A neurotic, controlling and manipulative drunk who indulged in the occult and spent decades trying to break up her daughter’s marriage – that’s the shocking portrayal of legendary film star Bette Davis by her eldest child B.D. Hyman.
Nearly 30 years after Davis died, her daughter is still waging a war against her famous mother in YouTube videos to promote her Christian ministry.
And the fight is even more vicious than the rivalry between Davis and her What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? co-star Joan Crawford, which is recounted in Ryan Murphy’s new TV series, Feud.
Hyman, now 69, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia is a born-again Christian who runs her own ministry.
In a series of YouTube videos called A Long Day’s Journey Into Light, she shares her ‘testimony’ with her followers.
A neurotic, controlling and manipulative drunk who indulged in the occult and spent decades trying to break up her daughter’s marriage – that’s the shocking portrayal of legendary film star Bette Davis by her eldest child B.D. Hyman (pictured together in 1965)
Hyman, now 69, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia is a born-again Christian who says on her website that she ‘received God’s solution to her dysfunctional relationship with her controlling mother’
In the second episode of Feud, which aired on Sunday, viewers get a glimpse of that volatile mother-daughter relationship, which was evident during the 1962 filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Davis and co-star Joan Crawford are pictured on the set of Baby Jane
It includes claims that her mom dabbled in witchcraft, casting spells on her enemies from her bed, and that the star’s ‘demonic’ curse on Hyman and her family led to her grandson’s bipolar diagnosis and her daughter facing terminal cancer.
In a 2015 video, Hyman says: ‘[She] would sit on her bed and she had this big metal wastebasket and she would have her secretary get a piece of clothing from someone who had vexed her, crossed her in her view, and she would take this piece of clothing and she would mumble incoherently and she would then set it on fire and hold it over this metal wastebasket, and laugh as it burned and she dropped it into this container.
‘People’s lives were destroyed. They fell apart. All sorts of horrible things happened to them.’
She also claims to have witnessed her mother’s ‘demonic cackling,’ watching her ‘transform into a Satanic figure, [with] a Satanic face, long claws on the end of her hands,’ scraping at the glass of a terrace door during a 1982 trip to her Davis, California home.
Hyman added that her mother was ‘the poster girl for the spirit of control’ and described how she became increasingly ‘invasive’ and destructive’ in her and her family’s life.
The claims are just another chapter in Hyman’s bitter relationship with her mom, which she exposed in her 1985 tell-all, My Mother’s Keeper: A Daughter’s Candid Portrait of Her Famous Mother.
In the second episode of Feud, which aired on Sunday, viewers get a glimpse of that volatile relationship, which was evident during the 1962 filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
In one scene Davis, played by Susan Sarandon, gets into an argument with a 15-year-old Hyman.
After yanking her daughter off the set for ‘posing and laughing in front of the grips like a streetwalker,’ mother and daughter get into a war of words at home.
Hyman (played by actress Kiernan Shipka) turns to Davis and says: ‘You’re single, lonely and doing this ridiculous role because you can’t live without being in the spotlight.’
The claims are just another chapter in Hyman’s bitter relationship with her mom, which she exposed in her 1985 tell-all, My Mother’s Keeper: A Daughter’s Candid Portrait of Her Famous Mother
The portrayal of the actress as a drunk, fading star who staged suicide attempts to manipulate her daughter and was so possessive that she hated her British son-in-law, was so hurtful it severed their relationship for good
She later adds: ‘You see me out there having fun and being young and having my turn and you can’t take it.’
In real life, what Davis was unable to take (or forgive) was Hyman’s toxic 1985 memoir, which was similar to Mommie Dearest – the infamous 1978 tell-all that Crawford’s eldest, Christina, wrote about the screen legend.
The portrayal of the actress as a drunk, fading star who staged suicide attempts to manipulate her daughter and was so possessive that she hated her British son-in-law, was so hurtful it severed their relationship for good.
At the time of its publication, Davis was a 77-year-old breast cancer survivor who had had several strokes.
In a 1987 interview with TV reporter Bryant Gumbel to promote her own memoir, This ‘N That, Davis said: ‘We can hardly have the same close relationship after a book like that is written about you. No, no. It’s just as simple as that.
‘I lost her. I lost her, but that’s that and I say in my book that realizing that she had written this kind of a book about me was as catastrophic as the stroke was to me.
‘It’s something, of course, that I will regret deeply, all the rest of my life, yes.’
Two years later Davis died aged 81 in 1989, after her breast cancer had returned.
Mother and daughter never saw each other again or resolved their differences.
It’s easy to understand why Davis was hurt by Hyman’s book. The four-time divorcee largely raised her three children alone.
She had Hyman with her third husband William Sherry, who walked out when the little girl was still an infant.
In one scene of Feud, Davis, played by Susan Sarandon, gets into an argument with a 15-year-old Hyman
Hyman (played by actress Kiernan Shipka) turns to Davis and says: ‘You’re single, lonely and doing this ridiculous role because you can’t live without being in the spotlight’
In addition to Hyman – who is her only natural born child – she adopted two more children (son, Michael, and a daughter Margot) with her All About Eve co-star and fourth husband Gary Merrill.
In her memoir, Hyman described witnessing her mother being beaten by her stepfather who also used to shock their servants by drinking a martini for breakfast while standing naked in the kitchen.
She claimed when she was eight she saw the late actor drag the movie star by the neck along a staircase in their house.
‘Mother was making gurgling, choking noises and I couldn’t stand it anymore,’ Hyman wrote. ‘I flung myself at Gary’s back, pummeling him with my fists, trying to make him let go of her.
‘I screamed hysterically, “You’re killing her, you’re killing her!” He kicked me away a couple of times.’
Davis and Merrill finally divorced in 1960, much to Hyman’s relief. But after that she claimed Davis became more possessive.
She wrote: ‘She focused all of her hopes for emotional fulfillment on me, proclaiming that I was the most talented, brilliant, beautiful being on earth.’
Hyman added: ‘B.D. was to be the fantasy daughter of the world’s greatest mother and the presents she lavished on her would know no bounds.’
Hyman alleged her mother’s obsession with her came to a head when, at the age of 16, she met her future husband Jeremy at the Cannes Film Festival where What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was screened.
Despite her mother’s best efforts to thwart their whirlwind romance, Hyman married the British film executive in January 1963.
In My Mother’s Keeper, she described a woman who was so bitter about her own failed relationships she made it her mission to break up her daughter’s marriage.
It’s easy to understand why Davis was hurt by Hyman’s book. The four-time divorcee largely raised her three children alone. Davis had Hyman with her third husband William Sherry, who walked out when the little girl was still an infant. Pictured, the trio at Hyman’s Christening
Hyman said Davis followed her and her husband around the country, even moving to Connecticut when they bought a home there. She claimed that over the years her mother tried to drive a wedge between the couple, once accusing Jeremy of cheating on her.
Things only got worse over time when they had their children – sons Ashley, in 1969, and Justin, in 1977.
Hyman accused Davis of spanking her youngest son when he was five in a fit of rage when he was crying because his parents were going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
She accused the actress of threatening to beat her son again months later in 1983, when he was recovering from a fever, if he didn’t finish a muffin his mother had given him.
It was the final straw. In her book, Hyman explained her decision to cut her ties with her mother for good – a woman she alleges once called her mentally disabled child Margot a ‘moron’ and who at times was so drunk she locked herself away, refused to read scripts and hung up on people.
‘It was at critical mass just before her operation,’ she said. ‘Not just her threatening Justin when she was here, but that business of her calling that friend of hers in Chicago…saying that I’d been hypnotized and she had to set me free.’
She claimed other people had said Davis ‘called them to say that I was being held against my will, that I’d been brainwashed and needed help to escape from here.’
In an open letter to Davis at the end of the book, Hyman claimed the tell-all was the only way she could reach her mother, whom she likened to the manipulative Gone With the Wind heroine Scarlett O’Hara.
At the time of the book’s release, facing criticism that the memoir was a cruel attempt to smear the ailing star, Hyman told the audience of the TV show AM Philadelphia: ‘I love my mother very much. If I didn’t love her I would not have written this book, let alone publish it, because this is an attempt to get through to her and present my side of our relationship to her in a way she cannot burn, throw away or ignore.’
Davis, who had several strokes and eventually died of breast cancer, said before her death: ‘Realizing that she had written this kind of a book about me was as catastrophic as the stroke was to me.’ Pictures, Davis and Joan Crawford on What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
In This ‘N That, Davis responded to her daughter with her own open letter. She wrote: ‘There is no doubt you have a great potential as a writer of fiction.‘
The two time Oscar-winner added: ‘You constantly inform people that you wrote this book to help me understand you and your way of life better.
‘Your goal was not reached. I am now utterly confused as to who you are or what your way of life is.’
Thirty years later Hyman – who declined a request by the DailyMail.com for an interview – has offered some insight into her world via her YouTube videos, in ways that may have been even more baffling to her deceased mother.
Four years after the publication of her book, she says she and her family went through a series of hardships including financial ruin, her terminal cancer diagnosis (which she miraculously survived) and her eldest son’s mental breakdown.
She lays all those misfortunes at the hands of the Devil who she says seized upon her mother’s vow to curse the family.
Now claiming that My Mother’s Keeper was a deliberate attempt to severe ties with her mom, Hyman said in a 2015 clip: ‘When I’d written the book she said she would get even with me.
‘She said she would destroy my children. She said she would destroy my life and I just brushed it off.’
Hyman added: ‘Even though mother had died in 1989, the demons that had been attached to her were still working actively against us.’
But she now says that through prayer and faith she has finally cut the destructive ties that bound her to Davis from beyond the grave.
On her B.D. Hyman Ministry website it says that she ‘received God’s solution to her dysfunctional relationship with her controlling mother.’
Davis is widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, with more than 100 films, television and theater roles to her name.
She was nominated for eleven Academy Awards for Best Actress in her career, winning two, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.