Acting great Bette Davis was born 110 years ago today, April 5.
It's hard to believe the woman so many of us grew accustomed to seeing on the world stage, continuing to make TV and movie and talk show appearances until the very end of her life, has been gone nearly 30 years, but it's true — Davis succumbed to cancer at just 81 years of age (today, that's young!) on October 6, 1989.
In honor of the occasion, check out Rick Gould's comparison of two of Davis's lesser pleasures — her twin turns as twins, in A Stolen Life (1946) and Dead Ringer (1964).
It's double the fun.
Bette Davis: Twins Times Two! by Rick Gould
Bette Davis not only started a favorite Hollywood casting stunt, playing twins, but Davis did the sister act twice: 1946’s A Stolen Life and 1964’s Dead Ringer.
Both pictures were made by Bette’s long-time studio, Warner Brothers. The ‘46 A Stolen Life was Davis’ career peak, Bette’s biggest hit at the studio. With the ’64 edition, Davis had made a huge comeback with 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? WB only released but didn’t make the surprise hit. This time, Warners’ bit and produced Dead Ringer. Compared to A Stolen Life, Dead Ringer wasn’t a bell ringer. Still, both films are fun, especially for Bette fans.
A Stolen Life is a dreamy romantic triangle set on the scenic New Bedford, Massachusetts coast versus Dead Ringer’s harsh Los Angeles is a backdrop for wrangling over money, sex, and murder. Whereas A Stolen Life has gentle Freddie as the family counselor to the rich twin sisters, Dead Ringer’s Edie goes from her true blue cop boyfriend to a snake pit of cheaters and chiselers.
A romantic melodrama, A Stolen Life has lighthouse keeper Bill (Glenn Ford) actually refer to artist Kate as an un-frosted cake! Soon he finds a more complete confection in her man-eater twin, Pat. Bette’s sympathetic Kate is really the star of A Stolen Life. Davis’ devious twin Pat is brought in to stir up trouble before she’s dispatched in a boating accident.
Glenn Ford, who was borrowed from Columbia, is quietly appealing, but I’m not sure why producer Bette insisted on casting him. After artsy Kate loses Bill to crafty Pat, she becomes close to rough and rugged artist, Karnock, played by Dane Clark, a typical WB alpha male. Aside from brutally critiquing her art, Karnock takes personal jabs at Pat, all about her not being “a real woman!” Ironically, Davis would soon marry a rough and tough artist in real life!
A Snippet of Ann Jillian in Killer in the Mirror, a 1986 TV Remake of Dead Ringer:
Bruce Bennett, Mildred Pierce’s Bert, shows up for just one scene, as Pat’s extramarital lover. Surely Bennett’s part got cut for running time and WB didn’t force him to appear for a scene anyone could have played?
Charles Ruggles offers some reality amidst the farfetched dual/dueling sisters plotting, as family retainer Freddie. Ruggles is sympathetic and no-nonsense, a warm screen presence. There are a typical slew of great characters, including scene stealer Walter Brennan, as a crusty light house keeper. Auntie Em herself, aka Clara Blandick, shows up as the stingy antique store owner.
Romantic and lush, the script attempts to be adult and sophisticated, which it may have been in the ‘40s. Now, some of the lines are cringe-worthy. The photography is lovely, especially the light house scenes. The boating accident, for the era, is also well-done.