Never-before-seen photographs of legendary screen icon Bette Davis on what would be her 104th birthday
06:45 GMT, 6 April 2012
Ever since the dawn of celebrity, actresses have been lauded in the press more for their glamour and beauty than their talent.
But once in a while, a serious star is born whose depth transcends the superficiality of image and appearance, and rarely has an actor epitomised that quality like screen legend, Bette Davis.
Today, to mark what would be her 104th birthday, LIFE has published a series of photographs taken of the icon in 1939, some of which have never been seen.
At home: Actress Bette Davis skims through the morning papers in a series of never seen photographs taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1939 and released by LIFE on what would be the star's 104th birthday
The documentary-style black and white pictures were part of a cover article, written by Noel Busch, for the January issue of the magazine.
The actress, born Ruth Elisabeth Davis, was only 30 years old at the time and yet had already stunned audiences with her powerhouse performances and earned herself two Oscars for 1935's Dangerous and 1938's Jezebel.
Maxing and relaxing: The silver screen star was snapped at home painting her nails and eating ham and spaghetti lunch served by butler, Bradley, as part of a 1939 LIFE magazine feature written by Noel Busch
Sun worship: The actress earned a reputation later as a diva but more than that has been hailed as of the world's most outstanding actors of all time
The author of the article called
Davis' 1934 portrayal of Somerset Maugham's unlikeable Mildred Rogers in
Of Human Bondage, 'probably the best performance ever recorded on the
screen by a U.S. actress.'
though others including Katherine Hepburn and Meryl Streep are celebrated with similar praise for their indomitable acting chops, Davis
remains one of the most thrilling presences to have graced the silver
The seminal figure appeared in movies
from the 1930's through to the Sixties, winning a total of ten Academy
Award nominations along the way that recognised her astonishing ability
to embody both the cruelest characters and the most romantic heroines.
Taking a stroll: Davis, whose career spanned decades, was snapped wandering down the steps of her house followed by her pet Pekingese, Popeye the Magnificent
Known as having a somewhat diva-like
attitude, illustrated perhaps in the picture of her chauffeur wheeling
her on a sunbed across her patio and out of the shade, the LIFE cover
story chose to comment on her composure.
'Miss Davis is Warner Bros.’ top
box-office star… She is 30 years old, 5 ft. 3 in. tall and weighs 113
lb. without dieting… She conducts herself with more dignity than most
stars,' an excerpt reads.
The Golden Age screen goddess was
captured at her home by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in a series of
relaxed and natural poses.
The whole package: Davis, who electrified audiences with performances as both cruel and romantic characters, died at the age of 81 from breast cancer
In one Davis reclines on her patio reading the morning papers while in another, she lies in a well-shielded sun bath.
The intimate portraits also include a shots of her eating at her table while being served by faithful butler, Bradley and one of her painting her own nails.
Feted with honours and awards, Davis died in 1989 at the age of 81 following a six-year battle with breast cancer.