I’ve always loved Bette Davis: Now Voyager is an all-time favourite and, of course, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the only film that Crawford and Davis made together (sadly Joan walked of the set of Hush Hush… Sweet Charlotte, which would have seen the two old broads battling each other again, to be replaced by the marvellous Olivia de Havilland) is an over-the-top gothic great. Yet as much as I love her acting, and have a fair old bit of respect for her as a person, I hadn’t really thought too much about her singing abilities… until now.
Bette, born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in April 1908, is probably better known for being name checked in other peoples’ records than for making her own (Bette Davis Eyes, by Kim Carnes for example, although she also gets mentioned in Dylan’s Desolation Row and Madonna’s Vogue), yet record she did.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Spawned the tie in single of the same title, which pitted Bette against singer Debbie Boone (who supplied the voice for the young Jane and sang I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy in the film). Bette only appears on the a-side, and her spoken word section is thoroughly monstrous. She would later perform the song solo on the Andy Williams TV show, a clip readily available on YouTube and re-enacted quite brilliantly by Susan Sarandon in Feud. Bette also appeared on a couple of Broadway cast albums and, in 1965 issued a further brace of singles, the aptly-titled Single (which she also performed on TV and that you can also find on YouTube) and Mother of the Bride. Neither sold.
Then, in 1976, whilst working in England, she recorded an album. Released by EMI, Miss Bette Davis is a horror of a record. Backed by the Mike Sammes Singers (who would also back Barbara Cartland on the atrocious Album of Love Songs) the album includes re-recordings of many of ‘songs’ associated with the great lady, including I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy and Hush Hush… Sweet Charlotte. It is ghastly, and you’re going to love it!