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|Stardust The Bette Davis Story |
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Superb documentary on Davis
Douglas M | 10/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A picture is worth a thousand words and this superb film about Davis is worth all the biographies which have been written about her put together, including her own autobiographies.
TCM have recorded the definitive story of Davis's life using film, home movies, excerpts from interviews with her children, Gary Merrill, employees, costars and, of course, herself. Davis was always an "accessible" star so it is no mystery that she was fiercely intelligent, self opinionated, an unabashed perfectionist with a short fuse and ultimately a lonely figure. She had the wit in 1962 to pen her own autobiography and call it "The Lonely Life". Her sense of humour and ambition are very much in evidence.
The film uses items from her personal archives to squash a few myths including the character of her elusive father who she clearly emulated and the character of her mother who controlled her for far too long. Davis also was the most "human" of people and she lashed out when she was most unhappy or vulnerable in her personal life. It is notable than in the mid forties, as her personal life began to fall apart after the death of her second husband, her reputation for being difficult grew.
Her daughter's unkind book about her towards the end of her life was unnecessary as her son Michael summarises perfectly; "It's family stuff, don't do it". Most families have skeletons but her daughter's exploitation of her famous mother was disloyal and indiscreet as only a true family would understand.
The film is beautifully made and Susan Sarandon is the perfect narrator. The DVD can be viewed as part of the 2nd Davis Collection and as such is excellent value."
Stardust: The Portrait Of A Lady
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 09/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stardust: The Bette Davis Story is a superlative documentary about the life and times of Bette Davis. Narrated by Susan Sarandon, this fine documentary details the life of Bette both on screen and off; and we get excellent audio commentary along the way by none other than Ellen Burstyn, Frank Sinatra, William Wyler, Jimmy Cagney, Gena Rowlands and more.
This documentary starts with the Bette's childhood; we learn about her parents' difficult marriage and her father's lack of affection for her. Bette says (in one of several clips of interviews shown that she gave over the years) that when her father left them it was a relief more than anything else. After Bette saw The Wild Duck onstage she became determined to be a professional actress; and we find out about her acting studies in New York City before she traveled west with her mother to Hollywood.
The documentary details Bette's eighteen year rocky relationship with the Warner Brothers studio as well as her relationship with Jack Warner himself. We learn about her first marriage to Harmon Nelson--and all three other marriages after that. The documentary gives us a great understanding of how Bette was able to act so brilliantly in scenes from Jezebel and Of Human Bondage. The clips from her movies are very well chosen.
The film reviews Bette's many Oscar nominations as well as the two Oscars she did win over the years. Bette slowly but surely also became a gay icon because of her role in Now, Voyager and her campy portrait of Margo Channing in All About Eve. We see several clips of Bette working tirelessly at The Hollywood Canteen as well as film clips and stills of her with her children including B. D. and Michael, her four husbands and their homes during the decades.
As if this weren't enough, the retrospective of Bette's life delves still further. There is good coverage of the controversial book written by Bette's daughter B. D.; in that book B. D. laments having to be a constant companion for her mother who had no real faith in men. B. D. apparently also covered Bette's violent side along with the frequent and sometimes unpredictable mood swings Bette experienced. Despite Michael's protests, B. D. did publish her book; and I'm sure Bette did not like that one bit.
The film ends with on a somewhat bittersweet note: we get several clips of Bette receiving awards at numerous ceremonies in both the USA and Europe. We learn that she died peacefully in a French hospital in 1989 with her assistant at her side.
Overall, Stardust: The Bette Davis Story must be regarded as one of the best films about Bette Davis made to date. The film weaves together many clips, both old and somewhat more recent, as well as audio clips to tell the story of the life of this fantastic person. Bette Davis was an artist of epic proportions; and with great documentaries like this one she is sure to be remembered for ages to come.
Enjoyable tribute to a great star
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. | Philadelphia, PA USA | 02/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A well done, richly produced biography of the great Bette Davis. Though a definite tribute piece, I liked that it avoided endless one-note praise and strived to embrace the subject's complexity. In other words, it clearly shows that Ms. Davis wasn't always the easiest person to be around. But, appropriately, the production mainly concentrates- through generous use of film clips- on Ms. Davis' talent and commitment to excellence.
Another stength of this biography is that it draws heavily on Ms. Davis' many television interviews and appearances, especially in the 1970's and 80's, so we get to hear from her directly on many aspects of her life and career. From these television clips, it was fun to learn that Bette Davis was a great storyteller, punctuating her anecdotes and stories with great one liners and punchlines.
My wife and I watched "Stardust: The Bette Davis Story" as an epilogue to our own little summer/fall DVD film festival of Bette Davis' movies, and it was a nice way to end our months-long visit with one of Hollywood's greatest stars."
I loved it!
Charla Johnson | 11/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am an avid Bette Davis fan. So, I found this, extremely, interesting. Anyone who admires Bette Davis will find this to their liking."