as provided on book:
'My Mother's Keeper'
is a uniquely intimate and candid portrait of the private life of one
of the world's greatest actresses - the incomparable Bette Davis - by
the only person who could have written it - her daughter B.D. Hyman.
This is the fascinating story of growing up with a mother whose family
roles were as startling as anything she played on the cinema screen.
In Hyman's description of a complicated
mother-daughter relationship, we see the personality that made Bette
Davis a living legend: struggling through a violent marriage with Gary
Merrill, dueling with Joan Crawford on the set on What Ever Happened to
advising her happily married daughter that 'An affair now and then is
good for a marriage...I ought to know'. We see the famous actress beset
by private demons, obsessively attached to her only natural child,
ruling household, family and friends with the same capricious strength
that brought her to the pinnacle of her profession. But even when
touching on the most difficult aspects of their relationship, Hyman
writes out of a constant attempt to reach the real woman, portraying
her mother with perplexed affection and fierce honesty.
Here is Bette Davis, world-famous movie-star - in real life more regal
than Elizabeth I, more tempestuous than Jezebel, as enthralling as in
any of her classic roles.
Fans of Bette Davis may be somewhat
see me giving this book any bunnies at all, but it is reasonably well
written, interesting reading and as a result I have some
Hyman. The narrative flows, with a strong narrative voice and is even
humorous in places. To be honest with you, nothing Hyman accused Davis
of came as a great shock. I think it is clear to any Davis fan
that she had a compulsive personality (Davis admitted it herself)
liked to fight.
I think Davis wanted the sort of love
from BD that Bette had given to her own Mother. I think she believed in
her own mind that she made the
same sacrifices for BD, that is working her butt off to provide for
her. Unfortunately, in the book, I don't think Hyman has
made an effort
the pressures and demands made on Davis, much like Christina Crawford
she chooses to focus on what she feels are her Mother's shortcomings.
at a very young age, the breadwinner of the family of three
that included herself, her Mother and Bobby. Things stayed that way for
the rest of her life, Davis was even expected to have incredibly deep
pockets to provide the funeral her mother wished for, which she did. In
addition to the three of them, Davis also became financially
responsible for her 3 children. None of this touches Hyman, who,
instead presents her Gran and Auntie Bobby as other victims of the
Bette. With most things in life there are two sides to a story.
Certain aspects of BD's childhood were unacceptable. Divorce is hard on
children and no child should have to endure witnessing a violent
relationship, and these claims regarding BD's childhood are
other sources. However, no parent is perfect and Hyman does herself no
favours with the inclusion
of minor irritants, for example when BD won at gymkhanas Davis
insisting on wearing the rosettes rather than letting BD wear them
herself, I do understand
Hyman's desire to justify her exasperation with her mother but really
this is not abusive and
undermine Hyman's point as it comes across as incredibly whiny.
This whiny attitude is also due, in part, to the
narrative style, there is a certain amount of over telling and at
points, particularly towards the end
BD just bangs on with her opinion. I found myself thinking 'alright I
get it! Move on!'. I also found myself wondering why BD chose to leave
her children (for prolonged periods) with a woman she labels a tyrant.
In addition there is a huge problem in the fact that
story was published
after Davis's illness, the post stroke Davis on TV whilst still
described as 'formidable' looks so tiny and frail, it is very hard to
get past the idea that BD Hyman is kicking a frail old lady while she
is down. If you can
get past that, this is an interesting source and whilst it may not be
fashionable I do have some respect for BD Hyman. I feel she has been
honest but poorly advised.
This is an interesting read and the pictures are great, it is also
evocative of a bygone era, Amazon have got numerous copies at under
£2 and it's a bargain.
In a nutshell I believe B.D. Hyman, I think the
re-telling is somewhat skewed by a desire to reveal the 'bad' side of
Davis in the book (and Hyman loses a bunny). But it is unfortunate that
BD Hyman is
tarred by the same brush that gave Christina Crawford the tarring she
actually deserved. Most of what is written by BD Hyman is
fully supported by known fact
and she gains a couple of bunnies for the photographs, all of them
candid, and of the Bette Davis the public didn't really get to see.
BD is at pains to tell us she knows her mother loved her and I think
most people who malign the book do not realise the culpability of
others, for example, according to Hyman, Davis's lawyer Harold Schiff
constant thorn in her side, Hyman's misery was not just due to Davis.
Most Bette Davis fans declare that Hyman wrote the book assuming Davis
would not survive cancer and the stroke she suffered. As my first
edition copy of the book includes BD's description of Bette's illness,
fight and recovery,
I do not believe this to be the case, in addition her brother Michael
reveals that BD felt she had to write the book. So I have to conclude
that BD Hyman has been treated harshly, even those sources which appear
at first to be offering a fair representation are usually heavily
biased. For example this video shared by Siouxzan at myspace:
find it interesting that none of the
main players (Michael, Katherine, Schiff etc) have actually come
forward to dispute any of the anecdotal evidence. Whilst fans of Davis
may state that those not close to the family but present at certain
events, saw nothing wrong, family members have not offered an
alternative representation of BD's version. Particularly of
Davis's relationship with Margot and family holidays. One
stays with me though, how
can a book be fair when the
writer has such disdain for their subject? BD makes no effort to
examine her own behaviour towards her mother, which in places seems
distant and harsh. In addition, her behaviour in places does seem
somewhat provocative, "whenever we had been anywhere..and the other
people...impressed her, she had behaved properly...We were delighted
with our discoveries and filed the new data for future use". Bette
Davis was not a fool, she must have known on some level that she was
neither particularly welcome nor liked, and as BD seems unaware that
their attitudes towards Bette could be hurtful, I have to wonder what
told in the book. Because of this and the fact that 'nice'
glossed over, for example: "we entered a comparatively peaceful period
relations with Mother that was to continue for two and a half years."
then we promptly skip forward two and a half years. I
have to deduct a couple of bunnies from the context rating. This is no
reflection on Hyman's believability but rather, bound to happen with
such a personal account. Hyman also
loses in context for the aforementioned failure to acknowledge the
pressures placed on Davis. All in all a representation of Davis that
when put into context with all the plaudits and praise that have been
presented over the years does help us to understand Bette Davis the