“No place for sissies”

Gender, age, and disability in Hollywood

Authored by: Sally Chivers

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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In Quartet (2012, Dustin Hoffman), central character and former opera diva Cissy speculates about who first said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” She remembers the phrase despite experiencing early symptoms of dementia because it contains a homonym of her name. This coincidence makes the phrase into a joke both about the creakiness of old bodies on screen and about her forgetfulness as an even further sign of the stereotyped deficits of old age. Cissy attributes the phrase to renowned Hollywood actress Bette Davis. Though the phrase’s exact origins are difficult to trace, most sources do credit Davis. When and whether Davis ever did utter the famous words, associating the phrase with her makes sense. In her famed career as an actress, Davis faced the difficult choice, once she no longer looked like the part of the ingénue, of either going back on Broadway or taking on horror roles. In the end, she did a bit of both, but had to transform her star persona to remain working in Hollywood.

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