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Tuesday
Apr182017

Feud 1.07 - Abandoned!

In the penultimate episode of the series, Bette gains creative control and Joan loses everything, while B.D. and Mamacita get out while they still can. Here's Jorge...

Feud doesn’t play favorites.  The show has done a good job (for the most part) at digging down into why these two screen legends acted the way they did towards each other. And they’ve made a point (over and over and over) that they were not as different as the world saw them; they were actually very similar, acting from the same place of desperation and clinginess to relevance.

In this week’s episode. Joan repeatedly boycotts the production of Hush, Hush… Sweet Charlotte, unable to cope with the creative control that Bette has over her as a producer. This eventually ends with her being fired from the picture, and Olivia de Havilland stepping in; the only actress willing to take her spot and also Bette's dear friend...

But while the show may not pick teams in regards of heroines vs villainesses, it does seem to lean more heavily towards Joan’s POV. This episode (directed by Helen Hunt) is almost entirely viewed through her eyes: the way Bette whispers to Bob Aldrich (Alfred Molina) in between takes, trimming down her monologues; waking up in a boozed frenzy in her trailer to find she’s been abandoned by the crew; receiving her legal termination… Joan is being mercilessly beaten up throughout the episode.

She is no innocent victim, though. Her pitiful last strokes to stay afloat have turned her into someone impossible, that has pushed everyone aside (she has a riveting small encounter with Pauline, who just wants out of the business by now; give her a spinoff!). Even her loyal lackey Mamacita has had enough with yet another vase thrown at her. The industry has turned Joan into a monster, and no one wants to work with monsters.

Bette Davis, on the other hand, tries to stay afloat on her own turf, seeing the production of her movie being jeopardized, and thus putting at risk the one chance she had to be taken seriously once again. She projects this anxiety into her daughter, when B.D. announces she is to be married. If she can’t control the set, she will control that. And it goes as well as you’d expect, with B.D. reinforcing once again that all Bette does is for her own benefit. But that’s all she’s ever known, B.D.!

At the end, Joan and Bette verbalize the thematic 'we’re actually the same' sentiment that has been simmering, and brings it to a boil, in a well-performed but less-than-subtle final confrontation: “What was it like being the most beautiful in the room?” Bette asks. “What was it like being the most talented in the room?” Joan responds.

It was wonderful. But it was never enough.”

As Feud approaches its final episode, it’s still doing a tricky balancing act between subverting and reinforcing the tropes of ageism and misogyny in Hollywood. Lange and Sarandon are still power-houses, the show still has quiet, painful moments of human emotion, and bits of glorious camp. I just wish it enlightened us about the lives of these women, and the state of women in Hollywood half as much as it thinks it has. 

Favorite moments of Actresses Acting

  • Jessica Lange doing Joan’s eyebrows. (She kills any beauty ritual she is asked to perform)
  • Kiernan Shipka being asked to keep her Sally Draper persona at all times
  • Jackie Hoffman quiet resilience and emotional power over Joan
  • Catherine-as-Olivia making her own grand entrance on set
  • Alison Wright driving a golfcart

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Reader Comments (25)

Sarandon shouldn't have agreed to this show. Murphy only has eyes on Lange. And c'mon, the show does take sites as Joan Crawford is portrayed most of the time as unprofessional and not very talented while Bette Davis gets less screen time but keeps her legacy as a GREAT actress intact.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJows

"A hospital gown designed by Dior" sounded like a Drag Race runway description.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

With this show, I have finally forgiven Ryan Murphy for butchering Glee.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMARIAHHHHHHH

Bette Davis: No no who will believe the very English Ms. Viven Leigh as a Southern woman?

Bob Aldrich: But she played Scarlett.

Bette: Unconvincingly!

Woah did Bette regret not being in Gone With the Wind her whole life?

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSrinivas

Ryan Murphy using his clout to produce a Nick Davis style fantasy revival of Jessica Lange's career through television and theater is becoming disgusting weird creepy and sad.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I'm enjoying the show as an abstract of what actually happened but the constant rewriting of well known pieces of the story rub me the wrong way and keep me from fully embracing it.

One minor thing this week was Davis's seeming refusal of Vivien Leigh. Vivien was offered the role and famously refused with "No, thank you. I can just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis." It's a small thing but the show has been littered with that type of misrepresentation.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

In real life, Mamacita makes it through another decade of Joan's way of life!

