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The Real Story Behind the “Feud” Between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford

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Tonight, American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy premieres his series Feud on FX which dabbles in the true stories behind Hollywood’s elite and the most notorious rivalries. And what better way to kick off the series with what is quite possibly, one of the greatest and most intriguing feuds between two celebrities even to this day-Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

That’s putting it mildly…

Feud

These two ladies were at each other’s throats for years, and in the sub-genre horror film of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, it only seemed fitting to pit the two divas against each other. However, that really just brought it to a head, and not an end to it. Which may be why that movie is just so damn good. The hatred between the two Hollywood goddesses didn’t need a whole lot of practice for the film as the pettiness and tension behind the scenes only fueled the fire on-screen. Which in turned earned Bette Davis an Oscar nomination; but not Crawford. Oh boy….

 

 

Yeah so, the antics between the fiery-tongued Davis and the sly gerrymander that is Crawford make for an interesting tale to be told through a series, and the best part of it is, you really don’t have to add any razzle-dazzle to it. The shenanigans that clothed the pair throughout their career needs exactly zero embellishment, only a great pair of actresses to portray them, and it’s clear as day without even having seen the first episode that Davis played by Susan Sarandon, and Crawford played by AHS veteran Jessica Lange, are going to nail this no question. However, in the case maybe you aren’t up to speed on the great Hollywood battle between the glam girls of the Golden Age of cinema, here’s some fun facts highlighting the real life bitterness among the women.

 

The feud started over a man..

According to my official Joan Crawford Biography by Bob Thomas, said man was one of Crawford’s many husbands, Franchot Tone. Tone had starred with Davis in 1935’s Dangerous, and Bette took a shine towards the handsome actor. Now it has been rumored heavily though Crawford biographies that Joan was bi-sexual, and that she was in love with Bette. It has also been said that Davis turned down Crawford’s advances flat, which in turn, became revenge for Miss Crawford when she learned about the fiery love Davis had for her co-star Tone. So what did she do? Crawford married the guy. The marriage only lasted four years, but it sparked an intense rage of bitterness between the two actresses that wouldn’t end until the pair’s death. In an interview in 1987, Davis said this, “She took him from me, She did it coldly, deliberately and with complete ruthlessness. I have never forgiven her for that and never will.”

Tension in the Workplace..

Mildred Pierce is considered one of Joan Crawford’s crowning achievements in cinema. It even earned her an Oscar-much to the dismay of Bette Davis who was initially the first choice for the starring role. The role in which she turned down for another film, and Crawford had to fight tooth and nail through screen tests to nab. Said movie Bette opted to work on, grabbed zero Oscar nods. And the bitterness ensues…

The Claws Come Out on the Set..

The infamous film that brought this feud to its boiling point brought along an entire shit show behind the scenes. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? drew a level of pettiness to epic proportions on both sides of this war. Joan loaded up her pockets with heavy rocks in scenes where Bette had to drag her across the floors in the film, causing Davis to throw her back out. However, Bette one-up’d her there. That scene where Davis’ is kicking the shit out of Joan in the film? That was real. Crawford got a swift kick in the head. Some claim she even needed stitches.

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More Oscar Drama..

As stated above, the success of Baby Jane led to Bette Davis to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress, while Joan got the snub. Crawford diabolically phoned in to the other nominated actresses bluntly asking if in the case they should win, if she could accept on their behalf. Well, as fate would have it, Davis lost to Anne Bancroft who obliged Crawford’s plea. So Bette had to watch Joan smile and slink onto that stage like the fox she is, and accept the best actress award for an actress she most likely gave zero fucks about. We all know why you did it Joan. You cheeky little devil.

The Pepsi Challenge

Why on Earth anyone thought it would be a good idea to put these two in another film again, is beyond my comprehension. But hey, it just gives us more dirt and who doesn’t love a good, juicy cat-fight, am I right? However, in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, tension didn’t last long as Crawford ditched the film after only two weeks into production. It could be the coke machine that Davis had installed in the newly named Pepsi Board of Director’s dressing room, may have had something to do with it. No smile with that Coke I suppose.

Last But Not Least, the Glorious Smack-Talk

Joan on Bette- 

“She has a cult, and what the hell is a cult except a gang of rebels without a cause. I have fans. There’s a big difference.”

“Of course I had heard she was supposed to be playing me, but I didn’t believe it. Did you see the picture? It couldn’t possibly be me. Bette looked so old, and so dreadfully overweight.”

“Bette will play anything, so long as she thinks someone is watching. I’m a little more selective than that.”

“Miss Davis was always partial to covering up her face in motion pictures. She called it ‘art.’ Others might call it camouflage—a cover-up for the absence of any real beauty.”

“She may have more Oscars … She’s also made herself into something of a joke.”

 

Bette on Joan

“Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it’s because I’m not a bitch. Maybe that’s why [Joan Crawford] always plays ladies.”

“The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

“She has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.”

“I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.”——– OK, that is SAVAGE.

“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good …. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!”

So now that we’ve educated you on the savagery of this feud, if you tune in tonight, let us know what you think of Murphy’s adaptation of Hollywood’s battle of the century!

 

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