Hollywood screen queen Bette Davis celebrated in Mardi Gras tribute show
The spirit of Bette Davis lives on in a tribute show as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. Actress Jeannette Cronin speaks to Cec Busby about becoming Queen Bette.
This month, stage and screen actress Jeanette Cronin will tackle the role of one of Hollywood’s most renowned leading ladies, Bette Davis, in the theatrical production Queen Bette. The one-woman show retraces the remarkable steps of a true movie legend, from fledgling stage actress with a stellar movie career to Hollywood grand dame.
It touches on Davis’ most famous roles and gives a glimpse into her steely character, which saw the actress battle the studio system to take control of her career and gain independence as an artist. Davis fought hard all her life, had four husbands, two Oscars and a reputation as the biggest bitch in Hollywood. Queen Bette tells the whole story.
[Image] Jeannette Cronin as Queen Bette. Photo: Supplied
Playing a Hollywood legend may seem a daunting task for most actors, but Cronin (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late star) was up for the challenge. Cronin knows better than most that the public perception of an actor and the reality of that person can often be very different.
“People who achieve the kind of fame Bette did, morph into legend and a fiction is built up around them,” she tells SX. “Their personalities are appropriated by the press and the public. They are commented on and criticised constantly. Famous actress sometimes refer to this perceived persona as ‘HER’.
Cronin says because of these expectations, characterising a famous person can be contentious. The best option, she says, is to ignore the naysayers.
“Most people never really knew the person, only the persona. And then in turn the actor is open to criticism about his portrayal of said person/ality. Everyone has dibs on their favourite celebrities – because they think they know them. But an actor mustn’t concern herself with any of the above.”
Still Cronin admits in order to portray Bette there were certain mannerisms which needed to be adopted, and her distinctive voice is a must.
“Her voice is a gift and it has been a joy to work on. In Queen Bette we try to use Bette’s own words as much as possible. We wanted to get as close as we could to how she saw herself,” Cronin says.
“[It’s] A departure from the gossip and rumour that inevitably calls itself history. We want the audience to hear Bette’s beating heart: her dreams, her loves, her losses.”
Cronin hopes that after watching Queen Bette audiences will have a better understanding of the woman she describes as a “beautiful monster and benevolent volcano”.
“I hope they feel a little closer to Bette the woman, that they feel they have had an intimate experience with a woman the world thinks it knows. But now they know something the world doesn’t.
“It was just between Bette and them.”
[Top image] Jeannette Cronin at Bette Davis. Photo: Supplied
Queen Bette plays at Old 505 Theatre, Suite 505/342 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, until March 15. Go to venue505.com/theatre