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Feud (New Joan Crawford/Bette Davis Mini-Series)

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I saw the trailer for this and I have middling hopes. (All too often these made-for-cable movies take a great idea and then don’t do much with it.) There’s also a sterling supporting cast:

 

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Also in the cast are Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis and Dominic Burgess.

 

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Molina will play the film’s director Robert Aldrich, Tucci will portray studio titan Jack Warner, Davis will play gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Dominic Burgess will be Crawford and Davis’ co-star Victor Buono.

 

I would have preferred to see J. Davis in either one of the leads.

 

Lange, I’m sorry to say, has become a Horrible Example of celebrity plastic surgery gone wrong. She's starting to look like Doris Duke.

 

I’m not sure who FX thinks will be the audience for this, but I thank the network for keeping us in mind. :)

 

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I think Judy Davis would be better suited to Bette Davis.

 

But, the casting I'm most puzzled over is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland. 

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Early review is positive and suggests that this will be something more than a campfest:

 

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/news/a20667/feud-bette-davis-joan-crawford-review-spoilers/

 

And photos of the entire cast:

 

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/news/g8508/feud-bette-and-joan-images/

 

Lang looks much more like late-period Crawford here but Sarandon still reminds me more of Tallulah Bankhead than Bette Davis. Can't wait for Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper!

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)Should be loads of fun. Dominic Burgess looks well cast as Victor Buono. But Jessica Lange looks like Elizabeth Bishop.

 

Side Bar: Great Hedda Hopper film here – and amazing documentary about Hollywood in transition, 1960. A performance piece in parts (HH, and Bob Hope without laugh track); the real tinsel under the tinsel in others (Gary Cooper, the Ben Hurs at the Brown Derby, Marion Davies, Janet Gaynor).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhLix9qnSR0

Edited by Quiggin

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That's a great find, Quiggin, especially Francis X. Bushman at the Brown Derby.

 

(This seems to be a Hedda moment - Helen Mirren played her in the recent Dalton Trumbo biopic. She was a nasty piece of work.)

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But, the casting I'm most puzzled over is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland. 

 

 

I agree, ABT Fan. :unsure:

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I will watch it simply to see Stanley Tucci on the screen again. I adored everything about his acting. Such a great loss to the community and we viewers.

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47 minutes ago, vagansmom said:

I will watch it simply to see Stanley Tucci on the screen again. I adored everything about his acting. Such a great loss to the community and we viewers.

 

vagansmom, what is this loss you're referencing? I thought something had happened to Tucci but I see nothing posted online about him.

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Oh my goodness, you are right! All I remember is feeling just awful about him a few years ago. I just checked: it was when he had sadly lost his wife to cancer; I found it so heartbreaking. So many actors passed away in recent years I mixed it up: a sign of my aging. I can't keep up with how many actors I've loved that have lost their lives in recent years. Heavy losses in both public and private life: the reality of being a senior citizen. 

 

I am very thankful that Tucci is thriving.

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Loved it, loved it, loved it.

 

There were numerous wonderful scenes. Probably my favorite was Crawford (Lange) in her bedroom in the Brentwood house railing against Davis for perceived slights from the past. Second favorite was Crawford and Davis (Sarandon) watching the first dailies from Baby Jane and being horrified at what they saw. Third place goes to the big reveal of Davis/Sarandon in the Baby Jane fright make-up.

 

The producers and writers really did their homework on this because there were numerous period details that were 100% accurate. For instance, the references to how Crawford and Davis had fought over "Franchot" during the 1930s -- Franchot being Franchot Tone who Davis wanted to marry and Crawford did marry. And how Crawford was the face of Pepsi-Cola during the late-50s and early-60s. And when the crew member tells Crawford that, "they could film her from any angle" -- those were the exact words George Cukor said of Crawford after she died.

 

Kathy Bates was hilarious as Joan Blondell and Judy Davis stole every scene she was in as Hedda Hopper.

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I saw and enjoyed both episodes. Looking forward to seeing more of Dominic Burgess’ Victor Buono. Also Alison Wright of the eloquent eyebrows.

 

While I’m always happy to see Kathy Bates gainfully employed, the “testimony” of Blondell and de Havilland seems unnecessary, underling points that have already been made, and none too subtly (“Feuds aren’t about anger. Feuds are about pain,” Zeta-Jones informs us earnestly). We don’t need them to tell us that Davis and Crawford were manipulated by their male Hollywood bosses or that the rivalry among women which arises because of their inferior power position prevents them from teaming up for their collective benefit, because we just saw these things graphically depicted.

 

The first episode was laden with some awkward exposition – maybe Ryan Murphy and company were a little too eager to show off their homework. On the other hand, old movies and their stars are not as ubiquitous on the tube as they used to be;  they can’t assume that viewers just dropping by or tuning in out of curiosity will know who these people are.

