I first read Bette Davis’s autobiography The Lonely Life over fifty years ago—back when everyone in the world knew who Bette Davis was. I saw it on my shelf recently and thought I should re-read it, now that she has been dead for many years. The book covers her life from birth until her triumph in the early 1960s in Tennessee Williams’s stage play The Night of the Iguana. Along the way, we hear of four failed marriages, a mother who was extremely involved in her daughter’s life, an absent father, two Oscars, three children, and a lot of philosophy of life. Davis was a strong, strong woman who, in many cases, placed her career above everything else. Here she expounds on her struggles as a superstar whose principles were quite different from what her bosses wanted from her. She also lets us know how she feels about men, and it ain’t pretty. She felt that men, for the most part, were afraid of strong women and weak themselves in nature. And we hear of her views on method acting, praising Brando for his great talents, which, she says, transcended his method. As for other method actors, she has little respect. An autobiography is a curious genre (made curiouser when there is a ghost writer involved.) We hear a life through the voice of the person who led it, yet we can’t trust that voice to be objective or even truthful. Here, it is a joy to “hear” Davis relate her life in her own voice (and I believe that mostly her ghost only shaped the book and had little to do with how she said things.) But we can’t trust everything she says. She speaks at length about her philosophy of raising children, making us feel she was extremely hands-on and demanding while pouring out love all the while. Yet she also lets us know she had a nanny for the older child and a baby nurse for the two younger ones, and then when they were older, the older girl and the boy were packed off to boarding school. The younger girl was diagnosed as special needs—or as Davis says in the perfectly okay vernacular of her time, retarded. She was sent off to a special school. Davis explains it was the best choice for her (and it probably was) but there is little warmth in her explanation and very little regret that her child was gone from her. Still, this book was written when Davis was in her prime, had many years left of her career, and most probably didn’t want to damage her public image. My regret is that she spends not much time describing her films and the experience of making them, with the exception of her most high profile performances in Of Human Bondage, Jezebel, and All About Eve. And she repeats the oft-told legend of how she is the one who gave the Oscar his nickname (the Academy admits it is uncertain where the nickname came from, but they ascribe it, most likely, to the original secretary of their organization.) But let’s not quibble. This book is a chance to get into the mind of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, and that’s a good thing for us movie fans.