Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (TV Movie 2006) Poster

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Good Mix of Film Clips, Archived Self-Talks & Commentaries by Peers
phd121669 March 2008
For me, it's difficult to pick who was the greatest actor of the 20th century: Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck? Each had to work harder than men actors to get roles portraying strong women characters; each played so many diverse lead characters they they couldn't be stereotyped into a typical role; each had sensational acting ability; each couldn't be cast as simpleton sexual objects for men to exploit; each was utterly devoted to her acting career for their entire lifetime; each didn't receive nearly enough official recognition by being awarded for outstanding leading and supporting characters; each stoled the shows from great leading actors in nearly every scene they played; each was not what would be called a 'raving beauty', and yet, on film, their spirits brought the beauty forth from within themselves in such a fashion to become gorgeous; each allowed themselves to be cast in highly controversial roles well before the social issues were talked of in their time. Having said all of that, I cast my vote for Bette Davis as the greatest actor of the 20th century.

This biographical documentary of Bette Davis' work and life is revealed quite expertly well through a well balanced mixture of actual film clips from some of Davis' great silver screen performances, television talk-shows when she reveals key intimate details about her life, values, beliefs, and sensibility.

The film biographers of "Stardust..." do a remarkably fine job of selecting clips of Davis' peer commentators who were knew Davis as their friend, mother, acting mentor, neighbor, and a kids-turned-actors who grew up either on stage with Davis or in her home.

This is one of the most well balanced film biographies of an actor that I have viewed (repeatedly). There are historic clips not available (at this time) to the public, included in "Stardust...." This, for a Davis collector, it is a must own, especially in DVD format.
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10/10
This really shows what BD became...
XweAponX5 April 2008
...And how it Broke Bette's heart.

I became very interested in Bette after seeing this the first time in 2006 when I came out... Not that I did not already love her as one of my favourite actresses... But because of this documentary, I have changed my opinion of Miss Davis, as not just one of the best, but The Best Actress, ever.

And as such, she was never really left a moment's peace in her personal life. However, this documentary shows, that fact never affected Davis work ethic, and she plod on regardless of what was going on with her life.

I think the documentary ought to have had a bit more to say about The Hollywood Canteen, a pivotal point in her career, and one that awarded her the highest civilian honour in real life, even above Bob Hope. It is almost like I am proud to be a Davis fan because of what she did for our Servicemen in WWII.

A lot of people always measure Davis by the Joan Crawford Yardstick... And the documentary maker here also does that, to a small degree. I think in reality, Davis probably never had the slightest Crawford, but Crawford, who was always combative with the other high profile stars at her studios (aka, Norma Shearer at MGM) - It is almost as if, Since Norma Shearer, who beat Crawford hands down at MGM, retired in 1941... Crawford targeted Miss Davis as her new "antagonist"- Something which I don't think Davis thought of at all, as any Crawford/Davis feud (Or Crawford/Shearer feud) was always more so on the part of Crawford. It is a sad laughable thing about Crawford, not that it makes me disrespect Crawford for it, but Davis just wasn't like that at all, Miss Davis was always more interested in the health of the Film (to the point of micromanaging things) to deal with petty Crawford Feuds.

The documentary maker of this, I think could have used better wisdom collecting the filmed anecdotal items: Such as those comments from Davis Former Husband William Grant Sherry's wife (who used to be Davis' nanny - I forget her name, but her name is unimportant, as, the PERSON is unimportant) - I can't believe that the documentary makers would use that particular source of footage- INCLUDING the footage where the woman, if I could loosely use that term woman, just about makes a blanket statement that Bette had something to do with Arthur Farnsworth's untimely death.

I appreciate the clips from Bob Osbourne and James Woods... And it is important to show all aspects of the person, but Betty was as complicated as anyone- The film does however show the high level of disrespect of BD Hyman toward her mother, something that shocked me, especially as how Hyman considers herself not just a Christian, but a Minister: And As Such is a very Poor example of one.

The tragedy of this documentary are the clips from BD, whose betrayal must have hurt Bette more than anything done to her by anyone else in her lifetime.

