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DOZENS OF SCRAPBOOKS CHRONICLE DAVIS’ CAREER, REVEAL HER PERSONALITY

SHARE DOZENS OF SCRAPBOOKS CHRONICLE DAVIS’ CAREER, REVEAL HER PERSONALITY

In one of the dozens of scrapbooks kept by Bette Davis, a picture portrays the young actress as the model of gentility, wearing a long, white dress, holding a white parasol.

Next to the photo is scrawled, "For publicity - what else?"The actress, who died this month at age 81, chronicled her stardom with hundreds of articles, photos, annotated scripts, letters and mementos. The collection, housed at Boston University, reveals not only her career but her irreverent attitude toward Hollywood glamour.

"The scrapbooks are just like her mind - she was meticulous," said Howard Gotlieb, who as curator of the university library's special collections persuaded Davis to donate the memorabilia more than 15 years ago.

The collection contains more than 100,000 items that range from Davis' fourth-grade report card - her best marks were in reading and spelling - to the transcript of her appearance on television's "This Is Your Life."

There are photos of Davis with stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper and copies of speeches she gave in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the government's effort to sell war bonds during World War II.

One box contains a mirror that belonged to the legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt; it later became a gift to Davis from the government of France.

Another item in the collection is a Victorian-style factory time clock that Davis detested as a teenagerwhen she worked at a factory in Lowell, where she was born. The time-keeping device irked her so much that she tracked it down 60 years later and donated it to the archive.

Davis also kept a story about her life written by her mother, Ruth Favor Davis.

"Bette Davis, Christianed Ruth Elizabeth Davis, was born on April 5th, 1908. Nothing happened of importance to herald her arrival," the story begins.

But in a later passage, the elder Davis describes how her daughter once was playing Santa Claus in school, and her costume caught fire from candles on a Christmas tree. Her face was burned and she had no eyebrows left.

"She told me later that for the next few moments she kept her eyes closed saying to herself, `I'll make them think I'm blind,' " her mother wrote. "Even then she was reaching for the limelight, even when she was in pain and even at the expense of the people who loved her."

It was when Davis reached the limelight of Hollywood that her career blossomed, and likewise her memorabilia starts to burst from the scrapbooks, with articles filling every available inch on many pages and some clippings overlapping.

One article, discussing the cost of hosiery in Hollywood, gained entry into Davis' collection because it included a picture of her legs - and nothing else.

Davis kept clips from her 1936 trip to Great Britain, after she had become embroiled in a contract dispute with Warner Bros. The articles range from those with big headlines, like "Famous Film Star in Blackpool," to a tiny one-sentence item saying she had arrived in Liverpool.

Gotlieb, who knew Davis for 26 years and has a portrait of her in his office that was used in "Jezebel," said the actress who won an Academy Award for that film never tried to fake modesty.

"She knew she was extremely good," he said.

Davis kept hundreds of congratulatory telegrams, even one in 1937 from a group in New York called Associated Cinema Fans of Westchester Inc. The telegram reads: "Delighted to inform you we have unanimously voted you ideal choice Scarlett O'Hara."

Davis once told an interviewer she had the opportunity to play the much-sought-after lead role in "Gone With The Wind" but unknowingly gave up the chance amid her dispute with Warner Bros.

Davis gained fame with dozens of other movies, and she kept leather-bound scripts that have her name printed in gold.