drawn to the role because it was based on the life of Jeanne Eagels, an actress Bette idolized. Interestingly, Eagles starred in 1929’s The Letter, a role that Davis would play in the 1940 remake.
“Playing an actress is unlike playing an ordinary woman. All her gestures are a little too broad, all her emotions a little too threatening. Her greed, her insatiable zest for living, her all-encompassing ego make her seem completely pagan, but an articulate pagan, one who knows all the tricks of the trade.”
Ironically, much like her fictional character, Bette Davis allegedly fell in love with co-star Franchot Tone.
“Everything about him reflected his elegance, from his name to his manners,” Davis recalled. “Franchot was a swell guy, a really top-drawer person.”
At the time, he was in a relationship with Joan Crawford, and some point to this as the beginning of the feud between the stars – which would eventually collimate in the box office smash What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (read about that here).
Crawford and Tone were engaged during the production and married shortly after it finished.
Despite being nominated for an Oscar, Davis didn’t expect to win and wore a simple dress to the ceremony – something that the newspaper picked on after she won.
“I was told by any number of people that my outfit was an insult to the Academy. One reporter wrote that I wore an inexpensive house dress. That was not true,” Bette said.
Davis always believed her win was an apology by the Academy for not awarding her the Oscar the year before for her performance in Of Human Bondage. Nevertheless, it was a huge achievement for the actress.
“I had reached the top of the heap and stood holding the statue while my family glowed with pride. I had done it,” she said.
But Davis’ Oscar story doesn’t end there. Her award ended up at auction in 2002 in New York.
Steven Spielberg paid $180,000 for the statue and donated it to the Academy. It wasn’t the first Oscar he had brought either. He previously purchased Davis’ Oscar for Jezebel and Clark Gable’s for It Happened One Night.
Interestingly, Bette Davis had a chance to work with Spielberg in an episode of Night Gallery. However, at the time, he was a twenty-two year old director and the star was hesitant to work with the budding talent. In the end, she was replaced with Joan Crawford.