I am glad that they showed the BD clips, as they show this Girl/Woman, whom Davis loved more than anything... What an inconsiderate Phony "Christian" she was and is, using a "Mommy Dearest" attack to accumulate 100,000 dollars (which is more than the usual sum publishers forked out in those days) which she claims to have used to Christian Ministries:

And if I were to tell this BD Hyman anything, it would be that money obtained from the public Disrespect of one's blood Parent... Is NOT money that God has blessed and has put His hand on.

This documentary shows this disrespect, and not in a flattering light toward Hyman.

Hyman did not consider, that good ministry, IS looked at by the public, and if Hyman's anti-Mom books are considered by Hyman as something God either WANTED, Ordained, or Supported: That She is WRONG and as a Christian I want nothing to do with THAT God, who would allow parental disrespect as a means to access money for so-called Christian Works, and any Minister or Ministry that is FOUNDED on such.

I am glad that the original book was laughed off of the shelves by the critics. - Hyman was revealed as a Hypocrite who needs to either shut-up or make it right with her Mother.

BD, Your Mother loved you, and you can actually make it right even now.
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9/10
Bette Davis: A Life Dusted With Hallmarks and Heartbreak...
cchase17 October 2008
As with any Silver Screen documentary co-produced by Turner Classic Movies, you would expect nothing less than an account of the highest quality, and STARDUST: THE BETTE DAVIS STORY does not disappoint. One of the most well-balanced accounts on the actress I've ever had the pleasure of seeing, it manages to be surprisingly subjective by presenting a portrait of one of Hollywood's most celebrated legends warts-and-all, complete with archival footage, sound clips and close-up interviews with friends, fans and those people still with us who knew her best.

By turns it's funny, amazing, amusing and very sad - showing a woman who was as complex as the best roles she played, and as someone who worked tirelessly to make sure that her performances (and in some cases the performances of her co-stars) were never "phoned-in", and how consumed with a passion for the work, she payed a terrible price by all but sacrificing the quality of what could and should've been a wonderful personal life.

But rather than go more deeply into the sordid details of affairs, failed marriages and rivalries with contemporaries and studio execs - especially her "surrogate father", Jack Warner, the doc spends a lot more time reviewing some of Ms. Davis's most lauded (and rightfully so) performances from such greats as NOW, VOYAGER, THE LITTLE FOXES, JEZEBEL and one of my personal favorites, THE LETTER.

Bette Davis was not a conventional Hollywood beauty. But then again, she wasn't a conventional anything. And thank goodness that writer/director Peter Jones saw fit to tell her story in anything but a conventional way. I think she would've really appreciated that.
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10/10
Magnificent, uncompromisingly honest look at one of the screen's greatest legends
tralfaz28 May 2006
Hats off again to Turner Classic Movies and their corporate sibling Warner Bros., for once again setting the highest bar for documentary film-making on Hollywood subjects.

Peter Jones is not a household name, but he should be. This magnificent director has created some of the best industry-based works I've ever seen. His portrait of Samuel Goldwyn on American Masters was superb, and even through the muck of A&E, his telling of the story of Ozzie and Harriet turned out to be one of the most moving, and heartbreaking studies of the American dream dissolved.

After a few years away from the 'spotlight' as it were, I saw this documentary on TCM after reading wonderful reviews. I wasn't skeptical about it, as TCM has generally (with rare exception in prior years) always delivered a first rate product.

Instead of taking the traditional approach, Jones has crafted a true MOTION PICTURE. Not a predictable clip/talking head/clip show. He gets under Davis' skin, and paints a portrait of a remarkable, yet basically sad person. Lest we forget her 1960s autobiography was called THE LONELY LIFE.

Jones celebrates her genius, and has a cast of colleagues and friends of Davis to back up his story, and it sets this show apart from the usual claptrap we see on other cable channels.

