The Bette Davis Collection – DVD Review

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Available at Amazon.com

Bette Davis was most certainly a one of a kind. No actress ever has or ever will have a career like hers. Throughout her eclectic career she was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won twice. She was elected the first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1941. And her career was publicly considered finished several times and she always managed to prove the public wrong. Such as in 1949 when she lost her film contract. Without a studio everyone thought she was done for, until she came back the next year with easily the best role of her career (more on that film later).

Bette Davis acted in over 100 films from 1931 till 1989 when shed died, and while not every film she made was great she always gave a memorable performance. Included in this collection are five films starting in 1950 and ending in 1965. And as we move on to learn more about those we’ll let the films speak for themselves.

All About Eve (1950 – 138 min.) We start out with not only the best picture of the collection, but easily the best film of Davis’s career. All About Eve is the story of young Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) a young aspiring actress who befriends legendary theater star Margo Channing (Davis) and quickly proves to be not as innocent as she originally seemed. Davis delivers a stellar performance giving many memorable and quotable lines. This is in part to her performance and in part to director Joseph Mankiewicz’s perfect script. Fantastic performances from the other actors round out the fantastic film and we also get to see a very young Marilyn Monroe in the role that got her noticed. This film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards (tied with Titanic for most nominations) and won six, including Best Picture.

Phone Call From A Stranger (1952 – 96 min.) This film is an odd addition to this collection as Bette Davis plays a small role and is only in the film for a few minutes. The star of the film is Gary Merrill (her then husband) who plays David Trask, a man with marital problems who jumps on the next plane to get away. On board he meets three strangers who get to know each other pretty well. But the friendship is not to last as the plane crashes and Trask is the only one to survive. He sets out to meet the families of his deceased comrades only to learn they had more problems than they were letting on, and Trask must begin to face his own problems as well. It’s an okay film with some descent performances. There are strange moments of humor in the film that in of themselves aren’t so bad, but amongst the drama of the rest of the film they feel very out of place. This is my least favorite film of the collection, but by no means is it bad.

The Virgin Queen (1955 – 92 min.) Here we get a film that seems a little out of place in this set as most the films here are thrillers, however The Virgin Queen is a romantic costume drama. Young rogue Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd) befriends Queen Elizabeth I (Davis reprising the role she played in ’39) in order to get boats to sail to the new world. Meanwhile he meets and falls in love with the Queen’s lady in waiting, Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins in her first Hollywood film). What Raleigh didn’t count on was winning the Queen’s affections as well, now he has to carefully balance both sides or risk losing everything. Anyone who’s read my reviews knows I’m not much for period pieces like this but I actually enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. What’s really great about this film is the sharp witty dialogue that is delivered wonderfully by the stellar cast. Davis, of course, steels the show with a truly memorable performance but Todd and Collins both hold their own very well against her. A solidly entertaining although highly inaccurate historical drama.

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964 – 133 min.) After the great success of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? director Robert Aldirch wanted to make lightning strike twice in reteaming Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. However the two stars hated each other so much Crawford ending up dropping out and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland.

In Charlotte, Davis plays the titular character. Back in the 20’s Charlotte Hollis is set to elope with her already married lover, John Mayhew (a very young Bruce Dern), until her father gets word and forbids it. The next night at a lavish dance Mayhew is brutally murdered, his head and hand being cut off. When Charlotte shows up covered in blood every ones assumes she is guilty. But is she?

Cut to thirty plus years later. There was not enough evidence to convince Charlotte and she now lives alone on her fathers estate gone slightly mad from the years of isolation with her maid, Velma (Agnes Moorehead in an Oscar nominated performance) as her only companion. Charlotte’s troubles begin when the city decides they want to tear down he house to build a bridge. So she calls her cousin Miriam (de Havilland) to help her. But Miriam’s arrival only brings more problems and soon Charlotte is holding on to sanity by a thread. Has really lost it, or is there something more sinister a foot?

While not as good as Baby Jane, this is a wonderfully disturbing and entertaining psychological thriller. The things that happen to Charlotte are really messed up and seeing how the whole film plays out is a real blast. The film also does a really good job of keeping you guessing as to who is really behind everything.

The Nanny
(1965 – 93 min.) is B-movie if ever there was one. Little Joey is about to come home for the asylum where he’s been for the last two years since his younger sister died. Everyone seems to think it was his fault. He, however, blames the Nanny (Davis) and hates her for it. This is an odd dull little film that surrounds Davis with so seriously bad acting. Not even the charismatic Davis can hold this film together. She seems tired and bored with the whole thing. This film is a sad little ending to this over all great collection of films.

