How Bette Davis Became a Hollywood Icon By Refusing to Conform at Every Turn

“I think that Bette Davis would probably be burned as a witch if she had lived two or three hundred years ago,” English critic E. Arnot Robertson wrote in 1935. “She gives the curious feeling of being charged with power which can find no ordinary outlet.”

Davis, born 108 years ago today in Lowell, Massachusetts, embraced this myth. Not only was she born near Salem, she entered the world like a witch: “A bolt of lightning hit a tree in front of the house the moment I was born,” she told biographer Charlotte Chandler. The iconoclastic actress went on to fight and win many of the same battles faced by actresses today, from establishing equal pay to maintaining a lengthy career. A woman who refused to conform to what an actress should be ended up not only being one of the best actresses of all time, but a model for what actresses in the future could be.

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