The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography

Charlotte Chandler, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (348p) ISBN 978-0-7432-6208-8

The eyes have it—that cool, knowing gaze that doesn't quite conceal the wounded heart of a romantic—but the words of golden age Hollywood's grande dame also have their charms in this beguiling biography. Chandler, biographer of Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, interviewed Davis (1908–1989) shortly before her death and simply presents her reminiscences with a minimum of scene setting, along with (inadequate) synopses of her movies. Davis meanderingly recounts a life worthy of the great melodramas she specialized in, revisiting her financially precarious childhood, her rise to fame and wealth, her four failed marriages, countless affairs, two abortions and a heartbreaking rift with her daughter after the latter wrote a spiteful tell-all. Eternally boy-crazy, she waxes dreamy—and bawdy—about various leading men including Errol Flynn ("a beautiful thing"), Laurence Olivier ("an Adonis") and Howard Hughes ("Howard Huge he was not"). Davis is alternately imperious, catty, generous and self-dramatizing; the reader never forgets that she is an actress, and Chandler complicates her version of events with commentary by colleagues, lovers and enemies. Still, artifice is the soul of Tinseltown, and in Davis's memoirs one hears the authentic, engrossing, gloriously manipulative voice of Old Hollywood. Photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 11/28/2005
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-4165-2222-5
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-7432-8905-4
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-84739-698-3
Paperback - 348 pages - 978-1-55783-717-2
Hardcover - 615 pages - 978-0-7862-8639-3
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