Pluto was officially discovered in January of 1930 coinciding with the rise of talking pictures in Hollywood. There were a myriad of talented and powerful actresses that rose to prominence at that time. Within this talent pool there is a triumvirate that stands out from the rest due to a combination of tremendous power, range, ambition, talent and drive. This trio, listed alphabetically of course, is Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn.
These three actresses defined an entire generation of film acting. How interesting that they all started their great careers just as Pluto was discovered. They dominated pre World War II Hollywood and in true Scorpionic fashion were able to transform themselves after the war in order to stay atop the Hollywood heap. I often wondered that, as different as these actresses are, what do they have in common to make them stand out from the rest. Astrology offers a valuable and insightful answer. The clue is in the sign of Scorpio and its traditional ruler Mars and modern ruler Pluto.
All three actresses were born with Scorpio rising.
The rest of this article will discuss how this rising sign and its ruling planets link these actresses. Pluto unites all three ladies to a specific generation, but Mars determines their individual style through appearance, relationships, work, and conscious and unconscious drives.
Pluto: The generation of Pluto in Gemini transformed the world through communication and the spoken word. These women used their distinctive voices in a very communications oriented profession. Crawford’s voice was deep, seductive and mellifluous, Davis’s was clipped and chopped, and Hepburn’s was crackly, brittle and arch. All three are stylized and easy to imitate, which is very Pluto in Gemini. Close your eyes and listen to these ladies (or any actor from the 30s and 40s) and you can immediately identify who is speaking. They knew how to command attention through charismatic speech and dialogue. Each of their Mars is placed in an air house further emphasizing communication and the need to manifest words, speech, intellect and concepts in their life.
Using Placidus Houses, the modern Ruler of the Ascendant, Pluto in Gemini, is placed in the 8th house. Bette Davis’s Pluto is at the very end of the 7th but using a 5° approaching orb I would definitely call this an 8th house Pluto. The interpretation is fairly obvious. The approach to life for all three ladies is about power, control, magnetism, negotiations, sex and all the other keywords one can think of for Scorpio, Pluto and the 8th house.
The placement of the ruler of the Ascendant is where you “find” yourself. Stephen Arroyo says of Pluto in the 8th: “Pluto in this house reveals a compulsion to influence the world through the use of power, whether through socially-approved channels of authority or through deep psychological forces or occult power. There can be an inclination toward manipulating others and toward insisting that others change themselves according to this person’s values.”
Anyone who even gives a cursory glance at the biography of any of these women will find this statement to be true. They are very clever, sly and powerful negotiators behind the scenes. In a sense; power brokers. They had fierce instincts and knew how to live life on the battlefield and when the chips were down were able to negotiate incredible deals to put themselves back on top.
Both Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford were voted Box Office poison by an important article published in the Independent Film Journal in the spring of 1938. This was an influential publication that the industry took seriously and this indictment could spell death to an established career. Within a year of this announcement both actresses resurrected themselves. Hepburn by going back to the stage with a hit comedy, “The Philadelphia Story” and Crawford by lobbying for the part of the “bitch” in “The Women” and getting it.
“The Women” was a huge box office hit and Crawford re-established herself by entering her most artistically fruitful period at MGM. After “The Philadelphia Story” was a tremendous Broadway hit Hepburn shrewdly borrowed money from Howard Hughes to buy the film rights. Once the deal was negotiated and in place she brought her proposal to Louis B. Mayer at MGM and he was forced to make the movie with Hepburn as the lead along with giving her a lucrative MGM contract.
In 1936 Bette Davis fought a fierce legal battle with Warner Bros. demanding more control over her films via approval of director, script, and cast. She lost this much publicized battle in the short term but was victorious in the long run. Although legally forced to return to her Warner Bros. studio contract, she won the respect of her boss, Jack Warner, who ultimately gave in to her demands. From 1938 to 1945 no other actress even came close to her power at Warner Bros.
Davis had another career rebirth in 1962 along with Joan Crawford when they shocked the world with the release of the Scorpionic hit of the year “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” They each negotiated a lucrative percentage of the profits deal rather than taking a large up front salary. Hepburn and to a lesser degree Davis would return to the stage periodically to rebirth their careers.
