Wednesday, April 12, 2017

TV Series Review: The Feud: Bette and Joan

by Sam Rumore, Librarian, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

The Feud: Bette and Joan on FX is now up to its sixth episode. I have been watching religiously because it involves the making of one of my favorite movies and two of my favorite actresses. So, I figured it would be a great opportunity to include some resources that the library has that could give some greater context to the show and Hollywood and the movie industry, in general. But first, here’s a little history and context on the show.

Whenever I start something, I like to start with the source material. With that being said, I recommend seeing the movie, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? It stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and is directed by Robert Aldrich. It’s a psychological-thriller-horror film about an aging vaudeville actress who holds her disabled Hollywood actress sister captive in an old Hollywood mansion.

This movie officially started the subgenre of thriller-horror films known as the psycho-biddy films or hagsploitation, which proliferated in the 1960s and on into the 1970s. Psycho-biddy films involved once glamorous older women who have now become psychotic and start terrorizing the people around them.

Examples of Psycho-biddy Films:

Strait-Jacket (1964) – Directed by William Castle. Starring Joan Crawford.
Released from a mental hospital 20 years after having committed the axe murders of her husband and his lover, a woman moves in with her brother, his wife, and her own daughter, who is now 23. When axe murders start occurring, police think she has reverted to her old ways. (Description from DVD case.)

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) – Directed by Robert Aldrich. Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, and Agnes Moorehead.
Charlotte was a Southern belle preparing to elope with her married lover—until he was murdered. Now, 37 years later, she lives alone in her mansion, slowly going mad as she is haunted by the memory of the unsolved crime and tormented by the local townspeople who believe she killed him. But when her cousin comes to visit, the skeletons begin to tumble out of the closet—and that's when the terror really begins. (Description from DVD case.)

The Nanny (1965) – Directed by Seth Holt. Starring Bette Davis.
Blamed for the drowning death of his little sister, ten-year-old Joey Fane has finally returned home after being institutionalized for two years. Placed once again under the care of his devoted nanny, Joey is soon accused of trying to poison his own mother. But when he swears it was the nanny who committed the crimes, his tormented pleas lead some to wonder: is Joey the disturbed killer everyone thinks he is, or is this dear old nanny hiding some murderous secrets? (Description from DVD case.)
Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969) – Directed by Lee H Katzin. Starring Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon.
A widow, who was left nothing but a stamp collection by her late husband, begins hiring elderly housekeepers and killing them in order to steal their money. A friend of one of these victims grows suspicious and begins working for the widow to catch her. But will she become the next victim herself?

What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) – Directed by Curtis Harrington. Starring Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds.
Two Midwestern mothers flee to restart their lives in Hollywood after their sons’ high-profile murder trial a la the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. The ladies open a dance studio for young girls. While their business flourishes, their personal lives begin to suffer. One of the ladies becomes dangerously obsessed and jealous of the other with dire consequences for them both.

Bette Davis

One of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, Bette Davis was nominated for ten Academy Awards (the first person to do so), winning two for Best Actress (Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938)). Davis was known for her versatility and willingness to play unsympathetic characters. Her career lasted from 1929 to 1989.

Selected Filmography
Of Human Bondage (1934)
Jezebel (1938)
Dark Victory (1939)
The Letter (1940)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Now, Voyager (1942)
Mr. Skeffington (1944)
All about Eve (1950)

Selected Books
Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine
Bette Davis Speaks by Boze Hadleight
This ‘n That by Bette Davis with Michael Herskowitz

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford was an actress during the Golden era of Hollywood. She seamlessly bridged and survived the transition from silent films to sound films. Her popularity rivaled and outlasted her contemporaries, like Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. She was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award three times, winning for Mildred Pierce in 1945. Her career lasted from 1925 to 1972.

Selected Filmography
Possessed (1931)
This Modern Age (1931)
Grand Hotel (1932)
Dancing Lady (1933)
Forsaking All Others (1934)
The Bride Wore Red (1937)
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)
The Women (1939)
Mildred Pierce (1945)

Selected Books
Conversations with Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist; introduction by John Springer
Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell
Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

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