Davis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Although Davis had wanted to be an actress from an early age, she was denied admission to Eva LeGallienne[?]'s Manhattan Civic Repertory because she was considered insincere. So she enrolled in John Murray Anderson[?]'s dramatic school, and became a star.
Her first professional stage performance was The Earth Between, off-Broadway in 1923. Her first Broadway performance was in 1929, in Broken Dishes and later in Solid South. The next year, she was hired by Universal Studios, but they felt she was not star material, and in 1932, they let her sign with Warner Brothers. Her first starring role was in The Man Who Played God[?], and she became a star in Of Human Bondage[?].
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Dangerous and Jezebel, and was able to name her own roles, with the exception of Gone With the Wind in 1939. Her career began to stagnate through the 1940s, but her performance in All About Eve, for which she received another Oscar nomination, put her back on top. When her career began to fade again, in 1961, she placed a notorious ad for "job wanted" in the trade papers. Her role in 1962's over-the-top What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, in which she played a parody of herself opposite her long-time rival Joan Crawford, earned her another Oscar nomination.
In 1977, Davis received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1979 she won a Best Actress Emmy. She wrote a biography, The Lonely Life, in the 1960s, and Mother Goddam in 1975. In 1985, her daughter, B.D. Hyman[?], wrote a tell-all book, My Mother's Keeper, in which she savaged her mother. Davis wrote another book, This N That, in the late 1980s, and Bette Davis, The Lonely Life, which appeared the year after her death, updating what had happened since her first biography had been published.
On July 19, 2001, Steven Spielberg purchased Davis' Oscar statuette for Jezebel at a Christie's auction and returned it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This was to protect an Oscar from commercial exploitation.
Bette Davis died in 1989 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France following a long battle with breast cancer, and after having suffered at least one serious stroke. On Davis's tombstone is written, "She did it the hard way."