Unlike Davis & Hepburn, when Crawford needed to resurrect her career she didn’t go back to the stage but entered the world of big business. In 1955 she transformed herself by marrying Alfred Steele, the Vice President of Pepsi-Cola, and became the leading spokesperson for Pepsi until 1970. Through this metamorphosis she kept her name in the public eye. Crawford had two other notable times when she was considered washed up and then miraculously came back from the grave. In 1943 she left MGM and remained inactive for two years until the right vehicle came along, “Mildred Pierce” in 1945. With Scorpionic patience and instinct she didn’t make the move until strategically ready and then she pounced. The film became big box-office, she won an Academy Award and started a seven year stretch of tremendous hits for Warner Brothers.
Davis had a similar career resurgence in 1950 with “All About Eve” as did Hepburn in 1940 and then again in the late 1960s with back-to-back Oscars. They all had the longest, most sustained careers in Hollywood. The sheer longevity and constant comebacks are a testimonial to the will, drive and transformative powers of Scorpio rising. Crawford started in silent films in 1925, Davis’s first film was 1930 and Hepburn’s debut was 1932. Crawford’s career spanned nearly 50 years and Davis & Hepburn even longer. That is an accomplishment few can claim.
Many with Scorpio rising often face tragic and unfortunate circumstances early in life. At age 13 Hepburn discovered her brother Tom had hanged himself. They were very close and she was devastated. Supposedly the family never talked about it after it happened and for years she gave his birthday of November 8, 1909 (Scorpio) as her own. She literally claimed his dead identity.
Bette Davis came from a broken home, claiming her father never liked her. At 10 years old, her mother divorced and she rarely saw her father again. Davis is quoted in her biography as saying “I hated the way he treated my mother…..I hated him, really.” She also had a mentally unstable sister whom she had to help most of her life.
Crawford also came from a broken home, her father having left the family when she was an infant. Crawford grew attached to a stepfather who in her youth was arrested and sent to jail. She detested her brother and did not get along with her mother, yet supported them all her life. Her older sister died as an infant. She admitted to having sex with her stepfather at a very young age.
Mars. What about Mars as co-ruler of Scorpio? The ladies own words succinctly sum up their unique approach to life.
Katharine Hepburn with Mars in Capricorn: “The lack of work destroys people” * “If you survive long enough, you’re revered – rather like an old building.” * “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around wondering about yourself.”
Joan Crawford with Mars in Libra: “I think the most important thing a woman can have — next to talent, of course, is her hairdresser.” ** “I need sex for a clear complexion, but I’d rather do it for love.” ** “I never go out unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door” ** “I have always known what I wanted, and that was beauty….in every form.”
Bette Davis with Mars in Taurus: “What a fool I was to come to Hollywood where they only understand platinum blondes and where legs are more important than talent.” ** “To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor; to be given a chance to create is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.” ** “In my day, we earned that recognition.” ** “I wanted to be the first to win three Oscars, but Miss Hepburn has done it.
Mars and Men
Mars in Capricorn desires a relationship with a man of high reputation and status. After a quick early marriage that didn’t last Hepburn had a torrid affair with Howard Hughes. A great match for a woman with Mars in Capricorn conjunct Uranus. He was eccentric like her, walked to the beat of a different drummer and was an “Aviator.” Spencer Tracy was tops in his craft. No one had a better reputation as an actor and true to her Mars conjunct Uranus there was plenty of freedom in this relationship due to his marriage. I’m sure she preferred it that way because she was in the unique position of being in an important, serious, long-lasting relationship that gave her independence and didn’t tie her down in the traditional sense.
Mars in Libra wants a handsome man to make a good appearance and impression. Crawford was a sucker for elegant, smart, polished, well-educated and good-looking men who were a little effete. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was the prince of Hollywood being the son of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and stepson of Mary Pickford. Franchot Tone was from a wealthy wasp family back East; educated at Cornell and a member of the prestigious Group Theater. Philip Terry was vapid and rather good looking. Crawford was obsessed by men who could better her through their Libran qualities. The more positive side of Mars in Libra was attained with her last marriage to Al Steele in the fact that he was more her equal in age and stature.
