Bette Davis. Her name is well known to the classic movie fan and the modern movie fan. However, it's not a name one would generally associate with Classic Television. But Bette Davis DID appear on the small screen, in such classic shows as Gunsmoke and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This post will look at some of her television appearances as well as provide links to watch them.
Bette Davis was 44 when she first appeared as a guest star in a television series. According to IMDb, here are the shows she appeared in. I was able to find over half of them on Youtube and a couple on Hulu (all free, links included - download them while they are still there!). If any of the videos have been removed, let me know and I will upload it to my channel (I downloaded them all to my laptop).
All Star Revue (1952) ep. 2:33
The 20th Century Fox Hour (1956), Crack-Up
Schlitz Playhouse (1957) For Better, For Worse
Who drank the scotch? That's the question John Williams asks his new wife, Bette Davis. Turns out, she's a compulsive liar - daddy issues. At first seems like an odd role for Davis - a new bride in love is not what one imagines when hearing her name. Making her a liar, well, that changes things. Then throw in a little hit-and-run accident. This is the "for worse" side of marriage.
The Ford Television Theatre (1957) Footnote on a Doll
Recognize that voice coming from the doorway? It's Cinderella's wicked stepmother/Maleficent! Is the other lady familiar too? It's the millionaire's "and his wife" from Gilligan's Island!
Davis plays former first lady Dolly Madison. She's is invited to tea by a spiteful woman intent on embarrassing her by also inviting Madison's alcoholic gambler son.
Telephone Time (1957) Stranded
Davis is a rural schoolteacher in Minnesota stranded with five students in a one-room schoolhouse during a blizzard. When the electricity goes out, and with it the telephone and furnace, they must use their wits to survive. Luckily there is a cast iron stove but how will they keep warm after all the books and desks have been burned? Will they be able to hold out until help arrives?
Studio 57 (1958) The Starmaker
Davis teams up with real life husband, Gary Merrill, for this episode. Davis runs an acting agency and has to deal with moody young actor with an overbearing famous father. There are a couple comical scenes.
General Electric Theater (1957&1958) With Malice Toward One & The Cold Touch
In the first episode, Davis is an aspiring novelist attending a writers conference (yes, that's Aunt Bee as her seamstress!). At the conference, her story she submitted is brutally criticized by the lecturer, who has chosen it at random. Bette teaches him a lesson he won't forget soon!
The second episode takes us to the Crown City of Hong Kong. Davis's husband is called to the telephone while they are waiting for their room to be finished and doesn't return. Turns out, he didn't take the call either, but left the hotel with two men. The police are no help, so she accepts the assistance of a local. The quality of this video is particularly bad but it's one you won't want to miss how Bette handles the situation!
Suspicion (1958) Fraction of a Second
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1959) Out There - Darkness
The DuPont Show with June Allyson (1959) Dark Morning
This one was a goodie! Bette Davis is living alone until the arrival of her eleven year old niece. The niece seems normal.. a little shy perhaps. Then we learn that her parents were shot with no one but their daughter in the house and no leads as to who else could have killed them. The girl has just spent the last year under observation to see if she is mentally unstable but was completely cleared. The community in which Davis lives is not happy to have a suspected - in their mids confirmed - murderer in their midst! Would have been great as a full length movie (with Joan Crawford as the girl's mother)!
Wagon Train (1959 & 1961) The Ella Lindstrom Story, The Elizabeth McQueeny Story (post here), & The Bettina May Story
The Virginian (1962) The Accomplice (post here)
Bette plays a bank-teller involved in a hold-up. She identifies one of the Virginian's friends as the shooter, even though she knows he didn't do it, and blackmails the real shooter so she can go to Rome.
Perry Mason (1963) The Case of Constant Doyle (clip)
With Paul Drake (William Hopper, son of famed columnist Hedda Hopper)
Un-aired TV Pilot for the Bette Davis Show released as TV Movie The Decorator (1966)
By the laugh track we know this show is supposed to be a comedy. Davis is, as the title suggests, a decorator, interior to be exact. She hasn't had a decorating job in a while and the bills are piling up. Her next client is a millionaire from Oklahoma. "That's south of here, isn't it?" He lives in Oil City, and in order to decorate his house, Bette must go there and live in his house for the time it takes to decorate it.
Breakfast is a meal for ditch-diggers and drum majorettes.
The Judge's house. "What time do Roy and Dale ride up?"
While I enjoyed this episode, it was strange to watch a sitcom starring the great Bette Davis. She's more the "witty comeback" type, if she's going to say anything funny. Something unpleasant to hear - Bette Davis's cigarette laugh WITH the laugh track going at the same time... Even with its oddities though, I wouldn't have minded seeing more episodes.
Do you think my type is coming back?
Gunsmoke (1966) The Jailer (was removed from YT) - you can read a great post on it here - includes a little info on her Perry Mason appearance too.
Six years ago, Marshall Dillon had a man arrested. He hung and the three of the sons went to prison. Now they are out and Bette Davis, the wife, can get her revenge. She kidnaps Miss Kitty in order to get Matt Dillon. Now she's going to hang him in front of Miss Kitty like he had her husband hung in front of her.
It Takes a Thief (1970) Touch of Magic
She also appeared as herself on What's My Line here & here.
This post is part of The Bette Davis Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Please take a look at all of the other posts on this legendary actress, along with my contribution on my other blog, Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.