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If Words Could Kill

Classic lines from Bette Davis and Joan Crawford

  • Alamy

    Shade Throwers

    The new FX series Feud, starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as bitter Hollywood rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, captures the cantankerous pair at their most brutally manipulative. But as these classic quotes from their most memorable movies prove, studio scriptwriters long knew precisely how to capture the essence of the disingenuous Davis and conniving Crawford.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘I’d like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair. Bye!’

    The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) Bad girl Bette (just 24 at the time) tempts an industrious young bookkeeper (Richard Barthelmess) away from his wholesome sweetheart (Dorothy Jordan). With lines like this, the poor guy doesn’t have a chance. 

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘I didn’t want to be born. You didn’t want me to be born. It’s been a calamity on both sides.’

    Now, Voyager (1942) That’s a killer line — literally — in this classic weepie: Bette’s bitter words to her mother (Gladys Cooper) trigger a fatal heart attack — and a lifetime of guilt. 

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘What a dump!’

    Beyond the Forest (1949) Will bored housewife Bette ever be satisfied with the modest home her husband (Joseph Cotten) has provided? Doesn’t sound like it. 

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  • 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘Fasten your seat belts — it’s going to be a bumpy night!’

    All About Eve (1950) Bette’s most famous line comes from a tipsy Margo Channing, who suspects that up-and-coming actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is undermining her career. Her prediction proves accurate.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘There’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society, outside of a kennel.’

    The Women (1939) Former shopgirl Joan has some choice words for a roomful of rich wives — some of whose mates she’s been fooling around with.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘Don’t talk to me about self-respect. That’s something you tell yourself you got when you got nothing else.’

    The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) Hopping from bed to bed in a world of gangsters, ruthless social climber Joan acquires a pragmatic philosophy of life. 

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘Any man’s my man if I want it that way.’

    Queen Bee (1955) Southern socialite Joan rules the roost at her estate. Men and women alike scuttle about, trying to gain her affection — and avoid her violent wrath.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘How long has this been going on?’

    Mildred Pierce (1945) It’s a natural question when you find your daughter (Ann Blyth) in the arms of your most recent husband (Zachary Scott). For once, Joan is the aggrieved party in an on-screen love triangle.

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  • 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘Now you and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to hell!’

    The Best of Everything (1959) It’s only a supporting role, but Joan gets to chew up the scenery as a book editor whose failing affair with a married man leaves her spitting mad.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    ‘You wouldn’t be able to do these awful things to me if I weren’t still in this chair.’ ‘But you are, Blanche! You are in that chair!’

    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) Lifelong show-biz rivals Bette and Joan teamed up just once, in this noir thriller about a former child star (Bette) who imprisons her crippled sister (Joan) in her own home. Rave reviews resuscitated both of their careers, and Bette nabbed an Oscar nom. But the bad blood continued to flow until Crawford’s death in 1977

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