Review: ‘When Bette Met Mae’ was probably better in person


The documentary “When Bette Met Mae” recounts the gathering of two golden-age Hollywood legends at a soirée that Bette Davis threw for Mae West on Nov. 13, 1973. Their conversation was recorded by bartender Wes Wheadon, who also serves as the director here.

Much like “The Arbor,” Clio Barnard’s staggering 2011 documentary on playwright Andrea Dunbar, “When Bette Met Mae” features actors lip-syncing to the 1973 audio recording while reenacting the scenes.

The topics include the lurid, salacious details of Davis’ various marriages, divorces and insignificant late-career television work as well as West’s sculpted boy toys and drag impersonators. A lot is Tinseltown insider talk involving studio heads, agents, personal assistants and the Screen Actors Guild.


Wheadon appropriately presents the proceedings like an evening program on Turner Classic Movies. An optometrist by profession, he is no documentarian. The performances are cringe-worthy, the appeal of the material marginal.

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‘When Bette Met Mae’

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 3 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.