Marcey: Marcey and Bea here to discuss episode 1 of Feud: Bette and Joan.
Bea: Yep, it’s time to delve into one of the greatest feuds ever in Hollywood history. Two powerful women, two extremely powerful personalities brought together by desperation.
Marcey: What an interesting story to tell and I like that it is being done as a season of a TV show. And we have two amazing actresses playing two amazing actresses.
Bea: Okay, first and foremost, on a scale of Awesome to Blow Me Satan how wonderful are Sarandon and Lange at portraying Davis and Crawford respectively? Both have done TV roles previously of course, but this project felt distinctly more layered
Marcey: Absolutely the best two choices to play such larger than life personalities. From the get go, they were Joan and Bette not Jessica and Susan. You felt these two just resonate out of them.
Bea: The whole bitter rivalry between the two women is treated in a very fascinating way. Like what Olivia DeHavilland played by Catherine Zeta-Jones said, a feud isn’t about hatred, it’s about pain, and so much pain is what both women felt. At that point, both were seen as long in the tooth, past their used-by date and being treated as fading shadows. Ageism and sexism ran rife back in those days, and still does, but back then, it was seen as normality. Bette was concerned about being an actress, Joan was about being the glamorous socialite looking for approval. About this point, you had upcoming starlets like Marilyn Monroe intruding on their territory and getting all of the attention they used to enjoy. Ultimately, they needed each other and they hated it because it had got to that point of them being desperate, beggars can’t be choosers.
Marcey: What you just said was perfectly captured early on in this episode. You felt the pain both women were feeling for different reasons. Hollywood had basically thrown them out, work was not easy for either of them. Joan hadn’t been in anything for awhile and Bette was failing doing plays, getting bad reviews. They had stiff competition with the young up and comers, and as you said they needed each other to get back in the game, and deep down they both didn’t want to work with each other for it but they had to.
Bea: And also, there is a scene where Bette addresses Joan by her actual first name, ‘Lucille’ and says as much and also states that she sees her. She sees herself in Joan, they are in the same boat and Joan knew it. Joan had lost her billionaire husband and she was struggling to maintain the luxury she once had, she was all about perfection, and Bette didn’t hesitate to tear down this cocoon Joan built around herself. Those moments of the two women understanding each other showed the show wasn’t about showing some sort of sensationalistic cat fight. It’s so easy to fight somebody these days, but feuds back in those days, before Twitter, before digital social networking, they relied a lot on showmanship and meticulous strategy, planning one’s next move in an on-going public feud was like a battle plan during a war.
Marcey: No this was very calculated, it wasn’t something that was petty for the sake of it. There was a very real steam between them, they were different women but also very much alike. Those two big personalities were bound to clash, and clash they would do by working together. It really showed just how much they need this film, but how much they both needed to succeed and get something back they had both lost.
Bea: And didn’t the director of What Happened To Baby Jane know it. It’s clear he hired both women to turn their bitter energy into something productive into making that film which ended up being a massive success. It resulted in a heavy cost with a further rift happening between the women, but I don’t believe either woman lost sight of what they had achieved working together. It’s similar to the animosity between Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on Blade Runner. Adversity if shaped and moulded a particular way to make something beautiful.
Marcey: And how perfect was Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich the director? The moment the smile went off of his face when he saw what kind of a mess he was in during the contract signing! At first for him it was about making a picture that would get him noticed, something that was different and could potentially make money. But in that moment, it definitely all changed for him and Molina just nailed that moment perfectly.
Bea: Yeah, all three of them, actresses and director alike were in dire career straits. All of the actors involved were strong with the previously mentioned Zeta-Jones and also Kathy Bates, both of them act like a Greek chorus, telling the audience the finer details about what was going on. BTW, I just realised something, Bates and Lange appeared on American Horror Story, one of the anthologies being Coven about the witches and what is the common, derogatory word somebody calls a woman they don’t find particularly agreeable? ‘Witch’, which was how Joan was viewed due to her habits and personality.
