Feud: Bette and Joan: Episode 2 re-cap for The NY Times

My re-cap for Episode 2 of Feud is now up at the NY Times.

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9 Responses to Feud: Bette and Joan: Episode 2 re-cap for The NY Times

  1. Maureen says:

    So, I’m not sure if I should comment here or on the NYT website-but I loved your recap!

    First of all, and most important-I laughed hysterically at the reaction of Hedda Hopper, the wonderful Judy Davis-to Crawford’s comments how lucky she was to have never made it as an actress or a star. OMG-I had to have replayed it about 5 times, watching her reactions. HILARIOUS! Also the comment how Davis was never really “Hollywood”, that she lived like a “Yankee”, which as you mentioned, is so evident in the set design of the homes.

    I loved Bette’s reaction to the reporter, asking her name and then saying either fuck you or fuck off, reporter’s name…ha!

    Totally agreed with you on the disbelief that Bette needed Aldrich’s advice on acting a scene. I know this is a fictionalized account, but some things just don’t seem to ring true.

    I don’t know that much about the making of this movie, it scared the absolute shit out of me when I first saw it as a kid-I was talking to my sister about this show the other day, and she said this movie kept her from eating chicken for years! Anyway, I’ve never really done any research, so I am wondering how much is true-the powers that be pitting them against each other.

    • sheila says:

      // I laughed hysterically at the reaction of Hedda Hopper, the wonderful Judy Davis-to Crawford’s comments how lucky she was to have never made it as an actress or a star. OMG-I had to have replayed it about 5 times, watching her reactions. //

      SO FUNNY. I can’t stop laughing about it either. She sort of holds out her hands, and speaks to herself, like, “What??” And it’s so obvious and Joan doesn’t even notice. DYING.

      My friend Dan has been doing re-caps too – and he called out that moment specifically!

      http://www.nylon.com/articles/feud-recap-episode-2

      More later!!

    • sheila says:

      // Also the comment how Davis was never really “Hollywood”, that she lived like a “Yankee”, which as you mentioned, is so evident in the set design of the homes. //

      I re-read Davis’ first memoir – and had forgotten how often she mentioned her Yankee heritage, how proud she was of it, and how much meaning it had for her. Discipline, self-sufficiency, hard work – all that staunch “Yankee” stuff. Whereas Joan may have come from Texas – but she did her best to shed herself of her past (and did an amazing job) – you would never know, from looking at her, the squalor she grew up in. She removed herself from Context totally. She came from nowhere. She was self-created.

      // I loved Bette’s reaction to the reporter, asking her name and then saying either fuck you or fuck off, reporter’s name…ha! //

      HA!!

      “What’s your name, honey?”
      “Sylvia.”
      “Fuck off, Sylvia.”

      You know what’s been really fun? Susan Sarandon has rarely played women like this. Tough, brawling, ballsy women. She’s played STRONG women, but usually with some undercurrent of softness, earthiness, understanding. I can’t think of a time when she’s played something THIS tough. It’s been so much fun to watch!

      // Anyway, I’ve never really done any research, so I am wondering how much is true-the powers that be pitting them against each other. //

      I read the gossip-fest book “Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud” – which I read years ago. It’s really fun, but so filled with whispering gossip that as you read it you’re like, “Can I trust ANY of these reports?”

      I think there is a lot of truth in the fact that the rivalry that dated back to the 40s, from their time at Warners together. The book is a lot of fun – “Feud” is clearly drawing on it a lot. I also don’t think that Joan Crawford was as chummy with Hedda as the series is presenting. But it’s a way to really show Hedda’s role in pumping up the controversy.

      Judy Davis is so sympathetic and so funny that I find myself softening towards Hedda – I’ve always considered her a kind of ghoulishly awful human being.

      • Maureen says:

        I am loving your thoughts on this show! I have such a conflicted opinion of Hedda Hopper-she was a single mother doing her best, but she seems like she was a poisonous person.

        Judy Davis is confusing me!

