Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s glorious ego-fest is depicted in the series Feud. Scott Coblio writer and director of the 2007 film Murderess, shares his take.
Okay, any episode that opens with an axe-wielding Jessica Lange reenacting scenes from Strait Jacket (Joan Crawford’s 1964 B-movie campfest) gets my vote for best installment of any show ever. There’s something indescribably sublime about seeing talented actors painstakingly recreate sheer crap (albeit wildly entertaining crap). And when Feud reconstructs, they get it right, down to the wallpaper.
Up until now, the fireworks have all been of the “may have” and “was rumored to” variety, but it’s really, really true that—snubbed by the Academy for an Oscar nomination (Bette and Joan had shared lead billing in Baby Jane, making both eligible for the “Best Actress” honor)—Joan campaigned not only to be a presenter, but to accept the award for any Best Actress nominee who could not attend. Touché!
Highlight: Susan Sarandon reenacting Bette’s TV appearance on The Andy Williams Show in which she sings a camp “theme song” (inappropriately go-go-ish), about what really happened to Baby Jane. Alas, Sarandon just cannot bring herself to replicate the awful sound that was Davis’s singing voice, but the visual, for those who have seen the original, is dead-on
On the whole, Lange is much more consistent in her characterization of Crawford than Sarandon, who is all over the map in this episode.
The second installment of FX’s Feud continues the writer’s (seeming) purpose to clarify that the famous feud with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was at least in part, the result of the actresses having been pitted against one another, not just on the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? set, but through the decades, by various parties, and for various seedy purposes. This may come as a disappointment to some and a relief to others, depending on whether one prefers Bette and Joan as complex women or straight-up Disney witches.
Over the years, writers have devoted much ink to this legend. As the demand for more dirt grew, more and more people started coming out of the woodwork “remembering” things… until finally, it had become impossible to know what was real and what was fiction. Did these two women really despise each other? Or is it all the wet dream of bloodthirsty hyenas? Feud—an eight-part miniseries attempts to break it down for us.