Real Name: Ruth Elizabeth Davis
Birthdate: April 5, 1908
Number of films Bette Davis made with Humphrey Bogart: 7
When the subject of typical Bogart costars comes up, it’s strange to me that Bette Davis is rarely mentioned, especially when you consider that they made seven different films together. In one of the films, they only have brief cameos and don’t even meet (Thank Your Lucky Stars), and in a few more, Bogart plays minor roles and their interaction is minimum (The Bad Sister, Three on a Match), but considering how little they’re paired in cinematic conversation, these two had a few really great roles together!
The Bad Sister – 1931
In her very first film, Davis plays Laura Madison, a wallflower who’s stuck in the shadow of her older sister Marianne (Sidney Fox). While Davis and Bogart share next to no screen time together, it’s still a strong early showing for both actors as they each do their fair share of scene stealing from their more established costars. If you’re like me, you’ll spend most of the film wondering why every guy in town is going after Sidney Fox when Bette Davis is standing right there!!! You can find my original write up on the film here.
Three on a Match – 1932
Davis plays Ruth Wescott, the “good girl” next to Joan Blondell’s reformed “bad girl” and Ann Dvorak’s “bad girl” in the making. Davis’ part is not nearly as developed as Blondell’s or Dvorak’s, and she was supposedly at odds with director Mervyn LeRoy because he didn’t like her acting, but she’s gorgeous and lots of fun in what scenes she does get. Since Bogart doesn’t come in until the last act of the film, the two don’t meet. But it is, once again, a strong showing from both of them. Davis is solidifying the “girl next door” persona that she played many times early on in her career, and Bogart lays down another very strong gangster performance. You can find my original write up on the film here.
The Petrified Forest – 1936
Davis plays Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple, a café owner’s daughter who’s desperate to get out of the desert so that she can see the world. Bogart is, of course, Duke Mantee, the outlaw gangster – a role that he originated on Broadway. While Bogart spends most of his lines squaring off against Leslie Howard, he and Davis do spend much of the film in the same frame as almost all of the action takes place within the café. Again, both actors continue to elevate their status as the “girl next door” and the tough as nails gangster, respectively. This is, by far, my favorite film out of all seven that they made together. You can find my original write up on the film here.
Marked Woman – 1937
Davis plays Mary, a nightclub “hostess” that runs afoul of her gangster boss (Eduardo Ciannelli) when her kid sister (Jane Bryan) gets caught up in her troubles. Davis is passionate in the role, and is certainly the highlight of the film. Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, and while the two have several key scenes together, Bogart’s character really seems to only be around for plot advancement. It’s a decent film, and a strong showing for Davis, but a bit of a let down for Bogart considering that it’s a smaller role than their last film together. You can find my original write up on the film here.
Kid Galahad – 1937
Davis plays Edward G. Robinson’s gangster moll, Fluff, with such a sweet and naïve quality that I was left wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson. There is a brief scene in a car with Wayne Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette! You can do better! Bogart and Davis don’t spend a lot of time together, as she’s usually in the background while Bogart deals with Edward G. Robinson or Wayne Morris.
The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS! How did Edward G. Robinson get so lucky? You can find my original write up on the film here.
Dark Victory – 1939
Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy young party girl whose life goes into a dramatic about-face after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor. Bogart is the Irish horse trainer (no, the accent is not as bad as you’ve heard) who’s in love with her, and the scenes they share together are some of the most dynamic in the film. It’s a shame that Bogart’s role is so small, but he was also splitting his time between this film and The Oklahoma Kid. Davis was reported to be dealing with a lot of personal turmoil during the film, as she was involved with costar George Brent while her marriage was falling apart. It seems to only add to her emotional performance, as the film contains some of the most passionate and energetic acting of her career to that point. There was also a happier ending to the film that followed Bogart to the racetrack as he led Davis’ favorite racehorse to a victory, but it was determined to be too abrupt of a tonal shift and was left on the cutting room floor. You can find my original write up on the film here.
In This Our Life – 1942
It’s the film listed in Bogart’s filmography that Bogart’s not even in! Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans. Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible. So while this one is listed in their shared filmography, I’m not counting it as one of the seven they made together.
But . . . Davis plays Stanley Timberlake, a borderline-sociopathic bad girl that steals her sister’s husband. It’s a wild role for Davis, and another big step down the road away from some of the “girl next door” roles that she’d played during the first decade of her career. She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and a temptress – and it’s a truly amazing performance for Davis. You can find my original write up on the film here.
Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943
Davis plays herself in this cameo-filled extravaganza that showcases a whole boatload of Hollywood’s finest performers singing and dancing for a variety show hosted by Eddie Cantor. Davis is very good as she walks into a fancy nightclub and sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” for all the gents who are drinking in the place. Davis actually injured herself during the final take of the dance portion of the number, and you can see her holding her leg as she stands outside by her car. Unfortunately, Davis and Bogart don’t share any screen time in this, the final film that they share together. You can find my original write up on the film here.
The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators. You can check out other entries in the series here.