        I do think the comment that Bette Davis made a play for Franchot Tone is true. Which obviously didn’t endear Bette to Joan ;) I can’t help but wonder what attracted Joan and Bette to him, I’ve never found him appealing, in any movie I’ve seen him in. I never understood him as a leading man.

        He must have been much more attractive in real life!

        • sheila says:

          Oh yes, the Franchot Tone thing! I have a soft spot for Franchot Tone because of his involvement in the Group Theatre. You probably already know all this! He was so devoted to it that most of his salary from Hollywood movies went back to support the Group (which eventually became a big problem. If the Group could not self-support itself through its own productions – then how could it survive? A difficult thing to swallow, especially for a bunch of young idealist Socialists in the midst of the collapse of capitalism, in the 1930s.)

          Wendy Smith’s book about the Group – Real Life Drama – is very very good – and you get to see all of these giants – like John Garfield and Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan – at the vibrant start of their careers, as part of a collective. Franchot was a huge part of it.

          So I will always love him for that, for his devotion to the theatre company he had helped start.

          I agree that he doesn’t really “come off” on film – at least not the way he did apparently onstage. A lot of the Group Theatre people were small and swarthy and macho – he had something different going on.

          In re: Hedda. Yeah! I love what Judy Davis is doing so much, but it’s definitely a fictionalized version – I am pretty sure that Joan Crawford was not as buddy-buddy with her as the show portrays – but I think the point they are trying to make is that Crawford was willing to play ball with the system in a way that Davis wasn’t.

          Thoughts on that?

          • Maureen says:

            I haven’t read about The Group Theater, and I will definitely look into it. I think what you say is very true, that in real life, on stage, Tone probably came across well. I have no experience in acting, but I do believe that there are people who film extremely well, and are much more charismatic on the screen than in life, and it must also be true for the opposite.

            My evidence is based on the fact that Joan Crawford married him, because she was also involved with Clark Gable for a long time, and of course was married to one of the most charismatic men in films (and I never understood why he wasn’t a bigger star) Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. That lady knew what was what! I do think in certain parts Tone played, he was charming, but he was always in competition with men like Clark Gable, so I have always been like “really?”. I mean I can see a hard choice between Gable and Spencer Tracy-but not between him and Tone.

            From what I have read over the years, I agree with you, I feel they are exaggerating Crawford’s buddy-buddy relationship with Hopper. I do believe Crawford was willing to play the game in a way Davis wasn’t. The way these stars, who had all the talent, had to kowtow to these gossip columnists is sad. You probably know about the Christmas presents these ladies, Hedda and Louella-used to get from the film industry-they kept track of everything, and they definitely kept score.

            Also wanted to mention I think you are spot on with Sarandon’s performance, she is a bit off. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to play Davis, but she doesn’t quite have it, not like Lange does with Crawford. What is funny, I think Sarandon has the look of Davis much more than Lange looks like Crawford. I don’t see Joan at all, but I see the mannerisms.

            I have a question for you, and it has bothered me a bit with this production. When Baby Jane was made, Davis was 54 and Crawford was 56-Lange is 68 and Sarandon is 71. I think both ladies are beautiful, absolutely gorgeous-but I’m almost getting a feeling like Crawford and Davis aren’t getting a fair shake, and it pains me to say this-but they were much younger when Baby Jane was filmed.

            I am loving this series, and I adore both the actresses-but in a way, I feel like these ladies, who really struggled against being considered “over the hill” when they were past 50, might have been served with younger actresses. I hope you know I really hesitated expressing this, but I love Davis and Crawford so very much!

  2. sheila says:

    Maureen –

    // but he was always in competition with men like Clark Gable, so I have always been like “really?”. //

    Definitely!

    And in re: the ages of the actresses. I haven’t mentioned that yet in my re-caps but the same thing has occurred to me as well.