Marcey: I did not get to see that season of American Horror Story but that is a nice little touch there. Kathy Bates never disappoints, and it was great to see her included here. I really hope that she and Catherine Zeta-Jones appear again because in those small roles they really shone through. I liked how they had them looking back at this ‘feud’ by being interviewed. This entire pilot was extremely vibrant and all fronts, but it was not at all campy or cheesy. This story needed a good front to be told, taking the route they have is perfect for it.
Bea: Oh and our countrywoman Judy Davis, who has been cross-spliced with a chameleon I’m sure of it
Marcey: How incredible was she in this? That woman like you said has got to be a chameleon, she disappears into her roles.
Bea: Flawless American accent too as Hedda Hopper, she may not have a MASSIVE role, but her presence it what you remember for good reason. Stanley Tucci of course should be mentioned, again being annoyingly brilliant.
Marcey: Such a perfect role for her, and the dinner table interview scene was incredible with Judy, Jessica and Susan. Stanley Tucci, is the man ever bad, like in anything? Even if the film he is in isn’t good, he is always good.
Bea: That’s the mark of a masterful actor. While I don’t consider myself technically minded in terms of enjoying a film, Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam have a potentially massive hit on their hands. It’s going to be broken up into eight episodes so keeping the energy and integrity up will be a job, but I’m optimistic. I also want to discuss the opening credits. Holy Hitchcock, Batman.
It’s violent without a single ounce of blood.
Marcey: Oh the opening credit sequences was marvelous, that was a pleasant surprise. I like that this is an 8 episode story, going through this feud and the making of Baby Jane. The energy is just starting to build up, and it will certainly explode along the way. There were so many wonderful scenes in this episode, Bette doing her make up and just shocking everyone. Joan complaining about the lighting on her while watching the dallies.
Bea: That line at the end of Baby Jane, “We could have been friends” really does remind me of the two women, if only they could put aside their differences completely and embrace each other. I feel Baby Jane was almost an exaggerated biography about their actual relationship, life imitating art.
Marcey: There is so much truth to that, and I think that is what makes this story and that film so compelling, the parallels between the two. The show is perfectly showing that, it was so easy to watch and sit through and before you knew it the episode was over and I wanted more.
Bea: It also says a lot about the Yeatsean beast which is Hollywood. It can love you one day and devour you without a second thought the next. It’s schizophrenic.
Marcey: And boy did those two show that! You could feel that pain within them, such a credit to the writing of the show and the actresses.
Bea: I think the experience of working on that movie was an exorcism of sorts although it didn’t make relations between them any better, but there was so much tension during the making of that movie, and when it was finally finished, you see this in the trailer by the way, both women are speechless by what they are seeing, speechless in a good way because despite being so frustrated with each other, they had to at least admit to themselves that they helped make each other look good. Bette said she was going to steal the movie out from under Joan, but in all honesty, they were both equal in those roles. In the bizarre and frightening universe of Baby Jane, Joan and Bette WERE friends even when their characters were not.
‘Frenemy’ is too tame and inaccurate of a term, it was almost symbiotic, Venom and Carnage. 😛
Marcey: Oh yes absolutely, I look forward to what the next 7 episodes bring. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds on the show even though I know the story and have seen Baby Jane. They really took each other to the limits and they made an incredible film. As you said they were equals, nothing was stolen from the other. But they didn’t know that making the film and this is something great the show is going to get across.
Bea: Your sister Bruna is heavily involved in Hollywood as a producer, I’m fairly certain she has likely been exposed to this very element.
Marcey: I would not be surprised! So what rating would you give this first episode?
Bea: 5/5. Incredibly solid debut of a series which establishes that it’s not going to be a show about simple cattiness, it’s about passion, creativity and the toll it can have by presenting a very rich representation of the time period and the attitudes of Tinseltown. How about you?
Marcey: 5/5 – 100% agree with you, this is not simply a show about a petty feud, this is a show about the pain and suffering of two women hungry to get back to where they were.
Tune in next week for our discussion of FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN episode 2!