The hunt is on, for an agent and a producer to put the play back on stage in its entirety.
MORE THAN A WOMAN : A PLAY BY RUSSELL LINEY
1949 Film actress BETTE DAVIS is taking a solitary walk around the deserted exterior film set of her recently completed picture BEYOND THE FOREST. It is the last film she will make at the WARNER BROS studio for the present as her contract has just expired and she has decided to move on to seek work with a different film studio.
Prior to this Bette began her career at Warner Bros appearing in mediocre pictures and had it not been for the fact that she was a headstrong and determined person she might have remained a relative unknown, still making bad pictures. While walking she is distracted by a man, younger than herself who has been observing her.
He is RAMON GABRIELLI (commonly known as BUD), a contract lighting technician at the studio. They aren’t strangers. He has worked on some of Bette’s more recent films. He is a laconic ROBERT MITCHUM type; more of a listener than a talker but on seeing Bette’s distressed and drunken state he sets about trying to draw her out and boost her flagging confidence. A conversation ensues during which they reminisce about aspects of their personal and professional lives.
As Bette’s story unfolds we discover that she was a suffragette of the cinema, campaigning for better roles for film actresses in general as well as for herself; if this couldn’t be achieved by negotiation she did it through acrimonious battles with studio head JACK WARNER. She is revealed to be an emotionally complex woman; respected by those she worked closely with because of her dedication to her craft and for her honesty.
Bud reveals to Bette details of his hitherto private personal life. They smoke and share a couple of bottles of Scotch whiskey. As their talk becomes candid and personal it is inter-cut with scenes and flash-backs from their lives and careers. Throughout the play there are a small number of songs performed by Bette and Bud in a basic cabaret style which highlight their feelings and memories. The songs are a device which serve to highlight certain aspects in their separate stories. The play is essentially a dramatic comedy and is not, and should not be viewed as a musical.
Now a well established and great film actress, Bette Davis has been the ‘Queen’ of the Warner Bros studio from 1937 to 1946 but between 1946 and 1949 her career and status have been sliding for various reasons. JOAN CRAWFORD, her rival at Warner Bros has superseded her in popularity. Bette has reached an age where she can no longer convincingly play younger roles and she isn’t being offered the best scripts. She has become temperamental, moody and argumentative with everyone she works with. In more recent years she has made enemies of her bosses and co-workers and lost the respect she once commanded as a top grossing actress. She drinks heavily, fights physically with her husband and verbally with everyone around her.
In the early days of her career she fought Jack Warner in court for better parts, which ultimately led to a revolutionary change in the way actresses were treated and the roles they were offered. This act of defiance marked the beginning of her rise to stardom.
Bette has chosen not to have an organised farewell celebration party and in spite of her general unhappy and drunken state she intends to make her final exit from the Warner Bros studio a dignified one. By the end of the play Bette’s confidence has been restored by their conversation and so she feels able to leave and positively face an uncertain future.
ALL TEXT COPYRIGHT © RUSSELL LINEY 2018
AUDIO-VISUAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT © RUSSELL LINEY & L U THEATRE 2015
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