26 March 2015

Bette Davis' letter to her daughter

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford both had daughters who wrote spiteful books about them. Joan's daughter Christina is the author of "Mommie Dearest" (1978) and Bette's daughter B.D. Hyman wrote "My Mother's Keeper" (1985), both 'tell-all' books in which the actresses are painted as terrible mothers. But while Joan died before her daughter's book was published and was unable to defend herself, Bette was still alive when "My Mother's Keeper" came out. In 1987, two years before her death, she struck back in her second memoir "This 'n That", ending the book with a letter to her daughter.

Dear Hyman,
You ended your book with a letter to me. I have decided to do the same.
There is no doubt you have a great potential as a writer of fiction. You have always been a great storyteller. I have often, lo these many years, said to you, “BD, that is not the way it was. You are imagining things.”  
Many of the scenes in your book I have played on the screen. It could be you have confused the “me” on the screen with “me” who is your mother.
I have violent objections to your quotes of mine regarding actors I have worked with. For the most part, you have cruelly misquoted me. Ustinov I was thrilled to work with and I have great admiration of him as a person and as an actor.
You have stated correctly my reactions to working with Faye Dunaway. She was a most exasperating co-star. But to quote me as having said Sir Laurence Olivier was not a good actor is most certainly one of the figments of your imagination. Few actors have ever reached the towering heights of his performances.
You constantly inform people that you wrote this book to help me understand you and your way of life better. Your goal was not reached. I am now utterly confused as to who you are or what your way of life is.
The sum total of your having written this book is a glaring lack of loyalty and thanks for the very privileged life I feel you have been given.
In one of your many interviews while publicising your book, you said if you sell your book to TV you feel Glenda Jackson should play me. I would hope you would be courteous enough to ask me to play myself.
I have much to quarrel about in your book. I choose to ignore most of it. But not the pathetic creature you claim I have been because of the fact that I did not play Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. I could have, but turned it down. Mr Selznick attempted to get permission from my boss, Jack Warner, to borrow Errol Flynn and Bette Davis to play Rhett Butler and Scarlett. I refused because I felt Errol was not good casting for Rhett. At that time only Clark Gable was right. Therefore, dear Hyman, send me not back to Tara, rather send me back to Witch Way, our home on the beautiful coast of Maine where once lived a beautiful human being by the name of BD, not Hyman.
As you ended your letter in My Mother’s Keeper – it’s up to you now, Ruth Elizabeth – I am ending my letter to you the same way: It’s up to you now, Hyman.
Ruth Elizabeth
P.S. I hope someday I will understand the title My Mother’s Keeper. If it refers to money, if my memory serves me right, I’ve been your keeper all these many years. I am continuing to do so, as my name has made your book about me a success.
Via: telegraph/ original source: "This 'n That" by Bette Davis, Michael Herskowitz (1987).
Bette Davis gave birth to Barbara Davis (B.D.) Sherry in 1947 at age 39. B.D. is a child from Bette's third marriage to artist William Grant Sherry and her only biological child (she would adopt two more children while married to actor Gary Merrill). Due to B.D.'s controversial book, Bette disinherited her daughter and grandchildren.

32 comments:

  1. Even in this way she avoids getting to the heart of the matter I feel. I nearly wrote 'assiduously avoided' just like Arthur Miller did in his telegram to Wilder was it?

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  2. Rather sad that Bette takes so much of the letter talking about Hollywood matters, not about the mother/daughter relationship .

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  3. Ware is the letter B.D. Hyman wrote to Bette???

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    1. It's pretty lame, I can write a small re-cap " Mother you Choose to treat me and my Husband like crap , you tend to see things the way you want not as they were, your a drunk who over reacts to everything and wants things your own way ALL the time , My Husband is wonderful as is our Union quit trying to mess it up , Most important I wrote this book as a way for you to "Understand How YOU acted and so you can learn" The Door is always open to the Really You, Ruth Elizabeth is always welcome. I imagine R.E. is her real name. What a crock of $%^&

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  4. Her daughter was a beast to write that book. She was a spoiled child turned adult that had no loyalty what so ever. I'm glad she didn't get a penny from the inheritance. Bette funded her and her husband for years and was treated dispicably! B.D. and her husband cheated people out of money, as they ran off without paying their debts. Do you think a scammer like that would write a truthful book!?

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    2. What a horrible creature this BD Hyman is. Oh my, and she is suppose to be a Christian? Absolutely a very jealous girl of her mother...a girl with a dark heart. Sad.

      I was about 13 when my father took us to Sun Valley, IDAHO for Christmas. Peering out the window from the rear seat as we approached the intersection stop, I saw Bette Davis alone and stopped at the curb. She must have recognized my facial delight in seeing her, and she smiled with a kindness and twinkle in her eyes!

      How sad that she had such a jealous daughter.

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    3. I imagine it's very hard living with an alcoholic mom. I also think no one knows what happened in this union other than Betty and her daughter.

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  5. The whole thing is just pathetic this is a Mother and Daughter you would think a Daughter would Love her Mother enough not to write such a book even if it was true and even if she was treated far worse but the same goes for Bette Davis she was HER DAUGHTER for her to disinherit her Daughter just shows the type of person she was , I can obviously see why she did but why disinherit her Grandchildren ? Why not set up Trust Funds so her Daughter couldn't touch it. Everyone who has ever said anything about Bette Davis the phrase " She's one Tough Cookie" always seem to pop up.

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    1. I would quite happily write a scathing book about my mother's inability to parent - and I'm not famous. Not all mother daughter relationships are good ones

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    2. Betty Davies. She was a great Actress. Did alot good thing for ppl.But her true often bitch character,shone thru,her Acting. And if her Daughter wrote a Book,about her mother,so be it. Often it's therapeutic, to write. Ihope it helped her. To me Betty was ugly in more than one way. None of us are perfect, including me.Still no matter what she was&still is one of the best.

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    3. First of all, her name was Davis not Davies. And why don't you share a little bit of your relationship with Miss Davis since you are so ready to immediately call her a bitch & seemingly defend the snoddy, ungrateful daughter. Bette Davis dished money out to keep B.D & her husband from losing their house!!! Barbara the undoubtedly knew her book may bring in some money. B.D should be ashamed of herself. I loved Bette's comeback letter!! One thing I can say about B.D is she was not a coward, unlike Cristina Crawford, to publish her "book" while her mother was still alive. And if what she said WAS in fact true ... then why would Michael & Gary Merrill disagree with her & why not contest Bette's will??? As Bette said .... Barbara always mixed truth with fiction.

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  6. I just finished watching "Bette Davis An Intimate Portrait" and Bette's 1971 interview with Dick Cavett, as well as her interview with Joan Rivers. With the exception of her earliest films (that I simply can't find) I have seen the majority of Bette's movies. She is a true legend. She will never be forgotten. I simply don't know how BD could have published that book, even when her own brother asked her not to do such an awful thing, full of lies and untruths. I'm certain money was at the heart of it. So so very sad that book was published while Bette was in such frail health. I'm hoping BD regrets, to this day, hurting her mother so very badly.

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    1. BD is obviously a spoiled bitter child. Mom always gave and she kept wanting more. Mother supported her always when mother was up in years and not able to continue she wanted to crucify her for stopping. What a cold hearted selfish delusional human being.

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  7. I was Miss Bette Davis's live in companion while she was writing the book "This n That". The publishers had wanted her to embellish upon her writings, Hollywood style. She would have non of it. She told me many family incidents while BD was growing up. BD appeared to be a very selfish young girl only thinking of herself. The emotional turmoil took quite a bit out of her at the time. She agreed with me that she would take a week off from it. We had a splendid week together just relaxing. She got her strength back and we started planning her move to Europe.

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  8. I used to date B.D.
    Visited Bette in Ct.

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    1. Most teenagers only think if themselves, some into adulthood. Self preservation is all they have learned from situations they woukd find themselves in. That was long ago. I don't believe judging is fair. Let it go. t

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  9. When your parent is famous and you are not famous, the only reason for writing an insulting tell-all is to embarrass the famous parent - other than money. One would have to have real hatred for the parent to want to humiliate them, a public figure, and to reveal details of their private life. I have no doubt Bette Davis was not a great mother, I also have no doubt BD was not a great daughter. Bette however was not an ogre, so to do this to her seemed unusually cruel and also weird. BD is supposedly a big Christian and to do this to one's mother seems very un-Christian so I feel she was a hypocrite.

