Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)

"Feuds are never about hate” states Olivia de Havilland. “Feuds are about pain." She should know, having endured her own long-running feud with sister Joan Fontaine.  The feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford did not last as long as that case of sibling rivalry, but it did start long before Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) and continued for some time thereafter.

 

It is the making of this classic piece of hagsploitation that occupies the first four episodes of this eight episode mini-series. Incensed by her lack of film offers, Crawford sets out to find her own project in which to star. Armed with the right story and right director, she offers the film’s title role to her long-time rival Davis. Though the two agree to put aside their differences for the sake of the film it isn’t long before off-screen acrimony turns into outright hostility onscreen, much to the delight of their old sparring partner Jack Warner.

 

Despite its length, this biopic continuously entertains from start to finish. In a role she was destined to play since she first fluttered her Bette Davis eyes, Susan Sarandon is magnificent. Though Jessica Lange’s turn as Joan Crawford isn’t as immediately impactful, her brave portrayal of an aged beauty empathetically conveys her character’s fierce determination. Nevertheless, despite all the fun provided by a script replete with one-liners to make you laugh out loud and gasp in disbelief, it is in the quieter moments that reveals the accuracy of de Havilland’s theory.

cast, Susan Sarandon, Bette Davis, Jessica Lange, Joan Crawford
Jessica Lange
Jessica Lange

as Joan Crawford

Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon

as Bette Davis

Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones

as Olivia de Havilland

Dominic Burgess
Dominic Burgess

as Victor Buono

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fact check, factcheck, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

Though she shares the same name as a British actress, Pauline Jameson is a composite character, primarily based on Geraldine Hersey, who was Aldrich's secretary while he was working in Europe.

 

Mamacita was not with Joan Crawford shortly before the actress’ death in 1977, having returned to her native Germany three years earlier.

 

Bette Davis was not an associate producer on Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

 

On the day before her 101st birthday, Olivia de Havilland sued the makers of this biopic, claiming its depiction of her as a petty gossip and hypocrite had caused her economic, reputational and emotional damages.  Amongst de Havilland complaints was that she…

 

  • did not give an interview about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford when she attended the 50th Academy Awards in 1978.

  • never referred to her sister as her "bitch sister."

  • did not claim that the host of the 1963 Academy Awards, Frank Sinatra, must have drunk all the alcohol in the backstage lounge.

  • did not tell Robert Aldrich she doesn’t play bitches and that he should instead contact her sister.

film clip, scene comparison, video, hush sweet charlotte, whatever happened to baby jane

Clip courtesy of Dimitri Bitu

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Feud