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Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first actress to accrue ten nominations.
The documentary Queer Icon: The Cult of Bette Davis explores what makes Davis so adored by the gay community, including performances from Davis impersonators Matthew Martin and Charles Pierce. Drag performer Peaches Christ summed up Davis’ appeal best in the film: “There’s a collective understanding that she is God.”
Davis chalked up that kind of idol worship to gay men’s superior taste. “Let me say, a more artistic, appreciative group of people for the arts does not exist” Davis told The Advocate in the 1970s. “They are more knowledgeable, more loving of the arts. They make the average male look stupid.”
No conversation about why gay men love Bette Davis could be complete without mentioning her legendary feud with Joan Crawford (“Every time Crawford got near me, I could feel her trying to annihilate me!”) and the amazing What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?. The rival actresses play sisters and former stars, as Davis’ Jane torments Crawford’s wheelchair-bound Blanche. Davis gets to go full-tilt cuckoo in this one, resulting in a cult classic that’s still a popular midnight movie to this day. “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get to slap her around more in Baby Jane,” Davis said.
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