Carol Kane Remembers Bette Davis

October 25, 2019

When I was a very young girl, not even in high school, I fell madly in love with the artistry of Bette Davis. 

 

At 13, while attending the Professional Children's School, I had chronic insomnia. Late at night I'd watch a program called "MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE" which would play a classic film over and over again. So I got to see all of Bette Davis' films two or three times a night. 

 

When I went on the road with my first equity play, the book I brought with me to keep me company and educate myself was "The Lonely Life" - Bette Davis' autobiography.  I hoped so profoundly to be able to become the kind of actress that she was, with her undying honesty and bravery in all her art. 

 

Later I moved to Hollywood because I was working on "Taxi" and I saw two beautiful apartments to rent, but one of them was in the Colonial House - The building where Bette Davis lived. So, that was that. My choice was made.

 

I moved in but had to quickly do my laundry and pack my suitcase to do a movie in Sydney Australia. On a Sunday in the laundry room I had the good fortune to meet her beloved, long time assistant, Kathryn Sermak. 

 

We struck up a conversation, in which I told her I was going to Sydney to shoot a movie, and that I was quite nervous about the trip. Kathryn was so very gracious and kind. When we said goodbye at my door, she noticed that I had a Bette Davis lobby card on my wall. 

 

Later that same afternoon, a card was slipped under my door which read "Dear Miss. Kane, have been to Australia. Maybe I can help. Come for drinks at six." signed Bette Davis. 

 

 

At six o clock, I rang her doorbell. Miss. Davis answered the door herself, dressed in a crisply ironed cotton shirt and pants and wearing a baseball cap. She guided me into her beautiful living room and Kathryn joined us. Miss. Davis made me feel so welcome and comfortable and we talked. She told me where to stay in Sydney (where I did stay!) We talked about my admiration for her. She told me stories about her life and her convictions as an artist. She became my beloved supporter, teacher, and neighbor. 

 

When I was nominated for an Emmy for Taxi, Miss. Davis insisted that I come over for a drink before getting in the car. Kathryn took our picture, and I know she watched the show. 

 

One day I invited my TAXI cast over and Miss. Davis came over to meet them all. 

 

When my beloved father came to town, I invited Miss. Davis for drinks at six. We got her favorite scotch and cleaned and cleaned, and when Miss. Davis rang the doorbell gone was the familiar baseball cap and pressed cotton shirt, and there at the door stood "BETTE DAVIS"! She knew how much this meeting meant to me in honor of my father and she went ALL OUT in Hollywood style. 

 

Some people say that Bette Davis was a tough cookie. I know that Bette Davis was a perfectionist and innovator in her work and that was part in parcel of what made her the genius she was. She was unwilling to compromise her vision and her commitment to tell the story of not only her character but the entire movie, in the most honest, profound and passionate way for it to be told.  In that light, perhaps she was unwilling to compromise her vision. For that conviction we must be indebted to her and grateful for her courage. Once again we are the beneficiaries of her bravery . 

 

As you know by now, she was unwaveringly kind and generous to me. So thank you Bette Davis for all the gifts that you have given me and all of us who have had the privilege  to watch you light up the screen your whole life long. 

 

- Carol Kane 

 

 

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