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  10. i read this n that by bette davis about her acting life instead of relationship with her daughter i thought i read more about marlene dietrch her times and life from the piedmont spector books and i read marlene dietrch shadow and light i never read my mother's keeper by Bd hyman i saw the connie chung interview online last week on you tube my mother would'nt let me oder it i had to read bette davis memior she wrote at the oakland main libary

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  11. Bette Davis was brilliant. Most brilliant people are misunderstood. Her acting was so poignant in every film she ever made. She influenced me and my strength and self confidence were the result of years of watching her strong characters.
    BD chose to dismiss her Mother out of emotional need. We film goers saw her Mom as a legend.
    Claire Gonet

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  12. I loved Bette Davies in film but from books realise it must have been hard growing up with some strange men in Bette's life as her daughter. I think you should try to listen to your children and love them. Its a shame Bette did not rekindle and forgive her daughters importance in her life.

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  13. Barbara probably could have chosen a different time to write the volume. She could've even chosen to publish it after her mother's death. I also have a feeling that Bette was unusually cruel and selfish thus passing her worst traits to BD, creating a toxic combination and precluding the possibility of a functional relationship. Bette Davis treated her own sister like dirt and tried to control every aspect of the woman's life, down to wresting control of her sister's funeral arrangements from the sister's own daughter. BD's life must've been he'll with Bette, all the while Bette Davis thought it was perfect because she was a great provider. I remember the time spent with my parents above nearly any material possession they provided.

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    1. I watched the interview with Connie Chung and all I saw was a very unhappy woman. She was saying her mother was "Acting and On stage" even when she was at home!! That to me isn't being a loving mother! I grew up with an unloving father who thought by providing was enough. He wasn't home much and if he was he didn't offer emotional support. Often he was in bad moods! It was very difficult time growing up in my home and still today none of us have a loving relationship with him. So, if this is what B.D. is talking and wrote her book about, I do completely understand! I would write a book too, but no one would buy it because my father isn't a celebrity.

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  14. My sad observation is that the reviled parent, more often than not, has been utterly and totally blind to the suffering of the child and to what they may have discounted as harmless circumstances that indeed the child found intolerable. I do think that it was inexcusable for the daughter to write this "punishment" book (which is what it was) with the intention that her mother might read it, but it was also a cry of pain and Bette Davis I guess could not hear that cry. The daughter may well have developed some sadistic traits herself, you know. But, also, she may have sensed that the only way she might get her mother to listen to her is by reading about her, the daughter's, pain in a book that all could read! Big mistake: The real message didn't seem to reach Bette even then and seems to have put the nail into the coffin (maybe in more ways than one, since Bette died not long after). But how did this alienated, painful relationship blossom? Often a child can be quite different in certain ways than the parent and the parent may be perplexed as to how to relate to that child. This is a bigger problem than is often acknowledged. For all we know, Bette simply couldn't "read" her child right and therefore inadvertently been insensitive, but I still put far more of the burden of responsibility on her to have gotten professional help in some way before her daughter grew up alienated from her. I suspect that this alienation developed when the daughter was quite small. Very tragic. What a genius of an actress, too!! And so beautiful!

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  15. And your point would be......what??? She since B.D married at 16 & is still married, exactly when was this "date"?

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  16. As if to really prove her mental instability - B.D is now a crazy fire and brimstone Jesus freak. You can listen to some of her tripe on youtube...I can hear Bettes smokey cackle from beyond the grave

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  17. Spoiled ungrateful child. Bette Davis said it, when she pointed out that she was still helping her daughter financially by way of being the subject of her book. Cutting her out of her will was the least the daughter deserved. Adult children who have been overindulged are notorious liars who use their parents until the time the parents needs them and then they shun them out of their life. The daughter got religious very publicly to further demonize her mother, make herself appear righteous and relieve her own guilty conscience. This relationship could have been worked out privately. Shameful daughter.

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    1. wow you know so much and you are? oh that's right, you never knew either women and you are merely commenting about something that you know nothing about.

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  18. Wow, so many comments vilifying the daughter. Where there's smoke there's fire. Bette's own need to publicly slam her daughter is disgusting, especially as she was very frail and died soon after. I grew up with a mother, that I loved, but was incredibly narcissistic and controlling. How others thought of her was more important than how she treated us behind closed doors. I didn't live with either of them, but I do know what it's like to have people shaming me for speaking up against the abuse I suffered. I don't think she should have written a book about her (either of them). Definitely, her daughter was taught to be the way she is.

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