The ending of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which we got to see filmed twice in this episode, is sort of fitting for the overarching theme we’ve seen so far in this first season of Feud. In the scene, Joan Crawford’s Blanche tells Bette Davis’s Jane that she was the cause of the car accident that crippled her. For years, she let Jane think she was the one driving the car, but she wasn’t. Blanche tried to destroy Jane and instead ended up destroying both of their lives. After Blanche’s confession, Jane turns to her and says, “We could have been friends this whole time?”
The parallel between the movie and these two actresses’s lives is almost too on-the-nose. Like famous sisters Blanche and Jane, Joan and Bette were more alike than they were different. We even had a ham-fisted scene of the two of them sharing drinks and stories about their terrible mothers and strict, boarding-school upbringings. (Oh, and there was also that awful tale of Joan losing her virginity to her stepfather at 12 years old and getting blamed by her mother for her own abuse.) But when they tried to destroy each other, they tanked both of their second shots at success. This episode saw Bette once again calling for a truce, and Joan considering it, before Hedda convinced her to rat out her costar’s awful body odor, sacking the entire enterprise. But what if they had been friends all along? What if they really could have formed a mutually beneficial alliance? Maybe then we’d be remembering their work instead of their feud.
That fighting, though, was the most enjoyable part of the whole episode. I really would have preferred a whole hour of Bette saying she “barely touched her” after kicking Joan in the head, and Joan dissolving into fits of laughter every time Bette had to haul her across the room. There were also the most famous bits of their feud together: Joan wearing that weight belt while Bette dragged her, and Bette installing a Coke machine on set to compete with Joan’s Pepsi machine.
My favorite part of the whole tête–à–tête, though, was their dispute about the Oscars, which seemed to reignite their hatred. Over relatively civil drinks, Bette told Joan that she didn’t care about awards and that she would do anything to support the picture. Joan twisted that around as, duh, Bette would run in the Best Supporting Actress category at the Oscars while Joan would campaign for Best Actress. As Bob said, the picture isn’t even finished yet, so maybe it’s a little bit premature to count those unhatched chickens.
This causes Bette to launch into a diatribe about how she was robbed in 1950 for her role in All About Eve because her co-star Anne Baxter insisted on running in the same category. They split the vote and Judy Holliday won. (Judy Holliday! Can you believe it!) In the heat of the moment, Joan shouts, “And it was Gloria Swanson who was robbed in 1950, you b—ch.” I hate to agree with either of these two, but Joan is probably right. (And imagine a year when both All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard were both competing for trophies!) What I love the most about the line is how Jessica Lange throws all the emphasis on the “you” with a sort of unhinged rage, as if Bette makes her lose all vocal control.
While this feud is the main focus of the series, the major theme of the episode, which was came across about as subtly as Baby Jane’s makeup, was the clash between mothers and daughters. Joan’s monstrous ways of raising her children are legendary, thanks to Mommie Dearest. Forcing her twins to wear those hideous bows and matching outfits like they were hollow chocolate Easter bunnies was just awful. But still, Joan’s greatest fear is coming home to the quiet of her own home after a long day of work. If she didn’t do it for her children, who did she do it for? Not Mamacita, who only reluctantly shares a ham sandwich in her tiny bed while the two watch old westerns on a little TV set.
What is less legendary is the awful relationship between BD and Bette. Just like Christina Crawford, BD wrote her own tell-all biography, My Mother’s Keeper, but, unlike Christina, BD published it while her mother was still alive. She made some of the same allegations that Christina Crawford made—about her mother being an overbearing alcoholic who ruined her life—but many of Bette’s contemporaries disputed it. When Bette died, she wrote in her will that she intentionally left out giving any money to BD and her daughter Margo, who we see living in a home for children with Down syndrome in Maine.
To try to get some control over BD, who is smoking and generally misbehaving in her teenage years, Bette decides to allow her to be in the film, as a way of showing her just how hard her mother works. The problem is that, unlike mom, BD is not a natural actress. She even overhears Bette disparaging her acting abilities and her role in the picture. But to Bette, who we see embracing her fat, gay romantic interest because she loves talent, that BD can’t hold her own on the screen is the ultimate insult to her parenting. She may love her daughter, but she doesn’t really seem to like her.
