Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Bette Davis: A documentary premiere and author discussion will help remember the legendary actress

Davis and Sermak arriving at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1989 (Southside Daily Photo/Courtesy of Isabel Azkarate)
Davis and Sermak arriving at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1989 (WYDaily Photo/Courtesy of Isabel Azkarate)

A documentary about legendary actress Bette Davis is making its North American premiere at 6 p.m., Wednesday for “Bette Davis Day” at Triangle Bar in Williamsburg.

Former assistant and friend, Kathryn Sermak, who wrote the 2017 book “Ms. D. and Me” about her time with Davis, will be answering questions and signing books.

The viewing and discussion will also be happening 2 p.m., Friday at the Williamsburg Library Theatre.

Davis is famous for starring in films such as “All About Eve” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and was integral in the creation and operation of the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen to eat, sing and dance before going overseas during World War II.

Sermak first met Davis in 1979 when she interviewed for a job as Davis’ “girl Friday,” similar to a personal assistant.

“When you are young you think you can conquer the world,” Sermak said, “and I thought: I will be a girl Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”

Sermak was 23 years old.

“She (Davis) asked me what do I know about the film industry,” Sermak said, “I knew nothing, and she said, that’s great, I will teach you everything you need to know.”

WMBG radio host and event organizer Robert Hodge said Davis always trusted her instincts and had a “gut feeling” about Sermak.

Sermak immediately began learning how to navigate the “closed community” of Hollywood. Davis became her mentor and friend, and they worked together until Davis’ death in 1989.

“She taught her everything she needed to know to be part of the Bette Davis operation,” Hodge said, “everything from how to deal with a seafood fork, to how to have a firm handshake, to how to make her three minute eggs she liked on the set.”

Sermak’s book was written from audio recordings, journals and records from the Davis estate. She says she feel like “Ms. D.” was with her throughout the writing process.

“This book is her words,” Sermak said, “That’s why so many people have come forward saying it’s just like reader her, well, you know, you are.”

This is Sermak’s first time in Williamsburg. She said the red brick and colonial architecture remind her of Davis’ house in California.

“The people here are so warm and courteous,” Sermak said.  

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