Susan Sarandon has got Bette Davis eyes. March 5th is shaping up to be the Gay Super Bowl Sunday of TV ratings. This coming Sunday night marks the premiere of Ryan Murphy's FEUD: Bette and Joan on the FX Network. One-time Oscar winner Susan Sarandon plays two-time Oscar winner Bette Davis. Two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange plays one-time Oscar winner Joan Crawford. Ever since I was a little boy in South Central Los Angeles, I have heard and read about the rivalry of these two movie queens. Bette, the character actress, had been a star since the 1930s. She ruled at Warner Brothers. Joan had been a glamorous movie star at MGM since the silent screen era of the 1920s. When MGM dumped Joan in the 1940s, mainly because she committed the mortal Hollywood sin of getting older, she went over to Warner Brothers, made MILDRED PIERCE, and won an Oscar. To get ready for a Gay Super Bowl Sunday, I recommend watching two Bette Davis movies. The first is a race drama from 1942 directed by John Huston. IN THIS OUR LIFE co-stars Olivia de Havilland. The two actresses plays sisters in this film. Olivia is the good sister and Bette's the bad one.
Davis and de Havilland were friends. Each battled Jack L. Warner, the studio head, legally for their rights as performers under studio contracts that were quite binding and limited them professionally. Reportedly, Joan Crawford snatched a couple of boyfriends away from Olivia de Havilland and she never forgave Joan for it.
In the 1960s, Crawford and Davis were no longer reigning Hollywood movie queens. But Jack L. Warner was still head of Warner Bros. The two actresses who couldn't stand each other teamed up to play rival sisters in a Hollywood-on-Hollywood psychological horror thriller called WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? Joan played the good sister. Bette played the bad sister.
But that's not all the film has to offer. Look at how Davis throws herself into the emotional ugliness of the character that surfaced as a physical ugliness. She found the heartbreak of Baby Jane. Bette knews knew that monsters are not born...they're made. And Baby Jane is that monster in that big creepy Hollywood house. You can just about smell the funk and Scotch in her flimsy old robe as torments her crippled sister with another horrible lunch item. The making of this monster started in youth -- when she was a child stage act star called Baby Jane Hudson.
In FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN, Catherine Zeta-Jones, also an Oscar winner, appears as Davis' friend, Olivia de Havilland.
This TV film makes a statement on the Hollywood ageism that actresses faced and still face. When James Stewart and Cary Grant were in their early 50s, they did have to take out an ad in VARIETY for employment? No. They were still getting the leading man roles in major Hollywood movies.