One of the best scenes of the night was when Bette and Victor, the aforementioned “fat homosexual,” are discussing Bette and how the “queens” love her. Though the scene conveniently leaves out the fact that drag queens love Joan Crawford just as much, Bette says that her legacy isn’t going to be her adoration, it’s her children. However, she lets her own fleeting need for adoration thwart the love that she has for her offspring, essentially ruining her own legacy. Eventually she tries to encourage her daughter, damning her with the faint praise that she “didn’t look into the lens even once.” But it’s the real zinger that sets this show up perfectly: “If Crawford couldn’t ruin the picture, no one can.”
Then Bette tries to find some comfort in calling Margo, who gets distracted and wonders away from the phone, leaving Bette hanging on the line. Similarly, Joan, afraid of that empty nest, tries to go and adopt more children, but is told that she’s too old. She has to deal with the inevitability that her quest for fame has left her all alone in her later years. But at least they have their hatred for each other. Yes, Bette and Joan are still eternal foes—even as the episode ends and they’re alone, with no one better to understand them than each other.
The Scorecard, Episode 3:
Puts those ghastly matching outfits on her daughters: -1
Decides to send Christina flowers even though we have no idea what her reviews are yet: +1
Gets soft on Bette after their discussion about rough upbringings: +3
Lets Hedda convince her to attack Bette anyway: -5
Twists Bette’s words into relegating her into the Supporting Actress category: +10
“It was Gloria Swanson who was robbed”: +5
Bette installs a Coke machine: -3
Manages to destroy Bette’s scene even while she’s supposed to be unconscious: +8
The legendary weight belt: +5
Gets kicked in the head: -5
It ends up being the best reaction for the film: 0 (but an A for no-effort)
Mamacita will bring her “water” so she can make it through a scene: +1
Manages to “lose five years” every time she goes to her trailer to pull her face back: +6
It ruins the ending and it needs to be re-shot: -8
Is too old to adopt: -2
Tally this week: +15
Score from last week: +28
Feud total: +35
BD is what they would have called a “fast girl”: -3
Decides she and Bob shouldn’t sleep together again: +3
He agrees “too quickly” that she is right: -2
Invites Joan out for drinks and almost reinstates a truce: +4
Hedda ruins her plans: -2
Joan twists her words and tries to relegate her to Best Supporting Actress: -10
Joan gets the final word in, though: -5
Installs a Coke machine on set: +3
Has to haul Joan over and over again until her back gives out: -10
Kicks Joan in the head: +5
Finally gets Joan to give the reaction the director needs: +3
“But if I was the director I would tell her to do it again until she’s convincing”: +5
Refuses to run lines with BD because she is an awful actress: -7
“I’m not falling on those. I don’t do stunts”: +5
Uses her considerable capital with the police to get her new gay friend out of jail: +2
Her daughter doesn’t even want to talk to her on the phone: -4
Tally this week: -12
Score from last week: +28
Feud Total: +16
Winner This Week: Daughters who write tell-alls
Hollywood’s Juiciest On-Set Feuds, from Dustin Hoffman vs. Meryl Streep to Sarah Jessica Parker vs. Kim Cattrall
Dustin Hoffman reportedly took up method acting just in time for Kramer vs. Kramer, Robert Benton’s 1979 film that saw Hoffman star opposite Meryl Streep. That meant, when it came time for the pair to fight, he actually punched Streep while filming—and took it upon himself to get her appropriately riled up for her performance by teasing her about her boyfriend’s lung cancer diagnosis and later death.
The Icelandic enigma that is Björk made it more than clear than she could act by stealing the show—even from Catherine Deneuve—with her performance as a struggling factory worker saving up for her son’s eye operation in Lars Von Trier’s 2000, Palme d’Or-winning film, Dancer in the Dark. Still, even though she took home the Best Actress award from the Cannes Film Festival, Björk hasn’t acted since: her experience on-set with von Trier was so fraught that she vowed to never make another movie—even though it was actually Björk, according to the director, who missed their first meeting because she had to jet off to a Greek island and took up greeting him by spitting on the ground.