All About Eve and Phone Call are in fullscreen 1.35:1, The Virgin Queen is widescreen 2.55:1 and Sweet Charlotte and The Nanny are in widescreen 1.85:1. All films are presented in English Mono sound. All About Eve is also in English Stereo, Spanish Mono and French Mono. The Virgin Queen is in also in English 4.0 surround, Spanish Mono and French Mono. Sweet Charlotte is also in English Stereo, and The Nanny is also in Spanish Mono. All Films have English and Spanish Subtitles. Also Phone Call, Sweet Charlotte and The Nanny have French Subtitles. All the films have been beautifully restored and the all look great!

All About Eve Disc 1:

Commentary by Actor Celeste Holm, biographer Ken Geist and Christopher Mankiewicz: These three people recorded separate commentaries that are edited together. They are all pretty boring and there is tons of dead time where none of them are talking.

Commentary by author Sam Staggs: This one offers more useful information and is slightly more interesting, but still not all that good.

Isolated Score Track:

All About Eve Disc 2:

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz: (26 min.) This featurette focuses on the career of the great director and is very fascinating. It includes mostly interviews with historians and the like and also Mankiewicz’s sons. A good little doc.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey: (26 min.) Here we get the story of Mankiewicz life. Again we get interviews with his sons and historians and such. This is very interesting.

The Real Eve: (18 min.) All About Eve which was written by Mankiewicz was based on a short story that appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine and was loosely based on a true story. This little featurette focuses on the true story that inspired the movie.

The Secret Of Sarah Siddons: (7 min.) After this film was made the fake Sarah Siddons awards was made into a real award and this featurette talks about how that came to be.

AMC Backstory: All About Eve: (24 min.) This originally aired on AMC and focuses on the making of the film and the drama behind the scenes. Here is where you’ll get some good interviews with some of the original cast including an old interview with Bette Davis!

Vintage Promotions: (2 min.) These original promos are short interviews with the stars talking about the picture. One is with Bette Davis the other is with Anne Baxter.

Fox Movietonews: ( 9 min.) There are four pieces here: 1951 Academy Awards Honor Best Film Achievements, 1951 Hollywood Attends Gala Premiere of All About Eve, Holiday Magazine Awards and Look Magazine Awards. These are fun and give wonderful view of how things were promoted and done back in the day. It’s interesting to see Joan Crawford at the Premiere and Bob Hope in the Look Magazine Awards.

Restoration Comparison: (4 min.) After several pages explaining the process you get a few scenes split down the middle showing the before and after so you can see how much better the film looks.

Original Theatrical Trailer

Interactive Pressbook Gallery, Poster Gallery and Still Gallery

Phone Call From A Stranger:

Restoration Comparison

Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer

Interactive Pressbook Gallery, Poster Gallery, Lobby Card Gallery and Still Gallery

The Virgin Queen:

Virgin Territory: The Making Of The Virgin Queen: (27 min.) This is a very good documentary that actually convinces you that the film is better than you remember it.

Isolated Score Track

Restoration Comparison

Original Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

Interactive Pressbook Gallery, Poster Gallery, Lobby Card Gallery and Still Gallery

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte:

Hush… Hush, Sweat Joan: The Making Of Charlotte: (21 min.) This great featurette focusing on the rivalry between Davis and Crawford and all the drama that when on behind the scenes from Baby Jane up until Sweet Charlotte. This is highly entertaining filled wonderful stories.

Bruce Dern Remembers: (13 min.) This is just Bruce Dern sitting and talking about his time on the set with Bette Davis and it is great to listen to. Davis definitely made an impression on the young Dern and he shares that with us.

Wizard Work – Vintage Promotional Short Narrated by Joseph Cotton: (5 min.) This is making of featurette of sorts. It’s much more magical and whimsical as Joseph Cotton talks about the film and the people involved in the process. Amusing.

Isolated Score Track

Theatrical Teasers, Original Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

Interactive Pressbook Gallery, Poster Gallery, Lobby Card Gallery and Still Gallery

The Nanny:

Restoration Comparison

Original Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

Interactive Pressbook Gallery, Poster Gallery, Lobby Card Gallery and Still Gallery

Bette Davis was a consummate actress who embodied the image and ideal of old Hollywood. She made many wonderful films and most the films in this collection can be called that. There is a great range of films here covering a 15-year period. If you’re a Bette Davis fan this is a must own and if you’ve never seen a film of hers All About Eve would probably be the best place to start.

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20th Century Fox presents The Bette Davis Collection. Starring Bette Davis, George Sanders, Shelley Winters, Joan Collins and Olivia De Havilland. Five films on five DVDs. Running time: 552 minutes. Unrated. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

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