Lessons from a 1943 Advice Column by Bette Davis


Exciting news: As Open Culture reports, there are now vintage issues of Business Screen, The Hollywood Reporter, Photoplay, and Variety online. Flipping through a June 1943 issue of Photoplay, we found “What Should I Do?”, an advice column written by Bette Davis.

The legendary screen goddess counsels a woman who is seeing two men, one in the Marines and the other in the Army Air Corps, writing:

You are only twenty and who knows how long a time is going to elapse before we are finally victorious? A great many things can happen to change your opinions of even your two beaux. Although it doesn’t seem possible to you now, you might even meet a third man who would solve your problem…
Never marry until there is only one man you love more than any other you know.

Ms. Davis also counsels a young man who wants to go into showbiz but worries about his “mottled” teeth:

In pictures, actors or actresses who don’t have perfect teeth can obtain porcelain caps. These are feather-weight and can be applied during working hours. You have no worries that your teeth will be a handicap.

In another missive, Davis assures a 17-year-old named Virginia that she can wed her sweetheart since “here in California, we have no state law against the marriage of second cousins.”

But the most heartbreaking letter is this one, from Mona L.:

Dear Miss Davis:
My face is long, thin and plain and my hair is short, dry, brittle and lifeless. There is no way I can arrange it to become my unfortunate face. The reason why I am mentioning my face and hair is because I am afraid it is keeping me out of the romantic world.
I am past twenty-five and have never yet had a date with anyone of the opposite sex…
What would you advise a girl of twenty-five to do when she is finding herself growing to be an old maid?

Yeesh. Bette Davis suggests Mona attend “success school” where she can be trained to be “atrractive, popular and happy,” and notes that courses can be taken by mail. She also states:

If you really want to change — which you seem to — you must seriously apply yourself to their suggestions.

Poor Mona. Do you think she ever figured it all out? Either way, I’m OBSESSED with flipping through these old magazines. In this same issue, don’t miss “What Should a Girl Expect from a Man,” with advice from Gene Tierney, Lucille Ball and Olivia de Havilland!

[Open Culture, Media History Project, Photoplay June 1943]

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