Bette Davis? Richard Branson? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: In 2014 Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, wrote an essay discussing some of his favorite quotations. One motivational remark about creating and fulfilling a dream was attributed to the Hollywood star Bette Davis. 1 Are you familiar with this quotation? Would you please tell me where it is was published?
Quote Investigator: Some fortunate individuals in our society acquire great wealth during youth or middle age. A sybaritic life of indolence and decadence must be a temptation for a large number of pecunious people. Yet, many continue to work hard for decades.
The acclaimed actress Bette Davis was highly-paid during her long career. The following illuminating passage about her desires appeared in her 1962 autobiography titled “The Lonely Life”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
To survive and to prosper doing what one wants is the dreamiest of lives. To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lovely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1995 a high school student in Kerrville, Texas began her prize-winning essay with the words of Bette Davis. There was one interesting difference; the phrase “lovely labor” was transformed into “lonely labor”. In addition, “the chance” was changed to “a chance”. The essay continued with commentary on the quotation: 3
“To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.” This quote by Bette Davis, author of The Lonely Life, sums up life, the next step for me, and my contributions to society and business. Today, we as a society seem to concentrate on the gravy instead of the substance of life. Money has become such a priority that we forget the importance of feeding our minds and souls.
In 2014 Richard Branson wrote an article titled “My three favourite quotes on imagination” that included the following passage. Once again the words of Bette Davis were slightly modified; the phrase “lovely labor” became “lonely labor” and “the chance” became “a chance”. Also, the British spelling “fulfil” was used instead of the American spelling “fulfill”: 4
Imagination gives hope, drive and inspiration, and is incredibly motivational. In that sense, dreaming should not be the reward, but instead a habit. The fruits that come from the success of achieving a dream should be the reward. Bette Davis summed it up nicely: “To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.”
In conclusion, the statement Bette Davis made in her 1962 autobiography has provided stimulation to others. QI suggests using the text printed in the 1962 book.
Image Notes: Publicity still of Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in the film “Now Voyager” circa 1942. Studio portrait of Bette Davis circa 1940. Images have been cropped and resized. Both images obtained via Wikimedia Commons.
- Website: Virgin Group, Article title: My three favourite quotes on imagination, Article author: Richard Branson, Date on website: October 13, 2014, Website description: Information about the Virgin Group and postings by the founder Richard Branson, (Accessed virgin.com on February 11, 2015) link ↩
- 1962, The Lonely Life: An Autobiography by Bette Davis, Chapter 13, Quote Page 190, Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1995 April 23, The Kerrville Times, Essay writers honored at annual Scholars Dinner: Essay by Jenny Gingrich (THS Senior), Quote Page 1C, Column 3, Kerrville, Texas. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- Website: Virgin Group, Article title: My three favourite quotes on imagination, Article author: Richard Branson, Date on website: October 13, 2014, Website description: Information about the Virgin Group and postings by the founder Richard Branson. (Accessed virgin.com on February 11, 2015) link ↩