 

Overall, however, I’m enjoying it, and I love details like Crawford reclining seductively on a slipcovered bedspread and her Teutonic “Mamacita.” Lange doesn’t really evoke Crawford for me and her performance is familiar if you’ve seen some of her other TV work, but she’s fine, although not convincingly younger in the flashback sequences. Sarandon does better – the poppy eyes help – even if she can’t quite spit out “What a dump!” with the authority of Davis (or Hagen, or even Elizabeth Taylor). I have the feeling the originals would have had both of them for breakfast.

 

I also wonder a bit about the series subtitle. It is true that goddesses don’t have last names, but perhaps there’s a bit of unconscious condescension – what’s wrong with “Feud: Davis and Crawford”? Just a thought.

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Still watching. The Zeta-Jones and Kathy Bates commentary was dispensed with for a bit and is back, unfortunately. Show, not tell, pretty please. Also, while I am in sympathy with the desire to show how tough it was and is for older women in Hollywood, I kind of wish they’d ease up on the preaching and change up the subject a bit. Lange’s Crawford is still rather soft and vague. I miss Dunaway’s feral energy, which would have come in handy during the episode in which Crawford maniacally sabotages Davis’ chance to win the Academy Award. Sarandon is still better but getting slightly less screen time or so it seems.

 

Also: I doubt that Crawford would say, “A woman director? Is that what it’s come to?” (from memory). She was no stranger to the concept. Crawford worked with Dorothy Arzner on “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” and “The Bride Wore Red;” later Arzner was hired to direct Pepsi-Cola commercials at Joan’s behest.

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I'm the only one watching this? It ended last weekend. Thoughts?

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5 hours ago, dirac said:

I'm the only one watching this? It ended last weekend. Thoughts?

I watched it although I've been posting elsewhere because it didn't seem like there was much interest on this board.

 

Overall, I liked it. The series did a marvelous job of capturing a time and a place in terms of its costume/scenic design (i.e. Hedda Hopper's dresses, the interiors of Crawford's home). The storyline was reasonably accurate although I would caution people that the series took many liberties with characters and events. (For instance, Crawford had already sold her Brentwood mansion by the time Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? came to be made.)

 

As for the performances, I thought that Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were smart to evoke the idea of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis rather than trying to slavishly imitate them. Anything of that sort would have drifted perilously into camp and drag performance. (I do wish Lange's face was a little more expressive these days as Crawford's face was crazily expressive right up to the end.)

 

The supporting cast was outstanding, including Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper, Jackie Hoffman as Mamacita, Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich, Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner and Dominic Burgess as Victor Buono.

 

I thought the general theme of the series -- that Hollywood was a tough place for women (and especially aging women) -- was slightly overbaked. I don't doubt that it was true to some extent and that aging male stars found it easier to find work in genres like war films and westerns while aging female stars struggled to find work. But I also believe that Crawford and Davis gave as good as they got, which is partly why Crawford's career in feature films lasted 45 years and Davis' career in films lasted 58 (!) years.

 

Crawford is much more fascinating to me than Davis so I was curious how the series would depict her. As I wrote on another discussion board, I felt that the series overcompensated for the depiction of Crawford found in Mommie Dearest (the book and, especially, the movie) by depicting her as this sad sack with no friends. That wasn't true. She remained great friends up until her death with such contemporaries as Myrna Loy, Roz Russell (who predeceased her) and Barbara Stanwyck. I also don't think, if you had asked her at the end whether she had lived a worthwhile life, that she would have said 'no'. I think she would have said that she got some things wrong (including her first three marriages and her relationships with her two eldest children [obviously!]) but that, on balance, she had done alright for a girl with no education who spent part of her youth living in the back of a laundry.

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I watched the whole series. Loved it. I did feel though that Ryan Murphy's previous work with Jessica Lange meant that the writing for Joan was richer and more developed than the writing for Bette. Susan Sarandon often looked like she was spitting out lines Bette said in her talk show appearances. Think that Stanley Tucci was absolutely amazing as Jack Warner. Turned a sleazy character into something believable and real. 

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Thanks to both of you. I was getting lonely. I liked the first half of the series better than the second;the writers didn’t seem to be able to develop any new themes or mine any new aspects of the old ones.

 

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I did feel though that Ryan Murphy's previous work with Jessica Lange meant that the writing for Joan was richer and more developed than the writing for Bette.

 

I agree. Lange was favored in the writing – more screen time and also more attempts to give depth to the character.

