Interview by Shirley Eder
This interview was recorded Bette Davis’s home in 1963 and originally aired on Eder’s syndicated radio show.
The Animated Transcript
Shirley Eder was a longtime showbiz columnist and tv and radio personality based in Detroit
There’s always that old excuse here, this is not the time to do a picture like that. The public doesn’t want it now. Well, I don’t think the public knows what they want until they see it. I really, really think it’s exactly like saying to your child, “What would you like for dinner?” You don’t know until they see it. The public can’t say what they want to see. It’s up to us to decide and hope to God they like it.
You have courage of your convictions. You have courage to say what you want to say.
I never said anything that was unprintable. Never said anything just for the sake of being, you know, startling. They were always just opinions about things that one encountered as one went through life, you know?
But I was always terribly outspoken and just always said what I thought in as much as I knew about it. They say that in Hollywood one can’t do that, but I think honesty counts in Hollywood just as much as it does anywhere else. I think it’s just too much trouble to be dishonest and keep up with yourself, you know. There’s simpler roads to say what you think then you haven’t got to always check as to what you said to one person and what you said to another. I think this would be exhausting actually. One can be respected with the truth in Hollywood just as much as anywhere else you know or else I wouldn’t have had a career.
Do you feel that being…. let’s forget modesty and let’s be honest. Do you feel that having a certain amount of intelligence as you do, is sometimes a hindrance in your field?
As a female I think it’s a terrible hindrance in business. I think it’s a terrible hindrance for any female to have a lot of intelligence in private life, but I think in business sometimes it’s even worse because there’s deep resentment. No question about it, from the male side of the business. We all work for men. You know they’re the people in charge and I think they find women easier who haven’t the ability to think for themselves or stand up for themselves. One can make more enemies as a female with a brain I think. No question about that; among the opposite sex but I don’t think in business it matters whether you’re a man or a woman if you can do your job and have a brain.
Bette Davis, when you come home from studio after having to fight in a man’s world was it difficult to come home and then really be a woman?
No, because whether it was difficult or not I worked very hard at it. I think I worked much too hard at it because I went way overboard the other way of proving I was definitely just a female, and trying to divide up the two. Of course, it should never be attempted because it cannot be done. It’s impossible. It’s too much work. It’s ridiculous. But I must say I did try because I believe one should be a woman at home, you know. Actually, I think business women are better women at home, if you want to know the truth because you do understand what goes into a day’s work out in the world, a very nerve-racking affair. And that’s what life boils down to in the long run anyway. That’s all marriage is, is a great, great, wonderful communion of interest and a friendship. They don’t seem to want it to be that simple. I don’t know… [LAUGHS]
I think men have got to change an awful lot. I think somehow they still prefer the little woman. They’re just staying way, way behind and so as a rule I think millions of women are very happy to be by themselves, they’re so bored with the whole business of trying to be the little woman, when no such thing really exists anymore. It just simply doesn’t. This world’s gone way beyond it. The real female should be partly male and the real male should be partly female anyway. So if you ever run into that in either sex you’ve run into something very, very fine, I think.
We’ll have to start a whole new sex.
Well there is a new sex starting I think that is neither man nor woman. It’s a very independent male creature that lives alone, and a lot of independent females who live alone. It’s all very sad but it’s much easier for both sexes to do it this way nowadays. I have often said, “If men found out how to give birth to children they’ll never propose again.” You know it’s really The way the world is going. There’s no question about it. [LAUGHS]
There’s no writing for women anymore, this is the truth. There is none.
Women have always been the glamor part of the industry. I don’t understand that.
Women are the essential part of the theater but the writers are not writing about women. I think they’re too perplexed about the whole female situation probably. The world’s all full of thoughts about wars and space, and tragedies to the world. That’s what writers are thinking about because that’s what the world is thinking about. It’s very sad because that’s when we could use entertainment like mad to forget all of this, but there seems to be no subjects that they write about.
Bette Davis I think you are very kind to let me come up here.
No, I love seeing you.
It really is a pleasure seeing and talking with you. I don’t often get this kind of joy from an interview. Thank you very much.
I’ll have to take you and show you my birch trees now.
Good, and this is Shirley Eder thanking Bette Davis, wishing her well, and returning us to Radio Central.
Ruth Elizabeth Davis
Born on April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Davis died of breast cancer on October 6, 1989 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.
Davis made her film debut in 1931 and made her last appearance on screen in 1989 in Wicked Stepmother.
She appeared in nearly 100 films during her career and was nominated for 10 Oscars between 1935-1963, winning two Academy Awards.
Warner Brothers suspended Davis for turning down roles in the 1930s.
”It’s odd that people remember me best for my evil roles since I played so many other kinds of characters,” Davis said. “But villains always have the best-written parts.”
“I think it’s our own business what we do. Who has the right to say ‘You can’t smoke’? Makes me smoke more!” – Bette Davis in 1988.
Davis married four times, had a daughter, Barbara, and adopted two more children, Margot and Michael.
Courtesy of Shirley Eder’s children, Toni and John Slotkin