Everyone loves a story about a weak defeating a powerful.
However, there’s something about camaraderie that doesn’t have the charm of rivalry and bad blood.
One of the best examples to illustrate this is found in the eight-episode American television series “Feud: Bette and Joan,” a detailed analysis of The stormy relationship between the superstars of Hollywood’s heyday Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange).
A storm that was allegedly unleashed during the recording of the only movie they starred in together, “What Happened to Baby Jane?”, In 1962.
“Supposedly” is the right word to describe this story, since expert biographers at Crawford or Davies, such as Farran Smith Nehme, suggest that the enmity between the actresses it could be an invention.
That’s why it’s fun to contrast fictions and facts surrounding Davis, Crawford, and the film, many of which are recounted in Shaun Considine’s book “Bette and Joan: Divine Discord,” published in 1989.
Everything that is said about the case must be taken with some reserveFrom her publicized duel of romantic encounters with actor Franchot Tone in the 1930s, to their malicious exchanges through gossip magazines.
What can be said with certainty is that the series producer, Ryan Murphy, catches the various legends about the Crawford / Davis rivalry and uses them as a prism, through which he reflected the condition of women in what was then -and still is- a male dominated industry.
There’s no question that Joan and Bette were frequently the darlings of the industry one year, and box office poison the next.
Similarly, both had productions that represented their great returns to stardom: “Mildred Pierce” (which was translated as “Abnegation of a woman”, “The torture of a mother” or “Soul in torture”) for Joan in 1945, and “All about Eve” (“Naked Eve”, “The evil one” or “Let’s talk about Eva)” for Bette in 1950.
And although the television series is set in the 60s (during the filming of “What Happened to Baby Jane?”), Murphy and his team had fun making references to the journey of the two actresses in old Hollywood.
Among the highlights is Sarandon and her recreation of Bette Davies’ gaze, in the famous death scene on the stairs in “La Loba” (1941).
For his part, Lange has the opportunity to show Crawford’s temperamental outbursts during the filming of the suspense film called “Under Suspicion” (1943), during which he complained to director Richard Thorpe about the emptiness of the script.
The series conveys the idea that the two women go their separate ways, but on the same homework to prove themselves.
This is particularly true of Davies, who had a strained relationship with Warner Brothers studio chief Jack Warner, which ended in a contract dispute in 1936.
Considine’s book points to Crawford courting Davis to appear alongside her in “Baby Jane.”
In the series, Crawford is shown discovering the novel for herself, and not through director Robert Aldrich, as the book tells.
It is clearly appreciated that the series inclines the “truth” of the story towards a more feminist perspective, where the woman takes the reins completely.
Both in the series and in the book, Crawford approaches Davis to discuss the possibility of co-starring in the film, behind the scenes of a theater on Broadway, where Bette performed.
Davies responds with a sideways glance, dropping that he has always wanted to work with her.
In a later scene, Sarandon and Lange dance a hilarious no two by reconstructing the famous photo of the two actresses signing the “Baby Jane” contracts.
Crawford is seen above a seated Davis, both with beaming looks and plastic smiles that they barely hide the simmering tensions.
For much of the series, the action takes place on the set.
Obviously, it is here where the juiciest part of the plot happens: from the kick Davies hit Crawford on the head (“I barely touched her,” replies a furious Sarandon) until hidden weights that Crawford wore under her dress so that Davies, who had to drag her across the set during a scene, would suffer back pain.
Among those moments, two stand out in the series. The first, an occasional encounter between Davies and Aldrich (played wonderfully by a burdened Alfred Molina), which feels like it was added to further the series’ thesis that women have had to pay a high price to be at the hollywood boys club.
And the second, about Crawford’s close friendship with celebrity columnist Hedda Hopper (the great Judy Davis), who is both a therapist and exploiter for Baby Jane’s co-star.
The relationship of this duo reveals the parasitic nature between art and commerce, and how anyone, regardless of gender, can filter certain tendentious rumors to their liking.
Plot at the Oscars
The drama didn’t stop when “Baby Jane” became a smash hit; one that reintroduced Davies and Crawford to a new generation of viewers.
There are other peak moments such as the publication of tough notice from Bette applying for a job, in what represented a clear challenge to the industry and a complaint of age discrimination.
In the fifth episode, which is probably where “The Fight” reaches its climax, Murphy and his team sparingly recreate the famous Oscar ceremony in 1963, when Bette was nominated for best actress, but not Joan.
Considine’s series and book detail the plot devised by Joan to rob Davies of his moment of glory.
Crawford coaxed two other nominees, Geraldine Page (Sarah Paulson) and Anne Bancroft (Serinda Swan), to let her receive the award if she won, since neither would attend.
In this way, on awards night, Crawford made his way through the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium with a defiant attitude, showing indifference towards Davis and finally leaving her behind to accept the gold statuette that Bancroft won, for his role in ” A miracle for Helen “(The Miracle Worker).
It must be said that the evil and hypocrisy that throbs in each scene of “The fight” is a great hook for the audience.
It’s easier to be bad than good, false than true.
Finally, however, you can’t have one without the other.
Like a certain pair of stars from Hollywood’s golden age.