We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Although she made her first film in 1932, Bette Davis didn’t really come into her own until the next decade—ironically, after she had unsuccessfully sued Warner Bros. to get out of her contract so she could work in Britain. The actress began to get more interesting parts that reflected the expanded role that women were taking in wartime America, and she developed the distinctive mannerisms and assertive quality that set her apart. These five movies from the ’40 feature some of Davis’ best known, such as The Man Who Came to Dinner, a satire with Davis playing the secretary to an unwelcome house guest modeled on Alexander Woolcott (Nov. 17 at 9 p.m. & Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.) and Now, Voyager, in which Davis is a repressed woman transformed by a shipboard romance with a married man (pictured, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 22 at 6:15 p.m., Nov. 23 at 6:15 p.m.). Also included are Old Acquaintance, with Davis as a serious author whose childhood friend becomes a successful light novelist (Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 22 at 4:15 p.m., Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m.); The Letter, with Davis as a woman accused of murder on a Malayan rubber plantation (Nov. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 29 at 4:15 p.m.); and The Little Foxes, with Davis as the cruelest member of a merciless Southern family (Nov. 29 at 6:15 p.m. & Nov. 30 at 3:15 & 6:30 p.m.). At the Kennedy Center’s American Film Institute Theater. $6.50. (202) 785-4600. (Mark Jenkins)