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In Her Eyes

Today in 1981: 'Bette Davis Eyes' is No. 1


Exactly thirty-six years ago, an old-time movie star was reborn when Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" fixed its gaze atop the Billboard Hot 100 and didn't blink for nine weeks.

The Golden Age actress, then 73, was so pleased to receive such unexpected attention in 1981 that she sent Carnes and the two songwriters a letter thanking them for making her "a part of modern times." Even her grandson was impressed, Davis reported.

"Bette Davis Eyes" hit No. 1 seven years after it was co-written (with Donna Weiss) by singer Jackie DeShannon, whose credits include the 1969 hit "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." DeShannon's original 1974 arrangement, described as "R&B lite," got reworked with a full-blown '80s synthesizer soundscape that's now as instantly familiar as Carnes' raspy vocal.

The song became the year's biggest hit and won 1982 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Davis, who died in 1989, sent roses to all three winners. She, in turn, received another tribute from Carnes—gold and platinum records, which the Hollywood legend proudly hung on a wall in her home.

Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Image