Though Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu all seemed to get along just fine on the set of 2000’s Charlie’s Angels, Bill Murray took it upon himself to liven things up mid-scene by reportedly turning to Liu and telling the actress she couldn’t act. Liu, for her part, stayed in character by throwing Murray a punch—and came out on top by landing a role in the sequel, which Murray definitely did not.
Not many would characterize Bruce Willis as an “emo b—h,” but that’s exactly how the director Kevin Smith described Willis after working with the actor on his 2010 buddy cop film Cop Out, which also starred Tracy Morgan. The experience, according to Smith, was both “soul-crushing” and “terrifying,” thanks to Willis’s intimidating demeanor and diva-like preference for the real movie-star treatment.
Decades before Faye Dunaway added a heavy dose of drama to this year’s Academy Awards, the actress starred in Chinatown and reportedly got so heated with Roman Polanski, who allegedly pulled a hair out of her head that was getting in the way of his shot, that she threw a cup of urine at him when he wouldn’t let her pause to pee.
George Clooney and David O. Russell apparently got so heated shooting Russell’s 1999 film Three Kings that the pair got into a physical fight. Russell, apparently, was not taking well to a cutback in the film’s budget, and in the final days of shooting, threw an extra—and, later, Clooney—to the ground in a supposed demonstration. Four years later, in 2003, Russell was still holding a grudge: for a comment on the actor for a Vanity Fair profile, the director offered up, “George Clooney can suck my dick.”
Jake Gyllenhaal’s role as a political cartoonist plagued by letters from a serial killer in David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac required quite a bit of vetting: Fincher initially met up with Gyllenhaal, whom he’d taken a liking to from Donnie Darko, and recorded his mannerisms before offering the actor the part. Once cast, though, filming was still hardly a breeze for Gyllenhaal: he’d repeatedly act out scenes for Fincher, only to hear the director call for the last 10 takes to be deleted immediately and everything to start again—an offense Gyllenhaal unabashedly recounted to the New York Times.
In 1991, Julia Roberts reportedly landed herself the nickname “Tinkerhell” thanks to her role as Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg’s Hook, a live-action version of Peter Pan. “It was an unfortunate time for us to work together,” Spielberg later said of the experience on 60 Minutes. (Roberts had just broken off her engagement with Kiefer Sutherland a few days before.)
“Once and for all, what’s my opinion on Jamie Foxx?/He pussy/Pussy ain’t funny as Chris Rock,” a line in LL Cool J’s 2000 song “U Can’t F–k With Me,” is just as explicit of a call-out as it sounds. The pair took their fight scene in Oliver Stone’s 1999 football film Any Given Sunday a little too literally, getting so physical that the crew eventually called the police.
George Clooney is hardly the only actor with whom David O. Russell’s lost his cool. Before the director made Amy Adams cry on the set of American Hustle, but three years after his 2004 film I Heart Huckabees already came out, footage emerged of Russell calling Lily Tomlin, one of its stars, a “b—h” and a “c–t” and sending things flying behind the scenes. Tomlin later acknowledged the director was under pressure, while Russell made sure to tell the New York Times that the pair “love each other” in 2013.
Though they were the best of friends on Golden Girls, Betty White and Bea Arthur didn’t exactly vibe off-screen. Arthur reportedly called White a “c–t” when she was receiving a lifetime achievement award, and wasn’t too pleased that White was the first of the show’s four actresses to win an Emmy (an award they’d all eventually end up with).
It took a dozen years, but Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall’s reported difficulties with each other when filming Sex and the City hit a peak when the pair was filming the series’s film sequels, which only magnified their dispute over unequal salaries. Not that they’ve brought any of it out into the open: Parker, for one, has made public peace offerings in the way of well-wishing Instagrams.
See Hugh Grant audition for Joan Crawford’s role in “Mommie Dearest”: