Bette Davis: Hell At Its Purest

Victor Skrebneski

Phone Interview

Let me clear something up: I am not speaking to you from the perspective of an old woman, or as an actress with severely and unhappily limited prospects. I was always dissatisfied with the state of things; I was always disappointed with most of the people with whom I worked; I was always striving to make things better.

Most people are dumb; most people are lazy. Ease is desired. It is also terribly overrated. I like a fight. I like a struggle. Struggles make you stronger and they create better work. Everything means more and achieves more when it is sought, desired, battled. I cannot bear those who take the easy way. I think the religions of the world should be revised, and I think the cardinal sin--punishable by death--should be sloth. I really do.

We have a desire to do something. Great. Now comes the responsibility, and I think we should exhaust ourselves and give everything of ourselves to achieve the dream and the responsibility of the perfect performance. 

I used to have a sort of motto: Work, when you love it, is happiness, life at its best. Well, work when you love it, and you can't get it, and you can't do it with good people is misery, hell at its purest.

I'm in a bit of a hell these days. I've been in a bit of a hell for about ten years now. I don't like it.

I'm fighting it.

We began at some point to idealize innocence and the dream, the desire. Our actors now seem to be suspended in an adolescent phase of development. The dream eclipses the waking reality. I don't care about your dream if your work stinks. I think if your work stinks, you should get the hell out of the way, out of the business, and go dream another dream.

Who, past the age of five or so, cares if they are liked? I always wanted to be respected, and I worked hard and well to be respected.

I was born old and good and determined, and that is just no longer valuable.

© James Grissom
From the forthcoming Artistic Suicide


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