Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, Bette Midler was 12 when she saw her first stage show, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, recalling, “I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. I fell so in love with it.
Everything else in my life receded once I discovered theatre.”
Bette moved to New York in 1965. Within a year she hit the Great White Way, first as a member of the chorus in Fiddler on the Roof, and then as Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tzeitel, a role she would play for three years. She did improv and comedy, then began a record-breaking run at Continental Baths, working closely with her pianist and arranger, Barry Manilow. Together they produced her first album, The Divine Miss M, for which she received her first Grammy Award® in 1973. That same year she was honored with a special Tony Award® for “adding lustre to the Broadway season.” Revues, record albums, concert tours, and an Emmy-winning television special followed.
In 1979, Bette starred in The Rose. Her portrayal of Janis Joplin earned her an Academy Award® nomination as Best Actress and two Golden Globes®, as Best Actress and Best New Star of the Year.
The Walt Disney Company debuted the Touchstone Pictures banner in 1984, producing films with broader adult appeal. Bette helped lead the way to box office success for the new production division, appearing in a string of hit comedies, including Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Ruthless People (1986), Outrageous Fortune (1987), and Big Business (1988).
In 1985, Bette formed her own production company, All Girl Productions, with partners Bonnie Bruckheimer-Martell and Margaret Jennings South. Their first film was Beaches (1988), produced in collaboration with Disney for release by Touchstone. A timeless tearjerker, the film—directed by Disney Legend Garry Marshall—was a smash with audiences. Beaches also offered the opportunity for Bette to perform classic musical numbers, including what would become Bette’s platinum-selling (and Grammy-winning) rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings”—introduced to and arranged for her by her longtime musical collaborator, Marc Shaiman.
In a delightful display of her versatility, that same year Bette voiced Georgette, the prize-winning prima donna poodle in Disney’s animated feature Oliver & Company. She also reunited with Marshall for The Lottery (1989), a short film produced for the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Florida to demonstrate the secrets of moviemaking for the park’s Backstage Studio Tour.
More Disney films followed, including Stella (1990) and Scenes from a Mall (1991). For Walt Disney Pictures, Bette played witchy Winifred Sanderson in what has become a perennial Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus (1993), and in 1996 she recorded a pop version of “God Help the Outcasts” for The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack album. Bette served as a segment host for Fantasia/2000, the film that realized Walt Disney’s dream of an updated concert feature based on his 1940 animated classic.
Bette has starred in a dozen non-Disney films, released 27 albums, and has been showered with awards. Twice nominated for a Best Actress Oscar®, she has received the American Cinematheque Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy by the American Comedy Awards. For nearly 50 years Bette has been the consummate performer, honored with three Emmys; four Golden Globes; three Grammys; 10 Gold, Platinum, and Multiplatinum records; and two Tonys. For the 91st Academy Awards broadcast in February 2019, Bette performed “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns, also written by Marc Shaiman.