In Honor of Bette Davis' Birthday, Never-Before-Seen Photos of the Star

On what would have been Bette Davis' 104th birthday, LIFE magazine has published rare and never-before-seen photos of the star.

In Honor of Bette Davis’ Birthday, Never-Before-Seen Photos of the Star

On what would have been Bette Davis’ 104th birthday, LIFE magazine has published rare and never-before-seen photos of the star.

-Lucia Peters

Bette Davis

Quick: What’s your favorite Bette Davis movie? Is it Jezebel? Of Human Bondage? Now, Voyager? Perhaps her screen debut, The Bad Sister? Whatever your pick, there can be no denying one simple fact: Bette Davis was a star. Although she was a perfectionist who could sometimes be difficult to work with, during the ‘30s and ‘40s, she was one of film’s most celebrated leading ladies for her intensity and the sheer force of her presence.

Sadly, Bette passed away in 1989 after being plagued by a variety of health problems, among them breast cancer and several strokes. She lived a long, full life, though, and today, on what would have been Bette’s 104th birthday, we celebrate this siren of the silver screen. In honor of the occasion, LIFE magazine has published 14 never-before-seen photos of Bette from 1939.

LIFE put Bette on its cover in January of 1939, after her star-making turns in Of Human Bondage and Jezebel and right before Dark Lot, which would become the first of her signature movies. The story, LIFE notes, “featured the actress not as some sort of raving prima donna—the image that has, bizarrely, attached to her in the decades since her death in 1989—but as a remarkably grounded, albeit supremely driven, artist.” Photos shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt accompanied the story, and here, LIFE has republished several of those shots, along with many others that have never before been published. Check some of them out here:

First, we have Bette hanging out at home in Beverly Hills:

Bette Davis at home

And here she is getting wheeled across her home’s red-tiled patio in a sun chair by her chauffeur with her dog, Popeye, in her lap:

Bette Davis sun chair

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The actress was known for spending most of her time at home outdoors, and according to the article, “a daily sunbath in a well-shielded enclosure” was her “health recipe:”

Bette Davis sunning

Bette always maintained a sense of normality at home, which included doing her own nails:

Bette Davis nails

And here she is, making notes of some sort on a countertop:

Bette Davis notes

For more photos of Bette at home, head on over to LIFE’s website. We miss you, Bette!

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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