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Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Davis (/ˈbɛti/; April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress of film, television, and theater. With a career spanning 60 years, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas tohistorical and period films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.
After appearing in Broadway plays, Davis moved to Hollywood in the summer of 1930. However, her early films for Universal Studios (and as a loanout to other studios) were unsuccessful. She joined Warner Bros. in 1932, and established her career with several critically acclaimed performances. In 1937, she attempted to free herself from her contract. Although she lost the well-publicized legal case against the studio, it marked the beginning of the most successful period of her career. Until the late 1940s, she was one of American cinema’s most celebrated leading ladies, known for her forceful and intense style. Davis gained a reputation as a perfectionist who could be highly combative and confrontational. She clashed with studio executives and film directors, as well as many of her co-stars. Her forthright manner, idiosyncratic speech, and ubiquitous cigarette contributed to a public persona that has often been imitated.
Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, was the first person to accrue 10 Academy Award nominations for acting, and was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and three times divorced, and raised her children as a single parent. Her final years were marred by a long period of ill health, but she continued acting until shortly before her death from breast cancer, with more than 100 film, television, and theater roles to her credit during her six-decade-long career. In 1999, Davis was placed second behind Katharine Hepburn on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema.