Bette Davis was arguably cinema's greatest leading actress.
Bette Davis was arguably cinema's greatest leading actress.

DAY IN HISTORY: Bette Davis loses her battle with cancer

HOLLYWOOD legend Bette Davis - one of cinema's greatest, dedicated and tenacious actresses - lost her battle with breast cancer on this day in 1989.

Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis, she began her career in theatre and made her Broadway debut in 1929 in the production of Broken Dishes.

But a just a year later, Davis moved to Hollywod for a screen test with Universal Studios. She failed, but managed some bit part roles with the company before they terminated her contract in 1932.

Davis was preparing to move back to New York when destiny stepped in: actor George Arliss chose her for the lead female role in the Warner Bros. film The Man Who Played God (1932).

Davis forever more credited Arliss for helping her get her 'break' in Hollywood.

Now with Warner Bros., Davis achieved a stardom many can only dream about, capped by the Oscar wins in Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938).

But call it art imitating life or vice-versa, Davis hard-nosed characters were starting to appear daily and she began to clash with many in the industry - including the infamous feud with Joan Crawford.

However, her career seemed to be on a one-way road to success - which could only be halted by the breakout of war.

But her star began to decline in the late 40s as her hard-nosed personality and driven self-worth forced her to turn down several acclaimed roles, including the lead female role in The African Queen.

Davis, though, wouldn't be kept down for long and she made a comeback in the 60s including a part alongside long-time rival Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Then, in 1977, Davis was the first woman to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award and she was again in hot demand.

A new generation of fans were born in 1981 when Kim Carnes' hit 'Bette Davis Eyes' became a global hit.

But Davis' long, acclaimed career took a backseat when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy in 1983.

During this time, she also suffered a major falling out with her daughter who published the book My Mother's Keeper, a memoir in which she described a difficult mother-daughter relationship.

In 1989, she collapsed during the American Cinema Awards and it was later discovered her cancer had returned.

While on a trip to Spain, she became too weak to return home and instead, travelled to France where she died on October 6, 1989. She was 81.


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