As the production of Baby Jane reaches its climax, the feud becomes physical. Bette's relationship with her daughter becomes strained when she bonds with a new cast member. Joan reveals an intimate detail about her past.
Take a sneak peek at the first installment of the new anthology series from award-winning creator Ryan Murphy about the legendary rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon).
Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) are intriguing and captivating in telling the story of the back lot stories almost lifted from the pages of Confidential the 1950's and 60's twenty-five cents scandal magazine where the tag line was "Tell The Facts and Name The Names.
Feud ultimately finds its strongest moments in the scenes when these incredibly complicated women speak to each other on these topics [age and gender]. This is not just because those scenes often feature some of the snappiest dialogue of the series, but because they push the show out of a tired acknowledgement that being a lady in Hollywood sucks and into real character interaction that acknowledges the immense capacity women have for self-recrimination and self-destruction.
Bette and Joan is so marvelous and superb on virtually every level that I could honestly gush about it for pages (but I'll try, and likely fail, to exercise restraint). There's either very little, or quite a lot, to say about the performances: this is because they're all brilliant. The story is told through the eyes of a documentary team try to discover the truth about the immortal battle between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Kathy Bates (playing Joan Blondell) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (playing Olivia de Havilland) serve as the documentary-within-the-show's primary sources of information as it played out from pre-production of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and beyond; and the oral narratives are primarily used to highlight themes and the ultimate tragedies that befell all actresses because of the inequalities of the studio system--which was very much an entrenched boys' club. Saying that Jessica Lange and Susan Saradon [she somehow managed to make her hair move just like Bette Davis's] were perfect choices is an understatement: it's like both titular actresses were brought back from the dead. The casting is fabulous all the way around. Alfred Molina fully realizes the complexity of Robert Aldritch and the turbulence of this period in his life. Stanley Tucci makes for a vicious Jack Warner. These two male characters, as is shown in the beautiful opening animation, were the real winners who exploited, degraded, and emotionally and intellectually abused the female leads. It's a very timely piece that addresses how the movie industry has used and abused actresses while maintaining its androcentric rule. Hedda Hopper, played to the hilt by Judy Davis, is also shown to be an extension of the Hollywood machine that can so wantonly make or break any career, especially where women are concerned. The writers did not shy away from exposing the horrid environment from which Joan Crawford emerged, and Jessica Lange fills the character with entitlement and elitism but also manages to work in the depth of Crawford's past tragedies and the pains that never left her. She becomes much more of a tragic heroine in this narrative. Saradon's characterization of Davis is, to quote All About Eve, full of fire and music. The biggest problem, and it's hard to think of any others, is that there isn't an equal examination of Bette Davis. By the end, and this isn't really a spoiler, you've moved more into the realm of a character study fixed on Joan Crawford and the rest of her life. However, Bette isn't forgotten, and neither are the breakout side-character performances that show the deep commitment on the writers' examination of the double standard that women face even in a profession that one might initially think unequivocally progressive. Jackie Hoffman, great character actress that she is, gives an intensely reserved performance as Crawford's life-manager. The character, Mamacita, appears to be the force behind both Joan Crawford the movie star and Joan Crawford the human being. Alison Wright, playing Aldritch's assistant Pauline Jameson, adds to further the exploration of double standards by illuminating the power possessed by those with experience and recognition and the powerless situations of those who labor to the fullness of their capacity but are never given a chance to build a body of work. Hers is perhaps the most mournfully futile story-line, but, then again, seemingly invincible futility serves as the roadblock for all of the female characters. That's just the performances. Every other aspect of the mini-series is just as excellent. You feel as though this visceral story is taking place today: one of the work's victories, since it makes you reflect on the many inequalities women still face--it couldn't be more timely. The sets are like black and white pictures of studio lots come to life in a color palette that feels superbly authentic. Every set is so good that you feel the actors play with the space as they would with other performers. The costumes and makeup work is where the present melts away, and you perfectly convinced that you are a fly on the wall seeing the real story unfold. No element of the filming process is neglected. One final note on thematics: the show gives up many possibilities (that's the key word). Many of the actions that we witness are believed to have happened, but we are reminded that this is a speculative story based on number of true events. These events, however, probably did not transpire in this narrative-friendly form. After many episodes, I found myself searching for evidence of what I had just watched. Yes, everyone involved did their homework, but this is life placed in a fictional medium (one could say it's strong historical fiction). There are many things we will probably never know. Thus we come to an essential element of Feud's genius: what Keats termed Negative Capability (the ability to dwell comfortably in uncertainty). Hedda Hopper's consistent presence reminds us that accounts are written, and rhetorical tactics of fiction are used to give non-fiction memorable flare. Where do we begin to pass judgment? Who is culpable for career declines? These are questions the mini-series asks but will only answer in a tentative way because of an unfaltering respect for the audience's intelligence. The viewer is almost like a jury member trying to assemble a viewpoint from a flood of evidence. It is the refusal to pass absolute certainty that is so enthralling and gives the viewer such a beautiful platform to question the merits of the fiction's reality.
Watched the first episode and it was fabulous. One of my favorites is Bette Davis another Joan Crawford. I've always loved this movie as a young child, and to see their feud portrayed on screen is a dream. Two leading ladies of today (Jessica Lange and Susan Surandon) are spot on for the roles. So far well done, perfection.
This is absolutely the best mini series I have EVER SEEN. The entire cast is perfect. The musical scoring is brilliant, the costumes right on point, and there are no words to describe the level the acting rises to. This is not about two women fighting, or a typical Hollywood story, it is very complex and touches many levels, aging, victimizing, self worth, strength and endurance. Susan Sarandan and Jessica Lange actually make you feel like you are watching Davis and Crawford, they are THAT good. I would look for this series to be in contention for MANY emmys for many areas. Watch and you will see why.
Only two episodes available as of right now, but I'm hooked - on pins and needles waiting for the rest, even though for the most part I know what happens. For this hardcore Bette Davis fan, it's a real treat seeing Susan Sarandon bring Bette back to life, she even nailed the way Bette talked. Inspired casting, great sets, a real period piece that gets the era right. The animation on the opening credits looks authentically early '60's. And the lipsticks are duplicated from vintage shades by Gabriela Hernandez of Besame! Such attention to detail! Just beautifully done, and respectful somehow - it could have so easily degenerated into tabloid trash, but somehow it manages not to. Never a dull moment, though! Even the smaller parts are great. Especially love Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell! If you read "Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud", if you ever enjoyed their work, watch this. If you haven't, this is a great introduction.