    There are a lot of interesting challenges around that. First of all that if anything our culture is even MORE psychotic about staying young NOW than it was then. Like, adolescence can stretch into your 30s. Whereas both Bette and Joan were playing adult women in their early 20s. So there’s that. Then, there’s the plastic surgery thing – which of course they did back then too – but not to the psychotic degree that we are seeing now. Where women in their 40s who have had all this work done now basically LOOK like they are women in their 70s trying to look young. (My friend Allison said, “Don’t these younger women realize they are ADDING years to themselves by getting so much work done?”) In general, I don’t like to discuss plastic surgery because it amounts to concern-trolling – and I figure, well, if someone wants to do it, that’s their choice. I don’t CARE that Dolly Parton got work done – her WORK is what matters. I still feel that way.

    But there’s a vast difference – especially in show biz – between 50 and 70. And it’s the 50 year olds that experience the real peril. If you can hang on long enough, you start to get meaty roles again in your 70s – which is what has happened to Jessica Lange, certainly!! And Diane Keaton. And a lot of other former leading ladies – who are now leading ladies AGAIN but in the 70-year-old range. But it’s the 50 year olds that there are ZERO roles written for. who knows why. Some sexist bullshit I’m sure.

    And I hate to say it – but when you watch Baby Jane – part of the thing with Crawford’s performance is that she is still gorgeous and youthful-looking. It’s the contrast with Davis’ overly-haggard look, with the white pancake makeup – that makes it all so disturbing. Crawford was still playing leading lady roles all through the 50s – unlike Davis – who went through a big fallow period.

    So basically, yes, I hear what you are saying.

    The attitude towards aging – especially when it comes to women – is barbaric. Davis and Crawford were fighting against that. Crawford in a way had a harder time of it because any woman considered the most beautiful woman in the world is going to have a hard time with that – and the cinematography of Baby Jane is pretty brutal, with harsh unforgiving lighting.

    I don’t know, it’s a complicated topic. What do you think?

  3. Maureen says:

    I absolutely agree with everything you said! I think it is very interesting, that the 50 year old women in the industry are the ones who must really struggle, because you probably look too young to play the typical grandma or older woman, but are too old to be the love interest? Which I find to be crazy and absolutely sexist. As someone who is 56-I would love to see a romantic comedy (which begs the question, have we even seen any kind of romantic comedy lately?) with someone like Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep. Or Russell Crowe and Julianne Moore! I am kind of the tail end of the baby boomers, but I would love to see a love story with more mature actors and actresses. It kind of boggles my mind that the movie industry ignores this demographic.

    What you said about how disturbing it was that Crawford did look beautiful and Davis was so frightening, I think that was a big part of the movie’s success. Joan looked soft and sweet, and Bette looked like a monster.

    I imagine this show must have been very difficult to cast, no doubt about it. I was trying to think what actresses who were in their age groups could have played the roles, and I am coming up with a blank. I think part of the problem is I love Crawford and Davis so much, and they have such distinctive looks and styles-they each seem one of a kind.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts, I love hearing what you have to say about this show!

    • sheila says:

      Maureen –

      // It kind of boggles my mind that the movie industry ignores this demographic. //

      I know! There have been some really good ones recently though – and I think this is wholly because of the powerhouse actresses of an earlier generation refusing to go away quietly. :)

      There was Something’s Got to Give – a movie I love. Hope Springs. Grandma. The Meddler last year – have you seen that? It kind of came and went and it was totally mis-marketed but it is TERRIFIC. It’s really about a mother-daughter relationship but there’s a gorgeous romantic relationship woven into it. Sam Elliott was the romantic “lead” in both Grandma and The Meddler and he KILLS it.

      // I think part of the problem is I love Crawford and Davis so much, and they have such distinctive looks and styles-they each seem one of a kind. //

      I totally agree.

      That’s one of the reasons I’m happy that the women aren’t over-doing themselves trying to imitate BD and JC. They are both doing some really good character work I think – especially Sarandon – who doesn’t do much character work in general. But it’s more important to get an essence of the characters than to have pitch-perfect imitations – which would be distracting and would please NOBODY.

      What were your thoughts on Cate Blanchett as Hepburn in The Aviator? Very curious to hear.

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