Bette Davis, Abortion and Irony

Friday, September 9, AD 2011

Recently on the American history blog Almost Chosen People that Paul Zummo and I run, I wrote a post, which may be read here, saluting the actress Bette Davis for the ardent patriotism she displayed during World War II.  In the course of my research however, I came across information which paints a very bleak picture of the famed actress indeed.

In the video at the beginning of the post we see a clip from the movie Juarez (1939) where the Empress of Mexico, Carlota, superbly portrayed by Bette Davis, is begging the Blessed Virgin for a child.  This scene is extremely ironic, since throughout the thirties and into the forties, Davis, for the good of her career apparently, and with the consent of her husband, had a series of abortions.  She opined in an interview in the eighties that she did not believe that abortion during the first month of pregnancy was the taking of human life, which leads me to wonder if she did not routinely go through pregnancy tests and abortions as a matter of course.  The cold bloodedness of this needs no amplification by me.

What makes all of this supremely ironic and doubly tragic, is that Bette Davis’ father was apparently a cruel man who attempted to pressure her mother to have an abortion when she was carrying Bette.  Her mother chose life, unlike her daughter.

Miss Davis led a successful life as we mortals often judge such things.  She won several Oscars, was a true master of her craft, and died honored and wealthy.  All for naught.  She died alienated from the one daughter she allowed to survive and from her grandchildren.  Without love, which Davis failed to show when it mattered most, we humans are but poor things indeed.

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