 

Hollywood was tough for women and still is, although I agree that the series overemphasized it, or let's say they did not develop other aspects of their story. I think they also wanted to show the human cost behind that hard-won longevity, which cost may have been overstated but was also genuine. (I don't think they exaggerated how tough it was, though.)  The men not only lasted longer as a rule but were able to age with some dignity if they chose and with greater autonomy, often forming their own production companies to churn out those Westerns – and of course much bigger paychecks.

 

I would also disagree respectfully with some of the end notes for the last show of the series. To call Crawford “sometimes a great actress” is not only untrue but beside the point. She was a great star, arguably the greatest, and that’s plenty.

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11 hours ago, dirac said:

I liked the first half of the series better than the second

 

To call Crawford “sometimes a great actress” is not only untrue but beside the point. She was a great star, arguably the greatest, and that’s plenty.

I thought the series peaked at the Oscar episode, faded a bit during the Hush, Hush . . . Sweet Charlotte period and then picked up again at the end.

 

"Sometimes a great actress" is definitely untrue. Even if you confine yourself to her MGM years, she developed into a fine actress by the time she made her late 30s/early 40s movies. And this was from someone who had been a Charleston dancer with no formal acting training when she landed at MGM in early 1925 as a bit player.

 

"She was a great star, arguably the greatest" -- Yes. How many other stars of her era would have an upscale publishing house like Rizzoli put out a lavish book like Joan Crawford - Enduring Star in the 21st century as Rizzoli did?

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I also felt something was missing especially in the writing for the two ladies after the Oscar episode, which was that Joan and Bette had a multitude of things they were unhappy about, but I don't think they felt particularly upset about starring in less-than-quality pictures. They were strong women who wanted and needed to work. Certainly Bette treated her later career with a good self-deprecating humor. And work is work. The writing was extremely melodramatic. But I think a more interesting angle would have been to show them shooting less than ideal pictures with a matter of fact, suck-it-up attitude. Both ladies were survivors. They would have been offended to be painted as Victims of the System.

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I didn’t watch the series, but enjoyed the discussion. Never thought of Joan Crawford as a big star when I was growing up – Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren or Gloria Swanson from the old days yes. Crawford to me was a B movie actress, of very limited range – and the poster of her in Sudden Fear really disturbed me as a child (Robert Frank took a classic photograph of a box office covered in it and other Crawford images). Bette Davis was different to us then I guess because she was in better movies (All About Eve) and better television (Ford Television Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and lived in Westwood not far from UCLA where I always imagined her having tea in the afternoon at Bulloch’s Westwood. So it’s curious to see them retroactively paired in Hollywood history. 

 

When I was a rooftop gardener in Manhattan, my fellow gardeners and I used to draw water for our watering buckets from the ornate bronze sink Crawford had installed in the board room of the otherwise austerely appointed SOM-designed Pepsico building on Park Ave – and giggle as we subversively did so. A friend who knew the family told me that when Richard Avedon diplomatically approached Crawford about the photo he had taken of her and her late husband (the one who was head of Pepsi Cola) and asked her what he should do with it, she told him bluntly, "why don't you just airbrush the b-----d out." Seemed totally in character but still a bit shocking.

 

Yes, the men in Hollywood did ok as they aged if they were associated with a director who would take care of them, like John Ford or Howard Hawks or Robert Aldrich (or if they became president, like Ronald Reagan, who was taken care by Holmes Tuttle, the Los Angeles car dealer.) Some of the B and lesser stars like Bob Cummings and John Forsyth moved seamlessly over to television. Ida Lupino perhaps had the most interesting career of all – doing some good movies (two classics by Raoul Walsh), television (Four Star Theater and Mr Adams and Eve), and then directing.

 

Sudden Fear (midway down) -

 

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Both ladies were survivors. They would have been offended to be painted as Victims of the System.

 

True. But not seeing yourself as a victim doesn't mean you aren't one.

 

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Ida Lupino perhaps had the most interesting career of all – doing some good movies (two classics by Raoul Walsh), television (Four Star Theater and Mr Adams and Eve), and then directing.

 

Lupino also did well in The Hard Way, which has a nifty script by Daniel Fuchs and Peter Viertel. It was one of Davis’ rejects and Lupino did fine by it. 

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On ‎2‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 8:37 PM, Quiggin said:

Side Bar: Great Hedda Hopper film here – and amazing documentary about Hollywood in transition, 1960. A performance piece in parts (HH, and Bob Hope without laugh track); the real tinsel under the tinsel in others (Gary Cooper, the Ben Hurs at the Brown Derby, Marion Davies, Janet Gaynor).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhLix9qnSR0

Thanks for posting this. I missed it when you posted it originally.

 

Interesting to see the casts (minus Charlton Heston) of the 1925 and 1959 Ben Hurs together. Ramon Novarro still spoke with the same vocal tone that he had in his early talkies. Tough to see him here knowing what his final fate would be in 1968.

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