Bette Davis Quotes

Bette Davis (1908-1989)

Portrait of Bette Davis
Portrait of Bette Davis. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Bette Davis (April 5, 1908 -  October 06, 1989) was an actress who rose to stardom in the contract system in the 1930s.

Bette Davis appeared in 86 films over 60 years.  She won Oscars for Dangerous in 1935 and Jezebel in 1938. She was an outspoken commentator on Hollywood and its people. Bette Davis appeared in several television series in the 1970s and 1980s, including 15 television movies.

Bette Davis was born in Massachusetts, and by the time she had graduated from finishing school at Cushing Academy, had plans to enter acting.

In New York City, Eva Le Gallienne turned her down for her acting school, so Davis studied with John Murray Anderson. She played bit roles, and then her first major role in an off-Broadway show, The Earth Between, in 1928. Her first Broadway show was a comedy, Broken Dishes, in 1929. After a role in Solid South, Davis failed a screen test to take the role to Hollywood.

After failing the Goldwyn Studios screen test, she tried again at Universal and was hired. Her first two filmls, Seed and Bad Sister, went unremarked. Then she had an opportunity at Warner Brothers, in The Man Who Played God. Positive reviews for her acting led to a long-term contract.

Her own popularity rose though the films she played in were at first not well-received. Loaned to RKO in 1934 at her insistence, she played Mildred in and finally found the fame she'd sought. Returning to Warner Brothers, she found herself cast in mostly mediocre roles, except for Dangerous and The Petrified Forest.

She rebelled, refusing to continue to play bad roles, and she sued the studio. Though she lost, the suit was costly to the studio, and Davis finally was offered better roles.

After setbacks in success in the 1940s and then again in the late 1950s, she returned each time to critical acclaim, mostly playing older women, often somewhat unbalanced.

She continued in television movies, mainly, in the 1970s and 1980s, falling ill in the mid 1980s. She died in France after struggling with cancer and strokes.

She was married four times. Her daughter Barbara's autobiography accused Davis of abuse.  She and her fourth husband also adopted two other children, Michael and Margot.  Her relationship with sometime co-star Joan Crawford was the subject of a 2011 play, Bette and Joan.

Selected Bette Davis Quotations

• I'm the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.

• That's me: an old kazoo with some sparklers.

• I was the Marlon Brando of my generation.

• I will never be below the title.

• This became a credo of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.

• Don't get up. And please stop acting as if I were the queen mother!

• 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. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together.

• I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds.

It is endless.

• It has been my experience that one cannot, in any shape or form, depend on human relations for lasting reward. It is only work that truly satisfies.

• My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.

• Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why Miss Crawford always plays ladies.

• The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

• I was never beautiful like Miss Hayworth or Miss Lamarr. I was known as the little brown wren. Who'd want to get me at the end of the picture?

• 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.

• In this business, until you're known as a monster you're not a star.

• People often become actresses because of something they dislike about themselves: They pretend they are someone else.

• The male ego with few exceptions is elephantine to start with.

• I've no time for broads who want to rule the world alone. Without men, who'd do up the zipper on the back of your dress?

• Men become much more attractive when they start looking older. But it doesn't do much for women, though we do have an advantage: make-up.

• A sure way to lose happiness, I found, is to want it at the expense of everything else

• I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business.

• Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life.

• Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.

• I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache.

• I would take a bad script and a good director any day against a good script and a bad director.

• Technicolor makes me look like death warmed over.

• I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box.

• Pray to God and say the lines.

• Love is not enough. It must be the foundation, the cornerstone, but not the complete structure. It is much too pliable, too yielding.

• Brought up to respect the conventions, love had to end in marriage. I'm afraid it did.

• An affair now and then is good for a marriage. It adds spice, stops it from getting boring... I ought to know.

• The act of sex, gratifying as it may be, is God's joke on humanity. It is man's last desperate stand at superintendency.

• First time was when I was 26 and got married -- and it was hell waiting.

• 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.

• I often think that a slightly exposed shoulder emerging from a long satin nightgown packed more sex than two naked bodies in bed.

• 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.

• 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 out life's blood.

• I survived because I was tougher than anybody else.

• Basically, I believe the world is a jungle, and if it's not a bit of a jungle in the home, a child cannot possibly be fit to enter the outside world.

• Discipline is a symbol of caring to a child. He needs guidance. If there is love, there is no such thing as being too tough with a child. A parent must also not be afraid to hang himself. If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.

• Old age is no place for sissies.

• Three years ago I was forty... forty! Four-oh! That slipped out. Now I suddenly feel as if I've taken all my clothes off.

• 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.

• Everybody has a heart. Except some people.

• Gay Liberation? I ain't against it, it's just that there's nothing in it for me.

• With the newspaper strike on, I wouldn't consider dying.

About These Quotes

Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.