Ryan Murphy’s decadently decked out limited series, The Feud: Bette and Joan, covers Hollywood’s golden age (the 50s) with the glitz and glamour worthy of the luxurious talent of the principle players; Joan Crawford (Lucille Le Seur) and the incomparable, Bette Davis, perfectly played by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
This limited series brilliantly and elegantly covers the time period and looming instrumental melody that was classic film noir.
This microscopic level of appreciation paid to this epic biopic of the making of the notorious B movie Horror cult classic, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, as well as what happened afterwards to the Oscar driven leading ladies and their careers.
Each episode explores all the behind the scenes gossip in living technicolor and what lead up to the awards ceremony snub for what could have (some argue, should have) been the 3rd Academy Award Oscar win for, Bette Davis.
Devastatingly, she was denied from that historical significance (losing to Anne Bancroft for Best Actress for her performance in The Miracle Worker) through careful, deliberate and undeniably malicious campaigning by her petty begrudged screen opposite, the protagonist of Baby Jane, Joan Crawford.
Living close to the treachery of the villian of the film, Bette Davis, with her legendary razor wire sharp wit and viciously cruel tongue, surely fanned the flames of Joan Crawford’s ire at not being nominated for her critically over looked role as the bed ridden, tortured Blanche Hudson.
During filming, Joan wore weights to aggravate Bette’s bad back after Joan forced Bette to drag her dead weight numerous times, in the climax of the scene, by deliberately flubbing her performance.
Bette repaid her by kicking Joan full force in the back of the head during the beating scene on camera.
The piece of history missing from this orchestrated public humiliation, Bette’s reaction to not only losing, but watching her arch rival, accept the award on Anne Bancroft’s behalf, (according to Hollywood lore) was never recorded by the producers because the action was deemed “too cruel” to air live.
Everyone in town knew the blow Bette was about to face, (Bette lived on the East Coast and knew little of Hollywood politicking while Joan ruled the gossip mills and society pages) but Bette, accompanied by daughter and bit part actor B.D., came to the awards ceremony in high spirits, only to be denied an acting significance to the category for a box office successful female driven lead, by her costar for spite. #petty but still #feminism. Surely, this moment will be given all due attention in the weeks to come?
This gilded and well beloved time period, when two of Hollywood’s iconic leading ladies, were experiencing “ageism” as well as misogyny and sexual discrimination/exploitation, eerily mimics today’s strife and tumultuous political landscape, when so many women’s issues and rights are up for termination and revision under the current 45th administration.
In Tinsel Town, rumored to be a notorious boy’s club, Davis and Crawford were finding less and less opportunities to work as lead actresses on the silver screen.
Scripts featuring desirable, female vixens (like Marilyn Monroe) were all the rage and the only roles for women after the age of 40 were minor supporting characters with small lines and little screen time (like grandmothers and waitresses).
Female writers and directors were few and far between, a problem still ongoing in Hollywood, and despite their earlier successes, the formula for big budget box office success did not include grey haired bombshells with dynamic personalities. Joan had to get the script written herself after rejecting the lackluster roles offered to her by casting agents. #feminism
Though known for blood, guts and gore from American Horror series success, Murphy’s take on Hollywood’s infamous feud is lovingly and respectfully recreated in the little touches of the series, like the continuity of the set dressing.
From Bette Davis’s quaint New England style cottage, to Joan Crawford’s incredible Spanish style (with her dual staircase mansion), the sets reflect each actresses’ personality and upbringing perfectly, sticking to the posterity of the time period like a costume jewelry broach pinned to a scooped neck bodice.
Murphy manages to turn back the clock and recreate this dramatic travesty between professional colleagues in the sunset of their careers with gold framed rose colored lenses.
Attention has been given to every angle, each sip of figurative tea swirling with the rancor of competition, betrayal and crestfallen acceptance of the status quo with the power of imagination and skilled director’s eye that makes you almost forget this is a mere recreation.
The Fabulous 50s are alive in The Feud: Bette and Joan so strap in! Whenever an episode of this series airs (Sunday nights on FX, check your local listing for time) it’s going to be a bumpy night!
So, are you tuning in for the nostalgia of this limited series? Are you #TeamJoanCrawford or #TeamBetteDavis?? Ever experienced a similar professional rival with this degree of petty?? Drop me a comment! Enjoyed this article?
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