Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect – #294

Bette Davis, left: “Olivia, girlfriend, hold up a minute…”

Olivia de Havilland, right: “God, this fried rice is so good. This is better than winning an Oscar.”

Bette: “You’ve got my hair caught in your chopsticks.”

Olivia: “You still have hair? I assumed that was a wig.”

Bette: “Don’t sass me, young lady. I won two of those Oscars while you were still figuring out that you had a vagina.”

Olivia: “I’ve won two as well, honey.”

Bette: “And I’m assuming you’re keeping them in that hairdo of yours?”

Olivia: “Actually, I have my man carry them around for me in case I want to look at them. You know what a man is, don’t you? Or has it been too long?”

Bette: “I’ll have you know I’ve had a long string of lovers. Many, many lovers.”

Olivia: “Yes, but did that happen this century? And how many of them do you need to sleep with before you realize that you actually want a woman?”

Bette, waving a dismissive chopstick: “Oh, I tried that already, but it didn’t really work out. Tallulah talked the entire night. I finally had to put her outside when I brought in the milk the next morning.”

Olivia, dismissing her own chopstick: “Sleeping with Tallulah Bankhead is nothing and doesn’t really count. Even I’ve slept with her. We all did. It was just the thing to do at the time, like the Charleston or needlepoint. No, you need a torrid love affair with a stable woman, and I mean mentally, not vocationally. It will soften your edges.”

Bette: “It was my edges that got me those Oscars.”

Olivia: “No, it was your eyes. They dominated the screen and people were scared not to vote for you.”

Bette: “What about your eyes? Yours are always dewy and frightened, like you’re trying to get away from the hunter in ‘Bambi’ and you just wet yourself a little.”

Olivia: “You’re really starting to piss me off, old woman. I don’t care if you have top billing in this movie. I got a chopstick right here that can change all that. Assuming it can penetrate that leathery throat of yours.”

Bette: “Oh, listen to you talk. As if you have the gumption.”

Olivia: “Gumption? That sounds like a word you would use in ‘Of Human Bondage’, your first big hit 300 years ago. Of course, that makes sense, considering you have played basically the same character ever since, just with different outfits, different accents and different directors.”

Bette: “Okay, that’s it. You’re about to learn how I got out of the marriage to my first husband and why no one has heard from him since.”

Bob Aldrich, director of the duo’s current movie, appearing in the doorway of the special craft services room where the Big Stars Eat on-set: “Ladies? We’re ready to roll the camera again. Could I trouble you to join us?”

Olivia: “Sure, Bob. Bette and I were just getting into character.”

Bette: “Practicing our lines and such. With gumption.”

Bob outer voice: “Good, good. It’s so nice to work with professionals.” Inner voice: “I hate both of them and I have an ulcer the size of Kansas. But at least it hasn’t been quite so wretched since I fired Joan Crawford and hired Olivia.”

Olivia, smiling and dewy-eyed as she daintily walked out the door, as if Ashley Wilkes is waiting for her on the verandah of Tara: “And it’s nice to work with you, Bob.”

Bette, not-smiling and hoping that no one was waiting for her, anywhere, because she was sick of people: “We were not practicing. I was on the verge of taking her life with an Asian-themed prop. If you prefer that I not follow up with my intentions, thereby causing an issue with the insurance bond on this movie, then I suggest you change the script so I can at least pretend to kill her on the sound-stage.”

Bob, outer voice: “But the script for ‘Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte’ is already finalized and approved. If we do rewrites, production stops. If production stops, nobody gets paid.” Inner voice: “The stomach acid churning in my belly makes that Vesuvius mess look like a burp from a two-year-old.”

Bette: “Bobby, I get paid even if the movie never gets made. It’s a little thing I changed about the studio system. Would you like me to change other things as well? Like you?”

Bob, weakly smiling: “I’ll see what I can do.”

Bette, smiling suspiciously: “I certainly hope so. And give my regards to Tallulah. I understand that she’s run out of women and is back to men. Good luck with her as well. Be sure to keep plenty of bourbon in stock. Trust me, it helps.”

Bob, waiting until Bette was out of earshot and turning to his production assistant who had been standing there the entire scene but nobody notices production assistants: “Get on the horn with the costume department. I want them to make Bette’s wig the ugliest thing ever.”

Production Assistant: “Even uglier than ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’? Is that even possible?”

Bob, channeling Bette: “It will make me happy. And if I’m happy, you’re happy.”

Production Assistant, outer voice: “Gotcha. I’m on it.” Inner voice: “I just need to keep taking deep breaths and nodding my head and writing detailed entries in my diary and one day all of this will be worth it when they invent blogging.”

The Production Assistant’s name was Brian. He later went on to establish Bonnywood Manor, which was noticed even less than production assistants.

The chopstick’s name was Felix the Impaler. It went on to star in several John Woo movies.

The wig, once redesigned, was named Acid Reflux. It went on to win a Special Academy Award for Vengeance Design. It now has its own star on Hollywood Boulevard. No one knows why.

And so it goes…


Previously published in “Crusty Pie” and “Bonnywood Manor”. Considerably revised and extended for this post. And yes, this is another post chock full of obscure but true facts, which may or may not help you triumph during your next game of Trivial Pursuit…


16 replies »

  1. So many delicious tidbits to choose from…aw, why mess with perfection? Bette taught that in her “Etiquette for Mean Girls (old women)” class for which she was paid even more handsomely than she was for her films. Watch those chop sticks. They’re disgruntled because Bette had more sharp points than they could claim. Despite John Woo.


    • Despite my own mean-girlness toward Bette, I really thought she was a hoot. She did not put up with crap, and she made that very well known which, of course, affected her career. But she did what she had to do. And I’d certainly want her by my side if I suddenly found myself in a bar fight, mmm hmm…


  2. You mean Bette Davis was the cruel, cold love interest in On Human Bondage? Wow, what an inspired bit of casting that was!
    Love all the hidden bits of obscure facts. Speaking of Trivial pursuit, you must have made a hell of a partner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, here’s the breakdown with my Trivial Pursuit agility: I was quite smashing in four of the categories (Geography, Entertainment, History, Arts & Literature), I stumbled a bit with Science & Nature (chemistry and physics were my weak points), and I fell flat on my face with Sports & Leisure. So, for future reference, because I would love to play a game or 20 with you, the best strategy to topple me is to make sure I always land on Green or Orange… 😉

      P.S. In one of my many work-in-progress books (“Oak Cliff Confidential”), there is a plot point that hinges on the protagonists finding a missing but very important Trivial Pursuit wedge…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No we know what movie it was in – a spaghetti western by Sergio Leone: Sprayed, Laid and Put Away Wet

    Co starring Liz Taylor’s wig and George C Scott’s Scottish terrier- loved the scenes when George T George’s having his way with Bette’ wig. Great performance of being nonplussed in film by a wig hiding an Oscar – I’ve never been quite so very plussed seeing’s how it wasn’t very crunchy after the 10 dog bukkaki scene but you know it needed no subtitles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must see this movie, and I must see it NOW. It sounds like everything I’ve ever needed in a cinematic experience. Your entire synopsis had me squealing, so by the time I hit the bukkaki scene I instantly was transformed forever more… 😉


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