Ryan Murphy explores classic Hollywood feud

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Ryan Murphy explores classic Hollywood feud

By Kelli Green

Everyone grab your popcorn and get comfortable, it’s likely to be a bumpy night. There are a lot of questions surrounding Ryan Murphy’s new series FEUD: Bette & Joan. No, it will not be a shot-for-shot remake of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. No, it is not the new season of American Horror Story, but yes everyone’s favorite AHS matriarch, Jessica Lange, is back in action.

This is the premiere season of Murphy’s new anthology series, Feud. It is based on a true story, much like Murphy’s other anthology series, American Crime Story. This series will follow legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford throughout their lengthy rivalry. Susan Sarandon will star as Davis, and Lange will star as Crawford.

Bette Davis charmed us with her unmistakable voice, big eyes, and larger-than-life screen presence. She made huge waves as a young and cruel temptress in Of Human Bondage in 1935. She was nominated a total of eleven times for Best Actress, earning two wins – one for Dangerous (1936) and the other for Jezebel (1939). Davis was known for her quick wit and uncompromising attitude almost as much as she was for her films.

Joan Crawford was one of the very few people to successfully make the leap from silent films to “talkies.” Her smooth demeanor, sense of fashion, and dramatic make-up definitely made a lasting impression. The three-time Academy Award nominee snatched her coveted Oscar in 1946 for her role as a devoted mother and entrepreneur in Mildred Pierce, though many people may be even more familiar with Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of her in the 1980’s classic Mommie Dearest. Who knows, maybe a wire hanger will make a cameo, though that seems very unlikely.

Feud is centered on the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the 1963 thriller starring the two rivals as quarreling sisters. Crawford plays Blanche Hudson, a disabled reclusive former starlet. Davis plays her older sister Jane, an alcoholic and delusional former child star known as ‘Baby Jane.’ The movie became quite popular and both ladies gave a fantastic performance, proving that despite their age they were still both extremely talented.

It is no secret that Crawford and Davis disliked each other, and Feud aims to dig into that. The two ladies made several nasty comments about each other and had an ongoing history of getting on one another’s nerves. During the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, there is a scene where Jane attacks a helpless Blanche. Well, Davis took this opportunity to ‘accidentally’ kick Crawford in the head so hard that she ended up needing stitches. Crawford got her revenge later on by hiding weights under her clothes before a scene where Davis had to drag her across the floor. Davis had a bad back and the added weight caused her to throw her back out.

However, Feud will go even deeper than the scandalous fights and explore the themes around them. These two living legends had to deal with sexism, ageism, and several personal issues; their rivalry was large, but what lies beneath it may be just as colossal. After all, in one of the many teasers for the series, Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing Olivia de Haviland says, “Feuds are never about hate: feuds are about pain.”   

So tune in Sunday, March 5th, on FX at 9:00 p.m. Central time, and watch these women bring all of their talent and fierceness to the table in the first season of Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Bette and Joan.



Photo Provided By: FX network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons