My New Life
I have been away from my job for a year. I have read much along the lines of checking up on Bette. After fifteen years in my profession there is little new to write—the main excuse at this point being that I have become a Mother. That is news. It, however, is not a rare accomplishment. I am not up on the statistics of how many babies are born every minute in every year in these great United States of ours, but it is safe to say I am one of hundreds of thousands. I am inspired to write this piece myself, as so much that is being written is misinformation—so much that I am doing is being misunderstood—so much is being said of my emotions as a Mother—so much that is either overboard or inadequate—that I have decided to dedicate this Thursday evening to checking up on myself for myself and for those who might be interested in what I myself do really feel about this revolution in my life.
First of all—let me make a flat statement. I am delighted. I think having a child is as it should be. I do not feel it is the only thing in my life. I believe if I did feel that way, it would eventually become tiresome to my daughter. I am unable to bill and coo publicly about her. I do lots of that in the long watches of the night—I am her slave in those moments. I can well imagine I will continue to feel that way. In other words, I think I am as normal a mother as I feel I am a person. There is a place for every thing. When I am working I am the actress. When I am home I am in love with my husband and my daughter. That should answer my many inquisitors who peer into my eyes and expect a new Bette Davis—more full blown. It only embarrasses me and leaves me unable adequately to express myself.
Will she be an actress? I am fully aware she will most assuredly be asked this question a million times. I hope it will not annoy her. That is up to me. I must explain it is meant as a compliment to her mother—and it will be. I hope she will answer—without shame—“I don’t know what I want to do”—until the moment comes when she knows what she does want to do—then she will have her answer. I feel it is unimportant whether or not she follows in my footsteps—it is only important that she does what she wants to do and that she does it well.
Much is being written about my life at the studio—the dressing room my boss Mr. Warner had built for me. It is charming—it is convenient—it is my own idea. Laguna is not within commuting distance. I go home—sixty miles away—every Wednesday and every weekend. I miss my family but am bearing up very well. At five months old, Barbara is not waiting home at six-thirty ready to have a long chat. She is asleep—and she should be.
Laguna is so satisfactory a home—I am willing to give it up for a few days at a time in order to have it there waiting for me. It is ideal for my husband’s career—he is a painter and gains inspiration from his life there. That makes it even more worth the few evenings away. One reporter said the doctor ordered me to live up here for my health. I am extremely healthy. I was during my entire pregnancy. I was after Barbara was born. I could only wish such good health for all women.
Why have I not been photographed with Barbara? I see no point in it at her age. I am rather bored with the Mother role—as exploited by some of my cohorts. I think it unfair to a child so young. Newspaper photographs seldom look like the person—how well I know—why should complete strangers get a wrong impression of her—and she is ours. Just for us at the moment. I did not have her for publicity reasons. I am too dyed-in-the-wool a Yankee to exploit the things that are deep in me.
One article—I believe the first printed—quoted me as saying, “Isn’t she a beauty?” I blushed when I read it. I can’t brag about my lovely daughter. To me, of course, she is much more than a beauty—she is heaven—and all that goes with it. But that kind of thing I am incapable of saying. If someone else says it—I beam.
Whom does she look like? It is impossible to tell—I feel as the weeks go by she looks more and more like her father. I am pleased.
I have received many compliments since returning to work as to how well I look,better than ever and the like. Mother hood is receiving all the credit. I retort with some reason—it couldn’t be I have had a year off—the first since I started in working at nineteen. To deny that Barbara has not made a change in my life would be hypocrisy—she has given me a great new interest—a great new challenge—to equip her for the world she will go out into. That is up to me—and I love the responsibility. And I pray I will do well by her.
Let’s see what else—my new picture “Winter Meeting”—I like it. I am delighted with my director Bretaigne Windust Corning to Warners with an Oscar record in the theater. Our leading man is another Davis —a Davis from Missouri—first name Jim, tali, good looking and talented. Are the Sherrys’ buying a ranch? They are. They are going into it as a business—and as their future home.
What do we do in Laguna? We love living—we swim, we read, Sherry paints, goes to his flying school every day—he has his private license. I run the house—take care of my daughter—have barbecues on the beach—take trips in our boat—go to the movies—to the summer theaters—visit with my mother and sister and family—play pool—take movies of our daughter—play with our daughter—have friends for weekends—dam socks—sew on buttons—sit around and talk, our favorite kind of entertainment. In other words, we do what any average family does—a family that is sufficient unto itself—the only really important thing in the world for everyone—the one thing really worth striving for.
To sum it all up—I cannot ask for more than to have life continue as it is. I have my family—my work—I can look the world in the eye. I am happy.
And now to bed—to get ready for another day—tomorrow is Friday and as I race to Laguna tomorrow night, I will have to admit the scales have tipped definitely in favor of my family—with my work the less important of the two—that is the main change in Bette Davis. Check.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1948