Monday, April 24, 2017

Feud pt. 8


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

The years fly by. Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte was made without Joan. Her health declines, and the few movie roles she gets offered worsen. Bette works more steadily, but her growing alcoholism causes the rift between her and BD to expand. As both actresses approach the end of their lives, they look back on their careers and their great rivalry. Can they move past their mutual disdain and be friends before it's too late?

Now that it's all over, what have we learned, Charlie Brown? I think what will stay with me longest from this remarkable masterwork of television is the idea of the drug we call fame, and how easy it is to get hooked. Stardom is a heady allure. Classic Hollywood was all about the glamour, potency and magnetism of stars: shaped, made up and trained to walk and talk like someone special, to be projected on a giant screen and be adored.

We fans devote blogs and websites to them. We buy paraphernalia connected with them. Sometimes we even try to look like them. Most of all, we watch their movies over and over and over and proclaim how much we love them. Is it any surprise a Joan Crawford or a Bette Davis would arise as a result?

Bette and Joanie, for all their talents, were deeply flawed women who were twisted by fame, by the system that created them, and made to despise each other when they could have been friends. When we sensed the enmity between them, we fed on it and demanded more, until they almost became caricatures of themselves.

Time passes, though. The gossip and the scandal and the petty jokes fade and are forgotten... but the work remains. Grand HotelDark Victory. Possessed. Jezebel. Mildred Pierce. All About Eve. And yes, even Baby Jane.

The work is why we still remember.

Feud was my first look at the programs of Ryan Murphy. I understand now why he is so celebrated. This was a top-notch production, from future Emmy-nominees Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon on down - and I haven't even mentioned things like the wonderful Saul Bass-like opening credits! I'm extremely selective with the little TV I do watch. I think I chose wisely with this one.

(The real) Olivia de Havilland on Feud

4 comments:

  1. I may have to give this a look one day. It sounds like there is more to the series than I had imagined.

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  2. It totally is. I mean, there are themes I didn't talk about much, such as aging, art vs. commerce, and personal identity that come up throughout the story as well - and it's all done with the quality of a feature film, only on TV.

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  3. The work remains, you're so right, Rich. I think that's what rehabilitates these actresses' reputation more than a series such as this - though this series is great for re-introducing their names in modern pop culture for viewers who don't watch old movies. Maybe they'll get some new fans out of this.

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  4. I've never seen MOMMIE DEAREST, but I'm aware of how closely Joanie's life, not just her career, had been reduced to that caricature prior to FEUD, which probably isn't fair, regardless of what she did or didn't do to her daughter. I think she'll be looked upon with a little more sympathy now.

    As for Bette, I always thought she had the better rep of the two, but BABY JANE might have been the start and end point for many people. Perhaps now they'll be persuaded to look beyond that one movie.

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