Why are theater and film buffs still enamored by Bette Davis, whose career was in its heyday in the 1930s (1938 Oscar for "Jezebel") and had peaked by 1950 (Margo Channing in "All About Eve") although she continued to act until 1989, the year of her death?

One person who seeks to answer this question is L.A.-based playwright, Camilla Carr, with her one-woman bioplay, All About Bette, starring popular Dallas actress, Morgana Shaw. The show opened June 30, 2006 on Theater Three's downstairs stage.

Carr grew up in the West Texas town of Kermit and began to write at the age of seven. In a phone interview last week, Carr said, "My mother gave me a pencil and said: `Don't write on the floor, and don't write on the walls.'" By age 15, Carr had written 22 novellas. Her versatility includes credited roles in many TV series, including "Another World" and "Designing Women." She wrote seven made-for-TV movies, including "High and Mighty" for Dolly Parton. She is currently developing a screen adaptation of "The Black Swan" by Thomas Mann to be co-produced by and star her friend, Brenda Blethyn, an acclaimed actress at London's Royal National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company.
With All About Bette, still a work-in-progress, Carr has come full circle at Theatre Three. Some of you may share my fond memories of seeing Carr in her T3 acting debut in 1966 in the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse musical, Stop The World, I Want To Get Off opposite Larry O'Dwyer. She also acted at T3 in The Boyfriend, Company, Anything Goes, and numerous other plays.

Carr said, "Theater Three was my son's crib." (He was on the T3 stage while still in utero.) Caley O'Dwyer Feagin is the son of Carr and her first husband, long-time T3 actor, Hugh Feagin. "Caley was weaned in the green room, then moved to the sound booth, and finally allowed to sit in the audience. Larry O'Dwyer carried him around during rehearsals, and when Caley fell asleep, Larry would change the blocking. Jac (Alder) and (his late wife) Norma (Young) were my son's godparents." (Young and Alder co-founded Theater Three in 1961.)

When Carr was looking for a writing project in the mid 1990s, her friend, Carol Kane (TV's "Taxi," Broadway replacement and now touring in Wicked) suggested her former neighbor, Bette Davis. Said Carr, "A play must be as interesting as that person [who is the play's subject]. Bette Davis had a tumultuous life. I spent two years reading many of her bios. I went to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and copied all the Bette Davis files. I had to have a base of reality. Then I had to make it all up."

The events in the play are fact-based, but Carr, with the exception of a few quotes, invented the dialogue. Carr acknowledges Kane in the crafting of the play: "Carol has made wonderful contributions with her ideas."

All About Bette was workshopped in 2004 at New York's Public Theater, where it starred Kane and was directed by David Schweizer. "He has been a critical force in helping me shape the play," said Carr.
"Tenacity is the greatest thing in writing a one-woman show. I knew in a flash what the plot was going to be; the structure took much longer. I've been working on [All About Bette] since 1997." Carr's eventual goal is to have the play produced Off-Broadway starring Kane, as soon as the latter's Wicked commitment is over.


Key Subjects: 
Camilla Carr; Bette Davis, All About Bette, Carol Kane
Rita Faye Smith
<I>All About Bette</I> played at Dallas, TX's Theater Three in a twice-extended run through July 30, 2006.
June 2006
Camilla Carr Tells Dallas Audiences All About Bette Davis