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

Ok. Lange is given more screen time and the story revolves more around her POV than around Sarandon's. Does this mean that Murphy might try to pass Lange as Best Actress and Sarandon as Supporting? It would be major fraud, but Murphy will certainly think that would give both actresses more of a chance, particularly considering that this is one of the toughest years in recent Emmy history for best leading actresses: Witherspoon, Kidman, Oprah and many more.

This would remind me of All About Eve. The producers wanted Anne Baxter to go supporting, but she adamantly refused. Davis and Baxter were nominated as Leads and they both fell victim to split votes with Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

This episode was Susan Sarandon's best showcase to date...she has fantastic chemistry with Alfred Molina.

Does an associate producer have that much power? Can they really stand side-by-side with the director and offer that much direction?

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

Oh, and Sarandon is in that hazy lead-supporting in-between...this really is The Joan Crawford Show.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

SoSue,

I'm not an actor, but everything I've read about movie acting is that standing in another actor's eye line when not in scene (much less next to the camera, offering commentary!) is considered a big no-no.

The real life Joan would have never stood for this, nor her treatment on location. The real JC had an infamous (Life published it!) contract "rider" with Pepsi that rivaled any rock star's. If she was that exacting with Pepsi, Joan would have been no less so on her home turf.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

I have been loving this series. But I agree with joel that the factual errors are glaring and irritating. The biggest one is this portrayal of a fling between Bette and Bob. Never happened. It's demeaning to the actress' memory. Jorge brings up another important point. I really wish there had been more insight into each of these women as people, beyond their rivalry.

Still, I feel lucky that something like this is even on television now. It's pretty great that an ancient feud in old Hollywood gets this A-list treatment. And it's definitely reviving interest in Bette and Joan and their work. So good on Murphy.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Please - the ultimate sequel. Lange as Dunaway during the making of "Mommie Dearest"....Sarandon back as Bette, who battles Dunaway (Lange?) during "The Disappearnce of Aimee". Does that make sense. I don't think so.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

"Help! I'm trapped in a small, private elevator!"

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

Dave S., I laughed out loud when I saw CZJ's rendition of that line, with wig looking slightly askew. It reminded me of a performance from RuPaul's Drag Race!

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

Brookesboy-I agree. I wish it were better, but it's incredible that this can exist at all. It's a testament to Murphy that he used his considerable clout to tell such a story.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

joel6 - EXACTLY. I hated that. And including TRUE things like would go along way to redressing this strange interpretation where no one has anything against Bette EXCEPT Crawford. Which was so obviously not the case. Powerful women have enemies in Hollywood and or people who bristle about their fame/fortune/talent... and actually noting that across the board would only actually help the themes of Feud.

April 19, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This was the worst episode in the series I repeat SARANDOM is terrible in the role she is so miscast zero chemistry with the other actors her acting at her worst hoping the last episode will uplift this over hyped show :)

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

John--this is a true story. I was in a gay bar here in Chicago last month watching Feud live, and a young man came up to get a drink. He asked what I was watching. When I told him, he said he didn't even know who Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were. Of course I was aghast. When I asked why he didn't know them, he answered: "I'm 29."

Appalling behavior from our youth. Sigh.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I hate Susan Saranadon's performance so much. She's trying but in all the wrong ways. So miscast. So badly drawn.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCindy P.

I thought this miscast monstrosity was over? Please make it end!

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I totally put "Lady in a Cage" in my DVD queue after this episode.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKirby

@brookesboy - The average male dies in his late 60s/early 70s, so at 29 someone is middle aged, actually, not a "young man" anymore. Even if you consider the US metric (which I guess is late 70s), males become middle aged by 26-27 onward. You should have reminded him of that. 29 is not 19, he'll only get even older from now on.

Re: Feud, the show feels like the usual Ryan Murphy joint: uneven, heavy handed, peppered with the occasional moment of true high artistry and a lot of camp toneat up if that pleases your sensibilities. If anything, all it proves is that the excellence of The People vs OJ was not the sign of a matured artist, but an unisially high point off the curve (and most likely a one off).

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

As someone with chubby fingers and a tiny smartphone, I really should preview posts for typos, but I guess if I weren't so lazy fingers wouldn't be so chubby to begin with. xD

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I just loooove Catherine Zeta Jones's over acting in this. It's so much fun ! And the Lady in a Cage moment was hillarious, just as the scene where Jessica Lange tries to seduce the male nurse. I think she never looked LESS like Crawford in all the show but i just love Lange being Lange.

April 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterClement_Paris

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