By K.C. Conner

Arizona Summer Wildcat

We have all heard movie critics go on about the "golden years of Hollywood," the actresses, the glamour, the witty dialogue, but apart from Sunday Super Cinema Matinees, when was the last time anyone looked into film's past? The classics are all available on video.

One name linked inextricably with the word "classic" is that of the late Bette Davis. Her work on film is well worth a second, or first, look. It is now available on video in a set entitled "The Bette Davis Series," put out by Key Video.

Today's film actresses often lament the lack of good acting roles for women, and often cite the parts that went to Davis in the 1930s, '40s and early '50s as examples.

Davis' films function as an exploration of how females' expected roles have changed in our culture, and it seems we have not "come a long way, baby," on film, anyway.

Bette Davis was a woman who, by today's standards of beauty, would not make it past a 1990s audition. She was not beautiful. She had those big puppy dog eyes (later idolized by Kim Carnes in song and Madonna in style) but Davis rose to prominence for her strength of character.

When one looks at the top grossing female film stars of today, what does one get? Andie McDowell and Kim Basinger have the looks, but the latter has built a career upon playing the victim.

One modern-day actress with some potential, Julia Roberts, cites Davis' exchange of cigarettes with Paul Henreid in the 1942 Irving Rapper film "Now Voyager" as her favorite kiss in cinematic history.

"Now Voyager" is the story of a sheltered spinster who comes out of her shell, with the help of psychotherapy, to find love with a married man. This film deals with issues that are still taboo, even in today's Oprah-driven culture.

"All about Eve," (1950) written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, stars Davis and an ensemble cast including a very young Marilyn Monroe. This cynical and sophisticated film about the theater world is the story of a conniving young actress named Eve (Anne Baxter) who is taken in by an experienced, older actress (Davis) until Davis' character realizes the girl is trying to take over her career. "All About Eve" is as subtle and as smart as movies get.

Also, notice the scene in "All About Eve" where Davis takes off her makeup and lounges around in cold cream. What actress today would play so fast and loose with her public image?

This is not to say that these films are perfectly enlightened. Any African-Americans in these films are bound to turn up as servants, women are, for the most part, still valued for their beauty and men for their brains, and in "Jezebel," Davis' character is destroyed due to her independent character.

Still, the films of Bette Davis are worth a look, if only so that one realizes that our image of ideal female worth changes over time, and often at the movies.

If you have had enough of O.J., The Bette Davis Series is available at Flicks on Campus (624-9533) or try other video stores in town. Read Next Article