The Golden Age of Hollywood

I have the theory that movie stars today (male and female) don't want to
play evil characters on the screen - unless they are in superhero movies.
Some of the characters Bette played were so twisted and evil and she never
used the excuse "well they had bad childhoods". I think some of her most
memorable roles are when she is playing completely reprehensible characters.
"Fog Over Frisco" - she played a very bad sister as opposed to Margaret
Lindsay's very good (and boring sister) - she forces her fiancee (Lyle Talbot) to
become a criminal and ends up .... we won't go there.
"In This Our Life" - her character Stanley, not only jilts her fiancee (George Brent)
but runs off with her sister, Roy (Olivia De Havilland) husband. Her partying ways
force him to resign as a doctor (he is starting to get the shakes!!), she is involved
in a hit and run (she kills a little girl) and then casually blames a young black
man who is studying to be a lawyer!!! ... and is completely unrepentant.
"The Letter" is an amazing study in the evilness that lies under the respectability
of devoted wife??? Leslie Crosbie.
"The Little Foxes" - In this film Bette Davis stars as Regina Giddons, head of the
the despicable Giddons clan. When she cannot get money from her husband
(the minute he comes home from a sanatorium after recovering from a heart
attack) she causes him to suffer a another attack and with holds his medicine
from him. This is a magnificent film - pitting evil (the Giddens clan) against good
(all the poor people that happen to be married to them). The person that really
stands out for me is Patricia Collinge as Birdie who is married to Regina's cruel
brother Oscar. The scenes between her and Herbert Marshall (he sees the way
she is treated but is powerless to do anything because of his illness) are really
I don't think there would have been many actors even in those times that would have put their career on the line to play such thoroughly bad characters as Bette Davis.

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Replies to This Discussion

I agree. Bette Davis was known to play unsympathetic characters, and she even acknowledged the fact that her fans respond most strongly to her "bitch" performancs. After all, she did play a "bitch" character in her breakthrough movie "Of Human Bondage". A very memorable role indeed, and the role that made her a star.
Bette proves that EVIL IS HOT and if an actor hasn't got the chops (only Bogart, Cagney, Edward G. & Stanwyck come close) they shouldn't even try!
I agree with your theory, and then was thinking of other actresses who were willing to do it, and even though they were totally different in almost every way, Gene Tierney came to mind in "Leave Her To Heaven" - truly one of the evilest characters in film history. The fact she was so beautiful made her seem even more deadly, in my opinion. Ida Lupino was not afraid of tough roles either.
I agree with you Mothgirl Wings, I saw "Leave Her to Heaven" a few months ago
and was struck by Gene Tierney's mesmerizing beauty plus the fact, as you say,
that her character was truly evil. I also thought she was "not nice" in "The Razor's
Edge" as well. She had a couple of scenes in that - I think where she leaves the
alcohol on the table - knowing Sophie is an alcoholic. It is a scene I just can't
She was a fabulous actress and one of my great favorites - I need to see "The Razor's Edge" again - haven't seen it since I was little when it ran on one of those great old movie shows on TV they used to have. She deserves her own group here - maybe someone will start one!
There is a Gene Tierney group here - it's called "Fans of Gene
I totally agree 100%!! Bette is my my mom's hero-she loooves Bette Davis! I find myself seeing some of Bette in my mom-haha tough, strong & says what needs to be said no b.s. ya know. She wasn't all about how much she'd make, but allll about GOOD writers & directors, I agree--w/o that you have nothing & she fought till the end for that! I love seeing her on YouTube, yo ucan see a buch of her interviews from Carson to Rivers Letterman etc.... just an awesome lady all around. Yes did do the hard way! We thank you for giving us great films & wishing sometimes, hey, I wish I could be that strong (even in her personal life). Her strong well BI**** roles were great to see like tonight at 6pm (

TCM EST) with Miraim Hopkins, that's a hoot to watch, cause they both hated each other!! haha
You've said it all. But how many stars would also allow their characters to receive their full come uppence too. Bette really suffered for her Sins in Her Movies. She paid a Price to be Bad. But She'd take her Medicine and not ask for Pity or Mercy. She just took it.
She was also willing to be ugly. In The Girl Who Walked Alone she cites a few instances where she had to create her own look when her roles required her to be ugly because the studio would have left her too pretty. Stars today always have to look attractive, even when their characters are supposed to have gone through hell. I was disappointed when I saw the Webber Phantom of the Opera film with Gerard Butler. The whole premise of the story is that the phantom is undeniably, wretchedly ugly to the point where he looks deformed and deathlike. Three-fourths of Gerard's face, left uncovered by the mask, was in pristine condition and when he took the mask off it just looked like he had some slight burns. They did not have the courage to go all the way, which unfortunately weakened the character and decimated the story.

I think stars today do want to play evil characters. At least I've heard many stars express glee at playing villains or disappointment over being typecast as the good guy. Perhaps the problem is that not many such characters are being written.



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