Bette Vs. Bette: Dead Ringer

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After What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? became a success at the box office, Bette Davis began work on Dead Pigeon – later retitled Dead Ringer. Once again, as she did in A Stolen Life (read about that here), Davis would play twins.

Speaking about her dual role, Davis said, “It is balm for your ego! No need to battle your co-star, that’s true. But my, it is hard work, it really is! In Dead Ringer, I had to murder myself...”

1. A double was used.

Since Bette plays twins, naturally a double had to be used to play the other. Connie Cezon played the other half, and she had to make sure to copy Bette’s movements. The death scene was particularly hard to film, and according to Davis, the furniture was nailed down so it wouldn’t move between shots.

2. Bette’s director was an old friend.

Paul Henreid directed the film, and the two had previously worked together in Now, Voyager (read about that here) and Deception (read about that here). Davis said, “Paul did give me considerable leeway, for I was playing twins, which is not easy and is technically demanding.” Henried’s daughter, Monika, also had a part in the film, playing a maid.

3. It was also the final collaboration with a friend.

Bette Davis and cinematographer Ernest Haller first worked together in 1932’s The Rich Are Always With Us. “Ernest Haller had always been my favorite cameraman. I never told him what to do, but I put my trust in him to do what he knew how to do, to make me look my best,” said Davis. “Haller was a genius. He was such a doll.” Together, they worked on fifteen films, with the last one being Dead Ringer in 1964. Haller was instrumental in developing the trick shots necessary in the film to make Bette appear next to herself (as he also did in A Stolen Life).

4. Lawford enjoyed working with her.

“Much to my chagrin, she was very pleasant,” Peter Lawford said. “I expected the untamable shrew, and she was a nice, elderly lady who smiled at most everybody.” He also added: “Bette’s a good kisser.”