B. D. Hyman
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|B. D. Hyman|
Barbara Davis Sherry|
May 1, 1947
Santa Ana, California, U.S.
Jeremy Hyman (m. 1963)
William Grant Sherry (biological father)
Gary Merrill (adoptive father)
Born in Santa Ana, California, she is the daughter of film star Bette Davis and artist William Grant Sherry and was adopted in 1950 by Davis's fourth husband, Gary Merrill. She took back her surname Sherry upon turning 16 years old, claiming that she wished to distance herself from Merrill. She appeared briefly (uncredited) as an infant in her mother's film Payment on Demand (1951). Under the screen name B. D. Merrill, she played a minor role as the next-door neighbor's daughter in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), in which her mother co-starred with Joan Crawford. These were her only acting appearances on film.
B. D. met Jeremy Hyman, the British nephew of Seven Arts Productions owner Elliott Hyman, on a blind date for the film's showing at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963, and the couple wed when B. D. was age 16 and Jeremy was age 29. Her mother Bette Davis gave her consent and publicly supported this underage marriage. The couple remain wed after 50-plus years and have two sons, Ashley and Justin.
Hyman wrote two books highly critical of her mother, My Mother's Keeper (1985) and Narrow Is the Way (1987). My Mother's Keeper brought Hyman considerable condemnation for the timing of its publication since Davis was in ill health after suffering a stroke during the book's publication process, even though writing of the book had been completed well before the stroke. My Mother's Keeper chronicled a difficult mother–daughter relationship and depicted scenes of her mother as an overbearing alcoholic. Several of Davis's friends commented that the depictions of events were inaccurate and others with first-hand knowledge vehemently disagreed with the allegations. In her 1987 memoirs This 'N That, Davis wrote a "letter" to her daughter in which she alleged inaccuracies in Hyman's book.
Mike Wallace rebroadcast a 60 Minutes interview he had filmed with Hyman a few years earlier in which she commended Davis on her skills as a mother when she (Hyman) was younger, and said that she had adopted many of Davis's principles in raising her own children. My Mother's Keeper was a best-seller; the second book, however, did not generate the same level of interest. Despite the acrimony of their divorce years earlier, Davis' former husband, Gary Merrill, defended Davis and claimed in an interview with CNN that B. D. was motivated by “cruelty and greed”. B. D.'s brother through adoption, Michael Merrill, ended contact with B.D., and refused to speak to her again. Bette Davis disinherited B. D. and her grandchildren; her estate was instead divided between her adopted son Michael Merrill and her assistant Kathy Sermak.
A born-again Christian, Hyman is the head of her own ministry and pastor of her church in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has written three books which were published by her ministry: Oppressive Parents: How to Leave Them and Love Them (1992), The Church is Not the Bride (2000), The Rapture, the Tribulation, and Beyond (2002).
In popular culture
Kiernan Shipka portrays a young Hyman in the FX anthology television series Feud (2017), which chronicles the rivalry between her mother Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the production of their 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
- Chandler, Charlotte (2006). Bette Davis: A Personal Biography. Simon & Schuster. pp. 238–240. ISBN 978-0-7432-6208-8.
- Usher, Shaun (April 5, 2017). "It's up to you now". Letters of Note. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
- Spada, James (1993). More Than a Woman. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 451–457. ISBN 0-316-90880-0.
- Abrams, Natalie (January 12, 2017). "Jessica Lange uses famed Amy Schumer sketch to explain Feud relevance to today". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 12, 2017.