While Bette Davis's fans in the 1930s thought of her as ``a bedrock of Christian values,'' off-camera the willful, temperamental actress experienced abortion, adultery and sexual blackmail. In the 1950s Davis (1908-1989) and fourth husband Gary Merrill publicly presented a picture of domestic bliss, but Spada's irresistible, revelatory biography depicts the actress as an emotional wreck who drank heavily, unleashed anger and vitriol on her two daughters, staged mock suicide attempts and goaded her husband into violent quarrels. Beneath the grande dame image of the later years, we meet a sad, lonely, confused woman who had dalliances with young homosexual men whom she deluded herself into believing were her ``suitors.'' Based on more than 150 interviews with friends, family and co-workers, this poignant bio bursts with film lore, gossip, countless affairs and family secrets. Spada, biographer of Peter Lawford and Grace Kelly, presents evidence suggesting that Davis accidentally pushed her alcoholic second husband Arthur Farnsworth to his death, then covered up the incident at the inquest. He limns a great actress while exposing the cruel, sadistic side of a woman ``frantic with insecurity.'' Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993 Release date: 08/01/1993 Genre: Nonfiction
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