Bette Davis and Joan Crawford died as they lived—by sacrificing everything so that they could continue to work and be famous. Feud also died as it lived—a little too long-winded and heavy-handed in its attempts to draw parallels between the two divas who absolutely hated each other. But Feud was also full of spectacular moments, and this finale was not without its share. When Joan is staring out the window of her sad New York apartment to the strains of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” or when Bette finally has a showdown with her daughter BD in an antiquated Hollywood restaurant, we get the exquisitely styled dramatic tour de force that we came for.
However, there were a few moments that seemed either inauthentic or whose natural splendor was just a little too over-gilded. The most obvious was the excellent montage of Joan’s final role in the insufferable B-movie Trog, in all its ignominy, interspersed with her dictation for her lifestyle book. She says, “I have a tremendous respect for fabrics,” as we see her changing in the back of a ratty van. It’s a sequence that would give you chills if it weren’t scored by The Doors’ far too literal song “The End.” Yes, we know that it’s the end, we don’t need to be explicitly told like we’re sixth graders reading Where the Red Fern Grows for the first time. After the song is over, we see Joan wandering around the soundstage alone and nearly delirious, it’s actually much more effective at conveying the same message, especially once she passes out inside a fake cave wearing her nightgown and the Trog mask.
The bravura hallucination in the middle of the episode went from fantastic to overbearing as soon as Bette Davis walked into Joan Crawford’s dream. I loved the imaginary meeting in Joan’s mind, where Hedda Hopper and Jack Warner apologized to her for how hard they were on her, but the four of them commiserated on the high price that they all paid for fame, one that Joan never really minded even as a dentist had to completely reconstruct her jaw thanks to “The Buckle” that she got to make herself look thin.
But then Bette shows up and they literally say to each other, “I’m sorry I wasn’t more generous with you,” and “I wish I had been a friend to you.” It’s another example of the show’s explicitness taking away from the artfulness of the piece as a whole. But at least Joan was so lucky that she got all of those apologies and could die in peace. Might we all be so lucky that all the wrongs done us were accounted for before we pass, if only in our own minds. Bette never gets the same satisfaction. Instead, she gets the old trope of calling Joan to try to lend her support but not being able to get the words out.
The oddest thing about the finale was that it wanted to have its cake and eat it, too. When Bette refuses to be part of the 1978 documentary about their feud that served as a framing device for the series, she says, “You’ll want me to say funny, b—-y one liners about Crawford, and I won’t do it. She was a professional.” But at the same time the show has also relished all those b—-y moments over the course of eight hours, and goes out of its way to include Bette’s famous quote: “My mother said never to speak bad about the dead, only good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” This show wants to preach about how it’s more than just the camp, while reveling in it at the same time.
At least it had a good explanation for why that camp is so important. At her book signing, Joan can’t handle meeting her fans, which had always been something she enjoyed so much in the past. Still, when a young gay man approaches her and asks her to sign a picture from Baby Jane, she scoffs at him and thinks that it’s a joke to him. He tells her just the opposite: he loves her and the movie because they’ve been beaten up and cast aside but they keep coming back. They’re survivors, just like he had to be. While that’s true, declaring it so succinctly takes some of the power out of the camp icons that we have and boils it down to something simple and didactic, rather than complex and sublime, like it should be.
But there were moments stem to stern that made the finale worth watching, like when Bette said she couldn’t go to rehab because she has to be on the Dean Martin roast. “High class problems” have existed for decades, I guess. Still, it felt like the show tried to squeeze so much of a long Wikipedia page into the final hour. We had to hit Mommie Dearest, Bette’s relationships with both of her daughters, Joan’s weird dental issues, Bette’s hatred of Faye Dunaway, Bette’s mother being mean to her behind her back, Joan’s declining health and reconciliation with Mamacita, and Pauline telling us about running into Joan at the airport and imploring us all to call our grandmothers, in a bald, emotionally manipulative plea that is utterly cliché.
Yes, Joan and Bette both died presumptively hating each other, despite Feud’s efforts to re-litigate their relationship. Yes, Bette gave some kind statements about Joan after her death, mostly in support after Mommie Dearest was published, but that doesn’t mean that they ever wanted to or thought they should be friends. It was refreshing that small moment of uplift at the very beginning, where we can see them laughing and enjoying each other’s company before the grinding wheels of capitalism and the patriarchy could make them despise each other. It might have been a bit of fantasy, but it’s better than playing us out on a note of defeat, death, and unending wrath.
Eating from a TV tray alone in her said apartment: -2
Gets a dog to keep her company: +2
Takes a role in Trog against her agent’s advice: -3
All the indignities of her finale role combined: -10
Gets a book deal to tell people how to put plastic slip covers on their couches: +5
Hates her fans now: -2
Her teeth are rotting so that she could look skinny in her youth: -3
Christina is going to publish Mommie Dearest: -10
_Two of her daughters still love he_r: +5
She lets her grandkids slide on the floors: +2
There is a sad picture of her published in the paper: -4
Everyone apologizes for tormenting her during her career: +6
It’s all in her mind: -2
Tally from this week: -16
Tally from last week: +19
Feud final total: +3
Has made eight TV pilots and none of them get picked up: -10
Hates that Katherine Hepburn has a better career than her: -2
_Has lost her high standards: -_8
_BD won’t let her see her grandkids anymore: -_10
_Has to quit smoking and booze and can’t seem to do it: -_5
_Has a renewed vigor of hatred for Faye Dunaway: +_2
_But Faye Dunaway keeps her waiting on set for hours and she has no power: -_8
_“Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”: +_5
_Her mother hated her and thought she was selfish: -_8
_Finally learns to say some nice things about Crawford: +_2
Tally from this week: -42
Tally from last week: +54
Feud final total: +12
Ultimate Winner: Bette Davis
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.
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