Not surprisingly, this is a co-production between Warner Bros. and TCM, which means a somewhat concurrent DVD release of the docu is part of an overall collection of great Davis films. WB has used this formula with both TCM and PBS to celebrate the likes of Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Garbo, and so many others. It's what sets WB apart from all other studios as the classiest and sharpest when it comes to their legacy on DVD, and also why Turner Classic Movies remains so acclaimed by critics year after year.

I look forward to the next Peter Jones Production! He's one terrific filmmaker. I think Bette would be proud.
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8/10
Bette Davis star of the silver screen
jotix10016 May 2006
Some documentary biographies make interesting viewing in that we get to see aspects of their personalities, careers, and lives that we either had forgotten, or were just not aware of. "Stardust, The Bette Davis Story", directed by Peter Jones and seen recently on TCM, is that rare, but intelligent endeavor that makes the viewer more aware of the life of an actress that spent her life in front of the camera.

This film clarifies a lot of things about Ms. Davis' life that weren't as obvious as in other documentaries that came before. One thing comes clear, her father's desertion was a big blow to the young child, who felt abandoned by him. In spite of what should have been a bitter resentment on her part, she still kept in touch with him as noted by the many things about herself she sent him throughout the years. Her mother played a big role in Bette Davis life. Her ascent into stardom assured her mother and sister a life of ease they never had during the years that followed the breakup between her parents.

Another thing that comes across is how Ms. Davis had affairs with some of the men in the industry. One anecdote had Patrick O'Neal berating her for a pass she made at him during the run of "The Night of the Iguana" on Broadway. Her battles with Jack Warner is also prominently accounted for by Mr. Jones. Her battle with some of her directors were legendary, yet, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, her "All About Eve" director, tells us how in his experience, he was intimidated at first, based on colleagues' reports, yet, working on that film proved to be a pleasant experience for him, as well as the rest of the cast.

We also get to know her own daughter's rejection when B.D. Hyman got into religion. That was a terrible blow for a woman that had given her all to that child. Ultimately, this must have been what broke her heart. Triumphs and accolades were nothing to her if in the end she lost the daughter she loved so dearly.

The film uses well the many film clips the director and his team were able to assemble for this most informative and complete account of a life that appeared to be glamorous on the surface. Ms. Davis' life was in many ways rewarding, but deep down she must have felt differently when all the tragedy she went through is taken into account.

"Stardust: The Bette Davis Story" is a must for all of her fans.
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10/10
Excellent documentary on one of the greatest stars of the golden era
blanche-210 June 2006
It would be difficult to do a bad documentary on Bette Davis - she was such a dynamic actress and woman and never boring - but this beautifully produced documentary, "Stardust: The Bette Davis Story" is over the top in excellence, paying great attention to the actress' private life as well as her movie career. Using photos, film clips, interviews with family, Davis herself, and voiceovers from coworkers, a picture emerges of Davis as a driven actress, a perfectionist, a wonderful homemaker and ultimately, a very lonely woman.

Her son Michael, who unlike her spoiled daughter B.D., loved his mother very much, states that she drank quite a bit. This was probably much less true in her heyday and exacerbated as she aged. That perhaps contributed to her becoming increasingly more difficult to work with as the years went on. Like many great stars, without the cushion of a studio, with the loss of creative control/choice that comes with moving into character roles, Bette Davis became less secure. It became more important for her to be able to intimidate the director and those around her. During the major part of her career, she was surrounded by top directors and stars - these now became people with less talent than herself, and as a result, the later films suffered. Fortunately, though, she went out with a bang, with "The Whales of August."

Bette Davis had an indomitable spirit throughout her life. She gave us some great films and brilliant performances. "Stardust" gives us insight into the woman behind them.
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Pretty Strong Documentary on the Legend
Michael_Elliott29 August 2009
Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (2006)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Extremely entertaining documentary on the life and career of legend Bette Davis features countless interviews with the actress from various shows including 60 Minutes and the Steve Allen Show. The documentary runs 90-minutes and I feel an extra half hour would have helped things because the movie quite often jumps around from her film life to her sexual life. We hear about all five husbands but also how many other actresses, including Joan Crawford, ended up hating her because she would sleep with their husbands or boyfriends. I'm really not sure all of the dirt was needed but it's here. Also on hand is discussing about how difficult she was to work with and how Jack Warner eventually had to sue her to get her to work. We get interviews with James Woods, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Gena Rowlands and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.. Vincent Sherman is also interviewed where he discusses how difficult she made shooting their first film together and when he asked to be let go, according to him, Davis took him back to her house for a sexual night. In the end we pretty much learn that Davis had a very rough life style and it probably ended with her being very lonely. After a series of strokes and the heartbreak of her daughter writing a not-so-friendly book, she eventually went on a tour to great acclaim. No matter how tough her life is, there's no doubt she left us with some great films, which is the documentaries main point to get across.
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7/10
A good reason for Davis fans to rejoice...an excellent bio-profile...
Doylenf17 August 2006
And yet--having given that title to my commentary--I have to say that not everything depicted here paints BETTE DAVIS with a rosy glow. It's an accurate, no holds barred sort of documentary of her life on and off the screen--and some of it has a "warts and all" kind of truth to it that does away with gushing fan worship that some seem to prefer their favorite stars bathed in. For those fans, this is an eye-opener.

Instead, it's a penetrating look at the kind of Yankee upbringing the actress had, how she craved from her father the kind of attention she only got from her mother "Ruthie"; how her father's indifferent attitude toward her career as an actress was something she was never able to overcome; how the main influence on her life was the mother who doted on her rather than her less strong-willed sister; and, finally, how she developed into a strong and determined young woman who was not about to let anyone stand in the way of the sort of career she felt she fully deserved.

All of this is accompanied by interesting family still photos, excellent film clips, and, occasional remarks from co-workers or friends on how they see Bette Davis, the person and the actress.

While much of the material has been presented before, it has never been examined with such precision and understanding, giving a clearer portrait of the actress than ever seen before.

Peter Jones is to be congratulated for writing an excellent expose. It's not a gushing fan tribute, but an extremely sharp and penetrating look at a woman who had many admirable traits, but whose ambition and self-absorption (an ingredient necessary for a successful actress), left her with some bitter memories of a not altogether successful personal life.
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6/10
Informative but jumbled
petrelet13 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I learned a great deal about Ms. Davis from this movie. Certainly there was a lot to learn. This is a woman with a 50-year film career, with 2 Oscars and 9 other best actress Oscar nominations; with four marriages, three children, numerous affairs, and drama-packed relationships with nearly all her relatives and studio heads. There is enough material in this for several movies, or at least a serious mini-series. And here it is all jammed into 90 minutes! It's an ambitious project.

I'm glad to have seen it, but I can't pretend there are no flaws in it. First, as suggested above, there are a lot of events to cover and it's hard to do them all justice in this short a time, or even to present them in a logical sequence that the viewer can actually follow.

The movie's chief sources of informational footage are film of public appearances by Ms. Davis and her relatives and contemporaries during her lifetime, and more recent interviews with surviving relatives and acquaintances. But we are repeatedly told that these are not all reliable narrators. Indeed they can't be, as they often disagree with each other. As for public appearances by Ms. Davis, studio heads, and other film industry people, filmed from the 1930's into the 1960's, suffice it to say that they are necessarily full of diplomacy, promotional intent, and courtesies which might be completely sincere or completely the opposite. The movie opens with footage from a "This Is Your Life" episode honoring Bette's mother, Ruth Davis. You can imagine how much sincere exploration of their relationship came out on that occasion.

At this point it would be good to have a sense of what Mr. Jones, the auteur of this work, really thinks. But his presence is hard to discern. His words of course are being delivered by Susan Sarandon. He also may have been affected by the obligations he incurred in gaining access to Ms. Davis's papers and convincing her children, widows of ex-husbands, and other connections to sit for interviews. Anyway, it's hard to make out how he selected what to show and what not to, or who he thought was reliable and who he didn't. I got the feeling he was just dumping out a box of information on the tabletop in front of us and letting us make sense of it if we can.

Where he does provide words of interpretation, I'm not sure where they came from. As an example, he refers at one point to the warm support Ms. Davis's absent father gave to her movie successes. But all we have really seen of this is a few thrifty ten-word telegrams of congratulation, including his full name as three of the words.

Now, someone could of course say: "What do you expect? The narrative is jumbled because Ms. Davis's public and private lives were jumbled and full of contradictions. The witnesses disagree because their experiences were different at the time and because their recollections now after forty are fifty years are different. There's no real way to determine the 'real truth' about all these things, so the pile of information on the tabletop is the only way to go." That may all be true, but I would like to have heard it explained by Mr. Jones. At the end of the day it's worth seeing, of course.
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10/10
Hidden Gem of a Documentary
kindtxgal20 June 2016
One of the best documentaries that I've seen in quite awhile. How can one miss? Such a fascinating biopic of one of the greatest actresses of hers and our time -- then and now! What I appreciate about this hard-nosed, difficult person as she unashamedly was -- was her quiet heart which is portrayed in the fact that she and fellow actor John Garfield created and entirely funded Hollywood Canteen during World War II. I'm glad this documentary touches on that! Also, I sense a kindness in her son Michael which had comes from his love and if anything, respect for his difficult mother -- who tried her best, I think, to be a good mother despite her nature and her career. I would much rather know about this than a back-lashing from a bitter daughter who shadowed her Mom as an assistant in a book akin to Mommy Dearest. Thank you TCM for creating this wonderful documentary on a truly outstanding, wildly talented, amazing movie star to whom nobody other than perhaps Katharine Hepburn can hold a candle to....certainly not any modern actresses that come to mind. Hepburn and Davis fought in the trenches of Hollywood so that actresses today have the voice and power they do. It takes a tough nut to stand up in that world of Hollywood then , AND entertain and awe fans throughout time.
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Breezy Bette Bio
PrometheusTree6421 June 2013
Narrated by Susan Sarandon -- presumably because she's a bit of a Davis lookalike (but a much better voice-over than Anjelica Huston's on the Joan Crawford doc), STARDUST presents a nice, kinda fun, warts-and-all portrait of screen icon Bette Davis.

No, few of her peers are still around, so the program has to rely on latter day film actors to provide commentary and opinion, but that doesn't seem to hurt it.

The film seems to fairly skewer Davis for her well-documented pathologies, yet defends her from undue slurs (rightly dismissing her daughter's petty 1985 tome, "My Mother's Keeper", nowhere NEAR as intelligent or as responsible a book as "Mommie Dearest").

The fresh, sort of melancholy, nostalgic tone keeps the viewers' interest throughout, although there's a relative lack of detail (and it tends to short sheet her post-Warners' career) but that would likely have taken a much longer show. Still, another 20 minutes might have been nice, so that Bette's life after 1949 weren't so truncated.

Still, quite watchable, and better than most such efforts on the Great La Bette.
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9/10
This film gives you a bit more than the typical Bette Davis documentary
MartinHafer13 December 2008
I have seen quite a few documentaries on Bette Davis and I read a biography about her as well, as she's definitely my favorite actress. However, this Turner Classic Movies production is superior to the other films I've seen about her for two main reasons. Because TCM owns almost all of Miss Davis' films, they were able to use far more relevant clips than other shows about her. Plus, given their resources, they were able to piece together old interviews by many long-passed stars to create an excellent portrait not just of this actress on stage but off as well. Miss Davis was arguably the best actress ever, but off screen she was a psychological mess. This documentary does NOT ignore her negative side as so many "white-wash" documentaries do--you get the star, warts and all and I really appreciated this. Some of the people had terrible things to say about Bette as a person (and some very positive things) and it also discussed her daughter's "tell-all" book. About the only reason I didn't give the film a 10 is that with all these real life antics, it would have been really nice to have psychotherapists interviewed as well to create a deeper psychological profile--discussing her personality disorders and how they served her so well in films and undermined her ability to really connect with others. Still, a very fascinating and frank biography--one not to be missed.

For an even better TCM biography, look for the one on Joan Crawford, Bette's off-screen rival. It manages to be just a hair better and more insightful--though both films are terrific.
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