Story of the Complicated Relationship between Icon Bette Davis and Her Daughter Barbara Hyman

Almost three decades after her passing, Bette Davis' daughter Barbara Hyman continues to speak out about the treatment she received at the hands of her famous mother. 

Bette Davis' daughter, Barbara Hyman, has kept up her feud with her mother through the years, even after her mom died in 1989 after losing her battle to breast cancer. Her daughter is yet to extinguish the flame of their bad blood for which the mother and daughter were so well-known.

It came as a surprise to Davis that her eldest daughter Barbara, who goes by the nickname "B.D.," saw her as a despicable figure. Like the actress, the rest of the world was stunned after her daughter released a tell-all book on her relationship with her mother in 1985. 

Barbara Davis attends opening night of Bette Midler in "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers" at the Geffen Playhouse on December 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Barbara Davis attends opening night of Bette Midler in "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers" at the Geffen Playhouse on December 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

DAVIS' HOLLYWOOD CAREER

Davis made her first breakthrough at the age of 26, starring in the 1935 film "Dangerous." Captivated by her electrifying performance, British film critic E. Arnot Robertson wrote at the time that she had a charge about her that could be described as bewitching. 

"She gives the curious feeling of being charged with power which can find no ordinary outlet." 

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) in a promotional photo for the film, "All About Eve," 1950. | Source: Getty Images

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) in a promotional photo for the film, "All About Eve," 1950. | Source: Getty Images

PLAYING ALONG WITH THE PART

Not one to shy away from the acclaim, Davis herself had played along. She had revealed in an early interview that she was not only born near Salem – where the famous 17th-century witches had been tried and convicted –  but that she was also related to one of the supposed witches, Mary Bradbury. 

Davis also expressed that she was brought into this world like a witch, referring to a bolt of lightning that had struck a tree outside their house the moment of her birth.

HER FEUD WITH HER ELDEST DAUGHTER

While fans at the time thought nothing more of it than to be a Hollywood stunt for publicity, one person takes Davis' words at face value – her daughter. To this day, almost three decades after Bette's death, her daughter still paints her in a bad light. 

The feud between Davis and her daughter has been well documented and publicized over the years, and Hyman is yet to let the time-old rivalry go to rest, despite being 74 years old. In her biographies, Hyman made some rather startling claims concerning her mother.

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) with her daughter Barbara Davis Sherry (later known as B.D. Hyman), circa 1965. | Source: Getty Images

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) with her daughter Barbara Davis Sherry (later known as B.D. Hyman), circa 1965. | Source: Getty Images

HYMAN'S CONTROVERSIAL BOOK

Hyman's first book, "My Mother's Keeper," was published when her mother was already in poor health after suffering a stroke, undergoing a mastectomy, and breaking a hip. Despite desperate pleas from Davis' lawyer to wait until his client's health had improved, Hyman published the book.

Ultimately, she claimed there was nothing her mother would object to. The book had been finished a considerable time before the actress' failing health.

REACTIONS AGAINST THE BOOK

Hyman was met with a great deal of condemnation over the poor, or perhaps deliberate, timing of publication. She had written some hurtful and resentful things in her biography that had apparently caused a great deal of pain to the late Hollywood actress at the time.

Fans found it hard to believe. They struggled to reconcile the picture of a respected, much-loved and accomplished Hollywood actress with that of a drunk, negligent and cruel mother. But according to Hyman, her mother had never been kind.

HYMAN'S SIDE OF THE STORY

Hyman was still a young child when her mother would, on occasion, shock and torment her by faking her own suicide. This, apparently, was Davis' way of teaching her daughter a lesson. One particularly harrowing incident Hyman wrote about saw Davis pretend to take an overdose and lock herself in her bedroom.

A distraught eight-year-old Hyman had spent the night sobbing outside her mother's bedroom door. When she woke up the following morning, her mother was standing over her looking triumphant.

PAINTING HER MOM IN A BAD LIGHT

Hyman had further claimed in her biography that Davis was cruel and relentless, once asking her if she had had sexual intercourse with one of Davis' own friends, actor George Hamilton, after the then-15-year-old returned from a date with him.

When Hyman did not reply to her mother's crude and heartless question, Davis had apparently told her that she hoped the man, many years her senior, had had his way with her. Hyman felt that her mother's interest in her sex life was an attempt to live vicariously through her daughter after she married in her early 20's.

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989), circa 1985. | Source: Getty Images

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989), circa 1985. | Source: Getty Images

DEFENDING BETTE DAVIS

Despite the many claims against her mother, Sermak has spoken out to refute Hyman's stories of Davis. According to the assistant, Davis was incredibly generous, hiring a celebrity stylist to tend to Sermak's hair and buying her an expensive wardrobe. She even claimed that Davis was close to her children, especially Hyman. 

"She never yelled, she never screamed — at least not around me," Sermak expressed. "She would curse. If she was really, really, upset, you got the silent treatment."

SHOWING LOYALTY TO THE LATE ACTRESS

More recently, the former assistant revealed that she was very close to her daughter when the star first hired her. In fact, she revealed that "family was huge to Miss D."

However, if there's one thing she noted, it was that the actress always lit up whenever her daughter B.D. was around. This was a different story as compared to what the 73-year-old told the world in her books. 

BETTE'S REACTION TO THE BOOK

In fact, she revealed that Davis herself was blindsided by the book, as she was painted by a bullying alcoholic in the 1985 best-selling book. Sermak said:

"That book was so out of the blue. Miss D was blindsided."

CUTTING HER DAUGHTER OFF

In 1989, it was reported that Bette Davis cut her daughters out of her will and left her estates to her son and Sermak. She did not leave anything to her daughters nor her two grandsons, coming after four years of estrangement from Hyman after the controversial book. 

Before her death, Davis actually wrote a response to her daughter's book in 1987, called "This 'n' That." There, she claims she was victimized by a "lying and ungrateful child," revealing she was "pained" by their estrangement. 

Ultimately, only Davis and Hyman know the real truth behind their relationship. The same way their relationship ended with bad blood between them, there are a couple of people, such as actress Joan Collins and her ex-husband Gary Merrill, who recounted some unpleasant experiences with the actress as well. 

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