Bette Davis Publicly Called Out the Cast of Her Broadway Show After Quitting
"I’m sorry I had to irritate you for so long with my professionalism."
In 1962, Bette Davis made a choice that was definitely unexpected for a star of her status: She took out an ad in Variety looking for work. This came after the acclaimed actor left the Broadway show she was starring in, and she did that in quite the dramatic fashion, too.
After quitting the play The Night of the Iguana, Davis reportedly called out the cast to their faces, making some cutting remarks about what she saw as their lack of professionalism. Read on to find out more about the lengths she went to insult her co-stars and about this turbulent period of Davis' career.
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Davis starred in The Night of the Iguana in the early 1960s.
Davis began performing in the Tennessee Williams play The Night of the Iguana on Broadway in December 1961. At this point, the star was 53 years old and had already seen the release of several of her most iconic movies, including Dangerous and Jezebel—both of which earned her a Best Actress Oscar—as well as Dark Victory, All About Eve, and Now, Voyager.
The project was troubled from the start.
Before The Night of the Iguana moved to Broadway, it had an out-of-town tryout in Detroit, which was when Davis joined the cast. According to John Lahr's biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (via Hotel Movie Club), Davis quit the play twice before performances began and demanded that her co-star Patrick O'Neal be fired. The book reports that she once yelled at O'Neal, "I'm sick of this Actor's Studio [expletive]." (The Actor's Studio is famous for teaching method acting.)
Reportedly, Davis continued to throw tantrums throughout the production. She's also said to have sat out of performances to find out whether audience members would ask for their money back, so that she could hold that over the producers.
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She eventually quit the Broadway show.
Davis quit after three months after the play moved to New York City. Reportedly, while the entire cast was gathered on stage, she very passive aggressively called out what she determined to be their amateur behavior.
"I'm sorry I had to irritate you for so long with my professionalism," she said. "You obviously like doing it your way much better."
Davis was replaced by Shelley Winters, and the play ran for a few more months.
She then took out an ad to promote herself.
After the play closed, Davis took out an ad in Variety in which she explained she was looking for work. She mentioned in the ad that she had Broadway experience.
As reported by Variety, the ad ran on Sept. 24, 1962 and was listed under "Situation Wanted, Women." In the copy, Davis jokes about her diva reputation. Next to a small picture of the actor, the ad reads:
"Mother of three – 10, 11 & 15 – Divorcée. American. Thirty years experience as an actress in motions pictures. Mobile still and more affable than rumor would have it. Wants steady employment in Hollywood. (Has had Broadway.)"
It concludes that references are available "upon request."
The ad was released only a month before one of Davis' biggest movies was released. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? hit theaters in October 1962. For the film, Davis received her 11th and final Academy Award nomination.