FEUD: Mommie Dearest
March 21, 2017 5:39 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Motherhood is the theme this week, as Joan's disciplinarian approach with her children is contrasted with Bette's attempt to aid her daughter with her first appearance in a movie.

The two titans try again to bury the hatchet, and almost bond over drinks and stories of their own mothers. Joan even opens up about sexual abuse from her mother's second husband, at age 11. But the truce is short lived, as Hedda's gossip column fans a fight over Oscar award ambitions. The feud even gets physical as Bette takes advantage of a fight scene to deliver one real kick, and Joan hides a weighted belt under her robe to make Bette's task of dragging her body harder. But at last, production wraps on the picture.

Meanwhile, Bette rescues Victor from a police raid on a gay cruising spot. It's clear she has newfound admiration for his talent, as she gives him extra time running lines while leaving her talentless daughter to flounder on her own.
posted by dnash (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The one scene that slightly bugged me was the two of them arguing on the set about Oscars and who got robbed in what year and all that. It strikes me as the kind of conversation/argument that would never happen in real life but the writers needed to get some of that exposition in there somewhere.

The scene with the two of them at the bar, though. Wow. I assume the story of Joan at age 11 is true, since the show seems to have done tons of homework. I termed it "sexual abuse" in my summary above, though in the show Joan does not, in fact she says she wanted it? Surely that's a damaging thought the convent school must've driven into her head and now she's internalized? Shudder, at any rate.
posted by dnash at 2:34 PM on March 21, 2017

I took the "I encourged it" from the adult Joan as a way of controlling what happened to 11 year-old Joan and re-framing the narrative so she wasn't a victim. And yes, I agree - that whole scene got dark very very fast. I think it serves to show how damaged Joan Crawford was from a very early age, and I think we're supposed to admire her for accomplishing so much despite the abuse. (But of course - as the title references - most of the audience is familiar with Mommie Dearest, we're aware of her as an abuser, so... it's complicated.)

One thing that has been humming in the background but finally struck me with this episode is just how important (and limited) gossip columns were for fans at the time: you had a few powerful columnists (Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons) feeding bits to fans about the stars and the resulting fury from the actresses if there's something unflattering written about them.

I loved the Oscar fight as we get the parting shot that it was Gloria Swanson who was robbed, not Bette Davis. Zing!

Loving this series so much - the inclusion of side-plots with Kiernan Shipka as B.D. and Dominic Burgess as Victor Buono worked really well, I think, in widening the scope just a bit beyond the central feud.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:41 PM on March 21, 2017

B.D.: I hope I didn't ruin it.
Bette: If Crawford didn't ruin the picture, nobody could.

and that last line.

Jane: All this time we could have been friends.

*taps ash into Pepsi vending machine*
posted by Stanczyk at 4:08 AM on March 22, 2017

If anyone is curious about the back story, Bette And Joan: The Divine Feud is a wonderful read.

This week's scene where the leads go for a drink was superbly done. I will be amazed if this doesn't get a huge pile of awards.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 1:04 AM on March 23, 2017

the show seems to have done tons of homework

If that's the case, then I am surprised that they had identical twins playing Joan's two youngest daughters. The Crawford "twins" not only weren't twins but weren't blood relations at all. They were two girls the same age whom Joan adopted and then called twins.

I love that Alison Wright is in this, but I wish she had more of a role.
posted by orange swan at 8:29 PM on September 1, 2017

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