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Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  439 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
The legendary Hollywood star blazes a fiery trail in this enthralling portrait of a brilliant actress and the movies her talent elevated to greatness

She was magnificent and exasperating in equal measure. Jack Warner called her "an explosive little broad with a sharp left." Humphrey Bogart once remarked, "Unless you're very big she can knock you down." Bette Davis was a for
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ebook, 496 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published October 1st 2007)
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David
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spoiler alert! Yes, she really was, by most prevailing standards, a bitch. I think my favorite anecdote from this whole book was culled from the 1960s-era recollections of a random dentist who, hearing angry shouting, ran out to his waiting area only to find Bette Davis and Tennessee Williams ripping each other a new one to the shock and (perhaps) awe of a roomful of the dentally afflicted. She had earlier appeared in a stage production of his The Night of the Iguana—playing that one character A ...more
Ed Sikov
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To all of you who got the point: thanks!
To those of you who thought it was too gay: you've got to be kidding. There's really very little on that subject.
To those of you who hated it: kiss my raves in the NYTimes and Washington Post.
Rebecca McNutt
There have always been stories about legendary film star Bette Davis, some of them good, some of them not so good. From her roles in timeless movies such as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane to Pocketful of Miracles to Burnt Offerings, she's undoubtedly an actress who has left an impression on the filmmaking world forever. Dark Victory is one of the few books that doesn't sugarcoat her life, but it tells the truth about a genuinely talented and glamorous but possibly troubled individual.
J.P.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delicious. A gushy portrait of one of our greatest movie stars that doesn't shy away from showing how much of a pain in the ass she could often be.
SusanInSedalia
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The parts I liked best were when the author would discuss Davis's films in detail. He has a witty, acerbic style ideally suited to his subject. I ended the book wanting to sit through a Bette Davis movie marathon. Pass the popcorn.
CLM
Nov 11, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
As Charles Matthews wrote in a recent review, "The moment she drawled, "I'd like to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair" in the 1932 film "Cabin in the Cotton," Bette Davis became two things: a movie star and an icon of camp. She would remain both for the next 57 years of her life. And beyond.

When a star is so easily caricatured, as Davis is by everyone from cartoonists to drag queens, the task of the biographer is to locate the person behind the distortions. In his smart, witty new biography, E
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Diane
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I once read a biography of Bette Davis when I was in high school and I loved it. I found her extremely interesting, but I didn't have a chance to watch many of her movies. Now things are different. I have seen several of her films, including my favorites - "Deception," "The Bride Came C.O.D.," and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." When I came across this book, "Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis," I saw a way to update my knowledge of this great actress - and I learned a lot.

For one thing, eithe
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C.S. Burrough
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to C.S. by: Anyone
As a woman she was renowned for being earthier than her professional nemesis Joan Crawford and boasted of that, making her perhaps the more arrogant of the two yet no less adorable.

I've read five Bette Davis biographies and find it impossible to rate one higher than the others. Inescapably, many details are rehashed across all of them. This one I liked, not much more or less than the others I've read. However, if I were recommending which ones to include in your coverage (there are so many), th
...more
Judi
My Disclaimer:

I purchased this book at full price on Amazon. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.

~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review: ✰✰✰⭒

I have always admired Bette Davis and her work. To me, she is the ultimate movie star, whether it be All About Eve or Death on the Nile. No matter who else is in the movie, she is the star.

I figured she would have been a difficult person to work with, and evidently,
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Charles Matthews
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review originally ran in the Washington Post Book World:

The moment she drawled “I’d like to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair” in the 1932 film “Cabin in the Cotton,” Bette Davis became two things: a movie star and an icon of camp. She would remain both for the next 57 years of her life. And beyond.

When a star is so easily caricatured, as Davis was by everyone from cartoonists to drag queens, the task of the biographer is to locate the person behind the distortions. In his smart, witty n
...more
Celine Godfrey
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read many many bios of the stars of old Hollywood. I love the gossip, the movies, the fantasy lifestyle, the personal problems, the addictions, the personalities and the incestuous nature of it all. This bio is probably the best of the Bette Davis ones. It doesn't paint the picture that the Hollywood publicity offices did. It shows her warts and all as a control freak, a drinker, a perfectionist, a shrew, rude, attention seeking but also explains perhaps why she exercised these traits. Abov ...more
 Candice =^,,^=
This book chronicles Bette Davis's rise to fame. The first half of the book goes through her movies one by one ,and tells you how she got to be in that movie,who her co-stars were and her many disagreements with just about every director or co-star she had. It also tells us about her many affairs she had and she could be a true Bitch on the set. I was really surprised with all the confrontations and her total bitchiness on set and how the managed to getting cast in as many movies as she did. I f ...more
Sarah
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Old Hollywood, Film, Actresses
Recommended to Sarah by: Amazon.Ca
Shelves: biography
Towards the end of this novel, fans (or newcomers) into the life of Bette Davis, will either loathe, or admire her. The woman, the legend, the myth. The author, Sikov, paints an objective, yet opinionated tale on the life of one of the world's greatest actresses, who made films, on her time, and by choice.

Making it in Hollywood when a film studio basically made you sign your soul on the dotted line, Bette's preserverence and talent is a tribute to her fiesty attitude. She chose roles that suite
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Denise
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: Bette Davis was magnificent and exasperating in equal measure. She was a force of nature, an idiosyncratic talent and trailblazer. Author Ed Sikov mixes in new interviews with friends, directors, and admirers, as well as archival research. He also explains many of her films, tv appearances, and time in the theater. Both Davis's personal and professional life are dissected and examined in a way that is both revealing and sympathetic.

