FEUD: Pilot
March 6, 2017 8:50 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In 1961, with her career on the skids, aging screen legend Joan Crawford reaches out to her longtime rival Bette Davis to join her in a project she believes can revitalize their careers: a horror picture called Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

The new series from Ryan Murphy stars Jessica Lange and Susan Saradon as the legendary dueling divas.

Vanity Fair has some coverage:
Inside Ryan Murphy’s Heartbreaking Tribute to Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
Fact-Checking Feud: The 5 Most Incredibly Bizarre Joan Crawford Details (Yes, Crawford kept all her furniture in plastic slipcovers. Yes, she had a refrigerator in her bathroom. And her maid "Mamacita" was actually German.)
posted by dnash (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this. It's rich in "old Hollywood" glamour and detail. I feel like Lange and Sarandon are hitting the right level of "larger than life" without veering into comic campiness. And the meta-ness of two current actresses of a certain age playing to famous actresses of a certain age facing the issues of Hollywood's lack of roles and respect for actresses of a certain age... it's kind of head spinning if you think about it too long.

Bloggers Tom & Lorenzo are into it:
The dinner scene with Hedda Hopper – the “ambush,” as Bette called it – showed what is likely to be the main thesis of the series; that these two women were smart and capable, more alike than either could admit, and would have been a formidable duo had they learned to be allies. They both saw immediately what Hopper was trying to get out of them, conferred quickly, and smoothly sailed through the evening, deflecting any attempts to openly pit them against each other. The scene makes their dislike for each other very clear, hints at the reasons why, shows how much is at stake for both women and then pulls back from any sort of throwdown, choosing instead to show them as smart, savvy, and occasionally on the same page. This will make the coming breakdown of their uneasy truce all the more tragic. The tagline for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” is the somewhat awful “You mean all this time we could have been friends?” and it seems pretty clear Murphy is going to take that and run with it.
I liked how the differences in their approaches to acting are highlighted. Crawford is clearly the "movie star" where everything is about the glamorous image. Davis's remark about "lose the shoulder pads. You're playing a recluse who hasn't seen the sun for 20 years!" followed by her choices for her own hair and makeup seem to show Davis as the more serious actress, focused on the actual craft of creating a character.

I'm excited that this seems not to be as over-the-top as one might expect from Ryan "American Horror Story," "Glee" Murphy.
posted by dnash at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I look forward to the supercut of every time Sarandon-as-Davis calls Crawford "Lucille" with contempt dripping from her voice. I will watch it an embarrassing number of times.

I absolutely loved this. Was really worried after all the initial positive reviews that I was getting my hopes up too much but it was even better than I'd hoped. Jessica Lange is killing it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're all taking this too seriously. Have a Pepsi.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:26 PM on March 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

The older I get, the more a plastic slipcover on the sofa just seems to make sense.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:29 PM on March 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know. Maybe I'm just not the audience for this.

I certainly thought I was. I love old Hollywood stories, and I have Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on DVD and quote it frequently. (But you are, Blanche! You are in that chair! seems to come up especially often these days, though singing snippets of I've Written a Letter to Daddy to my baby is fun too. She laughs anyway.)

But somehow this just left me cold. I don't see where they can go with it. They make a movie together and snipe at each other. The frame story with all those cameos just seemed self-indulgent and very on the nose as it spoon fed me all kinds of background, and I'm not even sure what that background's in service of.

Maybe I was just in the wrong mood for it that night or something, but it just never came to life for me somehow. I'll check out the next episode anyway and see if it can win me over.
posted by Naberius at 7:19 AM on March 8, 2017

Besides having the illusion that we're gaining access to their private moments, I think what we're supposed to be intrigued by is: why did they have this feud? How did it impact the making of this film, and what was the result on-screen - did it harm or enhance the film? How much of the backstory informed the audience's response to the film, and contribute to the film's success? How did they view their skills as actresses, what were they willing to do for their craft (how far would they go), how, or were, they able to behave professionally? And so on and so forth.

It seems we're already getting answers: Davis was more into her craft (as noted upthread) than Crawford, in terms of sacrificing vanity. They were both incredibly ambitious, tough, and competitive - which is what you would need to succeed in Hollywood - but Crawford in particular is portrayed as insecure and vulnerable. Davis recognized Crawford's talent and wasn't above acknowledging it, even if she disliked Crawford.

Basically - you've got to have a kernal of interest in these two grand dames of Hollywood to make this thing tick, I think. For me the moment when Sarandon walks off stage (doing a bit part that's beneath her) and there's two stagehands holding out a cigarette and a drink for her made the first episode worth it alone.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:47 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I watched this with my partner and we were howling at the vast amounts of shade. It's Ryan Murphy enough without being too much Ryan Murphy.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:51 AM on March 15, 2017

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