Davis went for very Mars in Taurus kind of men. They were usually beefy and well built. They also were men who were lazy and less ambitious than Davis herself and enjoyed benefiting from all the Taurean luxuries that she could supply. Her first husband was a musician; her second husband was also musical and ran an inn in New Hampshire when they met. Her third husband was a painter. They fit the artistic and sluggish side of Taurus. She achieved more of the Taurean stability and security for ten years with her last marriage to Gary Merrill when she was at her most domesticated and content according to her.
Planets in rulership, detriment, fall and exaltation are very important. The Mars placement for these three women as co-ruler of the all important ascendant is further proof that this traditional astrological technique continues to be invaluable in chart interpretation.
Hepburn has an exalted Mars. Father time was very, very good to her when it came to career, popularity and public perception. She just got better with age. What incredible bone structure, what longevity, what endurance. She’s the only actress of her generation to consistently get roles in class “A” productions after the age of 60 and became bigger box office the older she got. Starting with “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and culminating in “On Golden Pond” she hit the jackpot. She was the envy of her peers. Her stage roles and television appearances of this period were tremendous successes as well.
As Crawford grew older she became obsessed with her appearances and never wanted to look bad on camera. She was manic about keeping herself in good shape. While she maintained her looks she sacrificed many opportunities for a woman her age because of the vanity of always wanting to be a leading lady. Her narcissistic obsession with staying young led to some embarrassing roles in the 1960’s. All very indicative of a Mars in Libra imbalance.
Davis had the opposite problem with Mars in Taurus. Another Venus ruled sign that has more to do with innate, raw talent and resources. Mars in Taurus made Davis sloppy and lazy about her appearance and physical body to the point of bemoaning the reality that after 1952 she found it difficult to remain a leading lady due largely to the fact that she didn’t take care of herself. She was able to play character parts as she got older but wasn’t able to always get the best roles.
Mars is a much more potent energy in our youth. The more negative traits of Libra and Taurus came to surface as these women got older. Mars in detriment seemed to fail them in old age but in youth brought them the gifts of Libra and Taurus. Hepburn was lucky having the exalted Mars because Capricorn just gets better with age. In youth Crawford was known for great glamour and beauty (Libra), Davis for her raw, abundant talent (Taurus) and Hepburn for being cold, brittle, and austere; someone to admire but not necessarily like (Capricorn). In old age the Libran beauty became vain and silly, the Taurus raw talent became lazy and in a rut, yet the Capricorn cold, brittle austerity became enduring, lasting and won awards and respect.
Scorpio is such a complex sign because it is difficult for many people to talk about the “dark side” and what lies beneath. To be complete human beings we all have to experience both sides of Scorpio; Dark and Light, Death and Birth. In old age Hepburn seemed to symbolize the positive, transformative side of Scorpio with her choice of films while Crawford and Davis came to represent the negative, stinging side of Scorpio sinking into the pits of hell and degradation with their cycle of horror movies.
Through Crawford and Davis we were privileged to see the Gorgon Medusa in all its glory and through Hepburn we got to see the phoenix rising from the ashes. Two very distinct sides of the Queen of Cups for those who can relate to the tarot. On a personal note I think the universe gave Crawford and Davis the more difficult task because the public finds it easier to like someone who comes out on top with qualities that are easy to admire rather than sympathize with someone who represents dark attributes that are easy to pass judgment on yet exist within all of us.
Mars becomes even more of a focus when one considers the following facts: both Crawford and Davis are Aries, Crawford & Hepburn have Venus in Aries, Davis has Mars conjunct Venus, Crawford has Mars & Venus in mutual reception and Hepburn has Mars square Venus as well as being born on a new moon in Taurus suggesting an Arian drive for action. Due to constraints of space I haven’t even touched upon this data or other planets and signs beyond Mars, Pluto and Scorpio let alone aspects, transits and progressions. That would be a book in itself.
Katharine Hepburn. May 12, 1907, 5:47 pm, Hartford, Connecticut. From Birth Certificate (Howard Hammit AA)
Joan Crawford. March 23, 1903, 10:00 pm, San Antonio, Texas. From Crawford to Astrologer Nelle Sliter.
Bette Davis. April 5, 1908, 9:35 pm, Lowell, Massachusetts. Lois Rodden’s Profile on Women.