Pros: Felt this biography was very even handed. Bring
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Kevin
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The biggest surprise of Sikov's perceptive and superbly written new Bette Davis biography is that there are still fascinating details to be discovered after more than a dozen full-length biographies have been devoted to her since her 1989 death.

Sikov (On Sunset Boulevard) follows the volatile actress's long career, specifying how her insecurities and craving for love propelled her into the dueling self-medications of liquor and acting. Even she didn't seem to understand the anger that drove her
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Magnus Stanke
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining read about Davis' life and films. Some reviewers were very critical of the fact that Sidkov explains all the storylines of her films in detail. I didn't think that was that much of a problem, though the actual analysis of the films could have been a little deeper instead of that much plot info.
Over all, though, good fun.
So what's new about this book, as opposed to the other dozens that have been written of the subject? Well, I guess the angle from which the whole Bette cult is
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Ashanti Miller
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I not only loved this book--I took notes! I liked how Sikov concentrated on Bette's career rather than her scandals, therefore yeilding a lot of useful career advice. The book's tenets are: directors and money people aren't interested in working with people they aren't interested in sleeping with, know when you are exepreinced enough for management, for studios do fire long toothed functionaries and know and oblige your audience and prepare for changes your demographic! Bette's fandom expanded f ...more
Christine Sinclair
There was one major flaw in this biography. It wasn't told in straight chronological order, which I found distracting. Other than that, I thought it was entertaining, informative and well-researched. I especially liked the discussion about Miss Davis's daughter B.D.'s hateful tell-all book, written out of spite (and for the money) before her mother passed away. Her excuse? "After I found the Lord, I wanted my mother to go to heaven, and to do that, she had to change. My book was meant to make he ...more
Peter
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first biography I've read since high school and I have to say I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Although it may be hard to believe, Bette Davis was a bitch, but she was a very talented one. This book does a great job of chronicling her expansive filmography while giving a few tips on films not to miss. It's also one of the few stories of someone who wasn't nice for the sake of popularity, and yet accomplished her goals while remaining likable to the reader. It would have been 5 stars ...more
kabukigal
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography. The author uses varied sources to present conflicting but ultimately revealing views of Davis' life --including Davis' own words --to present a vivid account of the life of a great actress and star of the Hollywood firmament. In a vocation that spits out women over 40, Davis' tenacity and personality defeat those odds --never stopping work for long until her death at the age of 81. That said, her fighting spirit is so unrelenting and self-destructive that it demolishes most ...more
Kimberly
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Sikov did a great job detailing Bette's movies and the production of them, but I was disappointing in how little he described her personal life. I would have preferred more intimate details about Bette herself. Some of the book is a bit choppy, Sikov bounces around a bit from one topic to another and then back again, this seemed to get noticeably worse as the book progressed. All in all, it was a good book, but I would have preferred more meat on the bone as far as Bette's personal life goes ...more
Judy
Jun 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of classic Hollywood
I like the fact that Sikov mainly focuses on Davis as an actress, rather than including too much gossip - although her erratic behaviour, drinking and troubled relationships are still covered.
I enjoyed the first half or so of the book, with detailed discussions of Davis' great movies from the 1930s and 40s, very much, but wasn't quite so keen on the later sections, probably because the films she made in later life weren't so interesting! I've seen quite a lot of Bette's movies this year (her ce
...more
Beli_grrl
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cinephiles
Thorough and sympathetic overview of Ms. Davis's life and career. He does not gloss over her imperfections and he makes it clear that she had a beastly temper and was prone to tantrums and scenes. But he doesn't pass judgment on her. He emphasizes her dedication to her craft more than anything. Not much dishing on her love life or feuds; these are given minimal discussion. Classy approach, but might have been a more fun read if there was more of the dirt.
Rachel
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Early Hollywood movie stars, another passion of mine. I expected this book to be better than it was, or at least as fascinating as its subject, but it was little more than a rehash of things already written and reviews and descriptions of almost every one of her movies. If I wanted to know about her movies I'd watch them. Also the thirty or so footnotes per chapter became increasingly distracting and annoying. It made me as bitchy as Davis.
Karen
Jun 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining biography, peppered with observations from a distinctly (and occasionally jarringly) gay perspective. Davis could be charming and clever and certainly talented, but she sounds like hell on wheels to work with -- a frequently irrational and prickly character who grew less lovable with age. As usual with show biz bios, the last third became a bit depressing and I started to skim, ready for death to provide the final fade-out.
Jennifer
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i couldn't finish this book due to all the minutia on the films of bette davis. it's quite thorough i will give it that. but i much would have rather read a bit more about her personal life and a bit less about every single argument she had with every single director she worked with on the set. it did inspire me to watch more of her films though.
Silverspringsrr
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While James Spada's biography of Davis remains definitive, this one is among the stronger of the Bette books. I found myself rolling my eyes more than a few times at Sikov's over-the-top exploration into Davis' gay fans, and her final years warrant more pages than they receive here, but overall, a first-class job.
Gail
May 31, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
well done biography, but nothing new to add to the others out there that I have read. Not as good as "The Girl Who Walked Home Alone." Nonetheless - Bette Davis is always fascinating!
Marilou
Have not totally given up on this, but am close. The author spends endless amounts of times summarizing the plots to all of Davis' movies and also spends too much time discussing the making of them and not enough on her -- what she was really like, what went on in her marriages, etc. He has made Bette Davis boring and I suppose that is an accomplishment of some kind.
Justinia
While an excellent summary of Bette's career and life milestones, I did wish for a bit more personal information. On the plus side, the descriptions of Bette's lesser known works and other related films has lead me to a delightful variety of old movies to view.
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