THIS 'N THAT By Bette Davis With Michael Herskowitz Putnam's. 207 pp. $17.95 NARROW IS THE WAY By B.D. and Jeremy Hyman Morrow. 285pp. $16.95.

WHAT A DUMP! There are so many conflicting accusations, atavistic resentments, and random rages floating around in Bette Davis's This 'n That and Davis' daughter B.D. and her husband's Narrow Is the Way, you just want to shovel the mess out of your mind and take a long hot shower.

The public battle began with the publication of the daughter's My Mother's Keeper by B.D. Hyman in 1985. Hyman presented Bette Davis -- whom many consider the greatest film actress of the sound era -- as a salty-tongued, egomaniacal, heavy-drinking performer who steamrollered over anyone in her career path. It was an unflattering portrait, but hardly the genuine catalogue of horrors contained in Mommie Dearest, a biography of Joan Crawford by her adopted daughter, Christina. Rereading My Mother's Keeper, one wonders really where's -- and what was -- Hyman's beef?

Bette Davis was a working mother who raised her children in Maine rather than in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Hollywood. When Davis went on location, B.D. went with her. But, at a Cannes Film Festival, B.D. met Jeremy Hyman and soon married him. A marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man -- what mother wouldn't hit the roof? This was the beginning of the rift between Bette Davis and her daughter.

Unlike Christina Crawford, who published her book after Joan Crawford's death, B.D. Hyman, who had recently become a born-again Christian, explained that she published the book to reach her mother -- to create a real understanding between the two -- while Davis was still alive. Well, barely. The then 77-year-old Bette Davis just had recovered from a broken hip, a mastectomy and a devastating stroke. So much for Christian charity.

If My Mother's Keeper was Davis' indictment, Hyman's sequel Narrow Is the Way is Davis' trial and judgment. In Hyman's defense, she did get a bum rap: her father, William Sherry, deserted Hyman after Davis' divorce from him. Davis claims in This 'n That that Sherry physically abused her and carried on an affair with Hyman's nursemaid. After that, Davis jumped from the fire into the frying pan. Davis admits that her next husband, Gary Merrill -- a hard-drinking curmudgeon who expected Davis off-stage to be Margo, if not Angela, Channing -- was "mean and unpleasant with B.D." and she "accepts guilt for choosing both of these men as B.D.'s father." By the way, Sherry, who has only dropped in on B.D.'s life every other decade, comes off smelling like a rose in Hyman's book.

Most of Narrow Is the Way is taken up by B.D. and Jeremy Hyman's step-by-step conversion into the Pentecostal movement. Their mentor, a character named Serafino, leads them into a dialectic much the same way Shirley MacLaine's pal showed her the ropes in Peru. But there's a point in these endless philosophical discussions that you go with the flow or just pack it in. I parted company with MacLaine when her sidekick revealed that he was dating an extraterrestrial. With Hyman, it was when her severe back problems, colitis, varicose veins and bad ankles were suddenly healed over the TV airwaves when she was watching the 700 Club. Later, the Hymans get into speaking in tongues, which even Jerry Falwell suspects comes from eating too much pizza the night before. And all that chitchat about the Jews doublecrossing God's covenant will strike many as downright offensive.

Meanwhile, the Hymans move to the Bahamas, build a church with a baseball motif ("the pulpit's at home plate") and try to get Bette Davis to renounce her sins and become united with Christ. "I'm not changing for God or man," roars Davis. "No man is going to be in charge of me! . . . And how do you know God is a man anyway?" Then the holy water really hits the fan: the publication of My Mother's Keeper. Hyman goes on a whirlwind publicity campaign ("Has your mother had sex since her divorce from Gary," queries an enquiring mind from USA Today), and the book becomes a best seller.

Bette Davis' book This 'n That is as aptly titled as Narrow Is the Way. It's a potpourri -- rambling ruminations on her adventures in TV and her various illnesses -- with far too many tedious sections on Davis' inability to find a competent cook and housekeeper. But, while Hyman is intransigent and proselytizing, Davis is frank and funny, trucking out her favorite anecdotes fans probably have heard a million times. She thinks that the TV program Hotel should have been called Brothel and remains non-nostalgic about the Golden Age of Hollywood. ("The fight is still between the artists and the money men.")

BUT THE chapter on the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and the 48 pages of photos are worth the price of admission. On Joan Crawford, Davis writes: "As part of her wardrobe, Miss Crawford owned three sizes of bosoms. In the famous scene in which she lay on the beach, Joan wore the largest ones . . . The scene called for me to fall on top of her. I had the breath almost knocked out of me. It was like falling on two footballs!"

Davis turns deadly serious in the coda of the book in which she responds to her daughter's "glaring lack of loyalty and thanks for the very privileged life I feel you have been given." She simply hangs Hyman with Hyman's own words with a letter of gratitude Hyman wrote to thank Davis for bailing her husband out of a financial bind when the Hyman's Pennsylvania farm was going under in 1983:

Dear Mother,

I walked outside to feed the horses and sled with Justin {one of the Hymans' sons} in the white, fluffy winter and I felt so grateful to you and for your generosity. I will never not be so indebted to you for helping us through this frightening time and saving our home. I sincerely hope that our boys will look back at their childhoods in Pennsylvania as fondly as I do my childhood in Maine, and that it will stand them in good stead with a basis of good and real values as it did Mike {Davis's adopted son} and I.

I love you very much. B.D.

Afterwards, Hyman phones Davis bursting with news of her conversion, the miracles of life and the happiness she feels. Davis's reaction, according to Hyman, was, "That's fascinating. Pray for me to find a decent cook."

Sometimes mothers and daughters do speak in tongues. :: Christopher Schemering is the author of "The Soap Opera Encyclopedia" and "Guiding Light: A 50th Anniversary Celebration."