Monday, March 6, 2017

Feud pt. 1

It seems unfathomable now, in this age of Netflix and Turner Classic Movies and a legion of film bloggers worldwide, that a pair of cinematic titans like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford would not be revered and adored by the industry they served. The FX mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan sets out to chronicle such a time, the early 60s, even as it details the intense competitive rivalry between the two Oscar winners. Its specific focus is on the making of the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which brought the two together for the only time in their long careers.

I haven't seen Baby Jane yet. It was on TCM last week. I missed it, but it'll be on again later this month. For a long time I didn't think I was missing all that much. I knew its nefarious reputation. I figured, why bother with that camp-fest when I could watch better movies with those two, in their prime? Well, once I sit down with it, I'll talk about it here, but I'm sure I can still appreciate Feud on its own merits...

...which are many so far. Chapter 1 establishes B&J's dire straits as fading screen queens who can't get arrested in Tinseltown anymore, and how Joanie recruits Bette and director Robert Aldrich to film an adaptation of a suspense novel about, oddly enough, faded Hollywood glamour.

Jessica Lange as Joanie is a bizarre hybrid of the two, not quite looking like one or the other. Plus, she has the evergreen memory of Faye Dunaway's performance as Joanie in Mommie Dearest to contend with. So far, Lange appears to have made the role her own: brittle and needy, hungry for respect as an actress and a woman. Susan Sarandon was born to play Bette with those eyes of hers. She can't stop looking like herself, but she has Bette's attitude down pat - fire to Lange's ice. And how cool was it to see her in Bette's All About Eve dress for a brief moment?

Director/co-writer Ryan Murphy washes Feud in bright colors, fancy wardrobes and lavish sets that capture the opulence of Hollywood. I had expected this to feel like a theatrical movie, given the all-star cast and subject matter, but it still kind of has the feel of a modern TV drama, although I'm still not used to hearing actual profanity in a TV show. I'm amazed this is an original teleplay and not adapted from somebody's biography or movie history book. My classic film blogger friends will know the details of this history better than me, so I'll rely on their judgment as to how accurate everything is here. I'll post links to write-ups of theirs if I see them.

Feud is eight weeks long, so in subsequent posts I'll talk about the rest of the cast and other aspects of the series as they come to me, but so far, I'm mighty impressed.


  1. I'm somewhat interested, but didn't want to be disappointed or even angry at the portrayals. I simply assumed it wouldn't be on FX Canada, but it is. I may give it a look. I have to watch Bette Davis movies when Garry isn't around, he's allergic and he won't let me watch in peace. He probably wouldn't even go for a faux Bette.

    PS: Have I mentioned that I don't really come here to read any more. I just like having Richard Roundtree looking back from the screen.

  2. Shaft has that effect on people. :-D

    Please explain what Garry has against Bette.

    1. Garry thinks that Bette Davis is the biggest ham that ever lived. It does no good my trying to get him to watch The Letter or Marked Woman or... I think he's seen too many poor impersonators.

      A couple of weeks back I finally got Janet to watch All About Eve. She loved it. I had to beg, bargain and plead with Garry to stay in the basement watching hockey and curse the referees. Let us enjoy the movie. He was decent about it. But it is a chore trying to watch a Bette Davis movie when he's around.

  3. And you two have been married for how long...? :-D

    I'm reminded of that line from GALAXY QUEST: "It doesn't take a great actor to spot a bad one" (paraphrasing), which is true enough, as far as it goes, but if we can't even agree on which is which, then I dunno. But Garry did call Denzel Washington the modern Spencer Tracy, so I kinda feel like I oughta give him a pass. At least there's hope for Janet.


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