Bette Davis really wanted a weekly TV series, primarily for the money and security it offered. By the mid-1950s her movie career had cooled considerably and offers weren't coming in.
Bette didn't want to be another dizzy dame on TV, she was no Lucy-type, she had a different idea for her television pilot in 1958. Paula was a light comedy/drama centered around a top Broadway theatrical agent, her agency and the eccentric writers they took on.
In this TV show, the women wouldn't be played for laughs, they would do the playing.
Her last motion picture smash had been All About Eve in 1950, followed by mediocre films that failed to generate any box office excitement, to say the least. So naturally Paula was essentially All About Eve for the small screen. Bette could have easily been playing Margot Channing, substituting the cigarettes and booze from All About Eve for telephones and eyeglasses in this TV production.
Bette's real life husband Gary Merrill was cast as Paula's husband, a playwright there to provide her with male eye candy for opening nights and provide some familial warmth for the closing of the show. Hey, he likes her... you will too.
There was no question who was in charge in front of and behind the camera. And with good reason. Davis's command of the medium far outstripped anyone else's and she knew it. I can think of no other actor working in television in the 1950s (except James Dean) who could touch her confident artistry.
Oddly, the night before Paula was filmed, Bette and her husband - who had a disastrously rocky relationship - were almost killed in a fire at LA's fashionable Chateau Marmont. The infamously contentious couple split soon after this pilot failed to get picked up.
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