- United States
- New York
The Lonely Life by Bette Davis, published in 1962
One of the hallmarks of an Ayn Rand character is his/her singular drive and ability to pave his/her own path. In Rand's books, her heroes are individualists who passionately but unemotionally pursue their goals - calm in the face of adversity and, even, brutal mendacity. As she chose for the title of her magnum opus, they are Atlases holding the world aloft despite the world's best effort to break them.
In real life, stringent individualists in singular pursuit of a goal can be a handful for the rest of us - emotional, screamers, breakers of glass, egotists - basically, pains in the arses, but they do move the world forward through their ardent will, egotism, effort, almost-miniacial commitment and relentless drive. They might work with others, but their success is only a collective effort in the broadest sense of the word; the world's achievements - its accomplishments - belong to, let's just say it, the arrogant individuals.
Bette Davis is one such arrogant individual and she wouldn't and doesn't deny it one bit. While a liberal in her political views - a huge fan of FDR - Davis is a Randian libertarian at heart. She believes that those with outsized talent and drive have a right to break the rules, push others out of the way and do whatever it takes to, in her case, make the play or movie better. If feelings get hurt, people get fired - so be it; the goal of making the best movie, with the best acting is what matters / those who can't keep up and contribute should find another line of work. Howard Roark would be proud.
While all the other elements of a normal biography are here - family (emotionally cold father, insanely devoted mother, overshadowed sister), early life, career ups and downs, one failed marriage after another (she really was married to her career first and her husbands' egos couldn't stand that or her out earning them), her work is her life and the heart and soul of the biography.
And it doesn't disappoint. She gives credit aplenty to others - and names names - and assigns blame and failure - without naming names - but not holding back otherwise. And this inside Hollywood stuff is the real fun of the book - she drops in plenty of anecdotes about her movies, her costars, her directors and the Brothers Warner, Jack in particular.
Published in '62, it seems to have just predated her '62 career-boosting comeback "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," but it probably doesn't matter as Bette Davis was born Bette Davis, lived her entire life as Bette Davis and, from other things I've read, died as Bette Davis - one of the world's best actresses who pushed whatever she had to out of the way to let her talent shine through.
I'm sure its varnished - whoever wrote a an autobiography that didn't blend in a little hagiography? - but it's short, fast and unvarnished enough to make it one of Hollywood's better reads. Plus this, the great "ridding crop habit flip" maneuver ⇩ from Jezebel was self taught in a marathon overnight session followed by forty-five takes: something an actress - and Ayn Rand hero - not a star, would do. Bette Davis was, above all else, an actress.