The Real Story: “The Feud” Between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
Posted on February 19, 2017 at 3:24 pm
“The Feud” is the new series from Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story,” “Nip/Tuck,” “American Crime Story”), with three Oscar-winning actresses in the real-life story of three Oscar-winning actresses. Susan Sarandon played Bette Davis, Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford, and Catherine Zeta Jones plays Olivia de Havilland in a story that takes place at in the 1960’s, when their stardom was waning. Davis and Crawford, both known to be temperamental divas who were intensely competitive and loathed each other so much it was almost a hobby, were cast in the grotesque horror film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” They played sisters, both performers (yes, that means actresses are playing actresses playing actresses). Davis was Jane, a former child star and Crawford was Blanche, a one-time movie star, now paralyzed following an accident, and thus dependant on Jane, who delights in torturing her.
“The Feud” is the behind-the-scenes story of Davis and Crawford as they made the film. The cast includes Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich, Judy Davis as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell, and Murphy favorite Sarah Paulson as Geraldine Page.
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud has more details about the decades-long animosity between the two stars, including Davis ordering a Coke machine for the “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” crew — because Crawford was married to the CEO of Pepsi.
In “Gold,” Matthew McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, who, with Mike Acosta, finds a rich gold mine with deposits worth billions of dollars, and then has to cope with financial, corporate, and political predators to keep them from stealing it.
It is inspired by a real story that is even wilder than the one in the movie. SPOILER ALERT: The following gives away important plot details of the film that are best enjoyed as a surprise, so read this only after you’ve seen the movie.
Wells is based on David Walsh. In the film, Wells is proud of being a third generation prospector, who grew up in a family with a heritage of seeking — and finding gold. Walsh was an investor who tried various ventures before he went looking for gold in Indonesia, with the help of geologist John Felderhof. They had an exploration manager who was later found to be a bigamist with four families, but that’s another story. After many close calls and escapades they were shutting down when they hit gold, or at least it looked like it. The company, Bre-X, became a Wall Street darling. It was valued at billions of dollars, which attracted the attention of the Indonesian government, which came in to take a big piece of the action and force partnership with their favored corporation. But then things got worse — a suicide (or maybe a murder, or maybe a cleverly orchestrated escape), and then the uncovering of a massive fraud. For more information, see the documentary below.
There are always these first and only stories, where it’s like, the first black person to do this, or the first woman to do this, and we need those stores. They are super inspirational. But the thing that’s so exciting to me about this is that none of these women had to be the first or the only. Like the first white computer pool was five women, the first black computer pool was five women. Over time, each of those pools grew tremendously to prove over and over that women are very adaptive and have the right temperament, the right skill set, the right intellectual firepower for this work. That’s truly confidence-inspiring, because you don’t have to face the objections of like, “Yeah, well, there’s just one woman. We know that most women are like this.” It’s like, No, no, no. This is a revolution. The technological revolution that was the space race was carried out with two women and their mathematical talents, because of other women.
“Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, expands in wider release this week. The focus of the film is Mrs. Kennedy’s efforts to shape her husband’s legacy following his assassination in 1963. But it also gives us a glimpse of her famous televised tour of the White House, the first time most Americans got a chance to see the interior. Her taste and expertise in art and antiques brought an unprecedented commitment to history and design that continues today.
“Loving,” opening across the country this week, is about the couple whose marriage became the Supreme Court case “Loving v. Virginia.” It is shocking today to think that it was not until 1967 that laws prohibiting marriage between people of different races were found unconstitutional. Today, there is a Supreme Court justice who is himself married to a woman of a different race.
Richard and Mildred Loving lived in a small Virginia community where the races mixed freely. Richard Loving was white and his father worked for a black man. Mildred herself was of mixed race, part black, part Native American, and probably part white as well. Virginia, which shut down the state’s school system for two years rather than follow the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and integrate the schools, was one of sixteen states to prohibit interracial marriage. The Virginia judge who upheld the law wrote:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
The judge relied on an earlier court decision upholding miscegenation laws “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood,” “a mongrel breed of citizens,” and “the obliteration of racial pride.”
The Lovings were married in the District of Columbia, which permitted interracial marriage, and then they returned to their home. Police broke in while they were asleep and arrested them.
They were banned from the state. The judge told them that if they returned, they would be arrested. So, they moved to Washington D.C. and raised their three children. But they wanted very much to return to their rural community.
Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for help, and his office referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. Two young lawyers took the case. Ten years after they were arrested, their marriage made it possible for interracial couples — including President Obama’s parents — to be legally married.
The unanimous decision was stated in the strongest terms:
Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
Later the Loving v. Virginia decision would be a significant precedent for the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, making it possible for same-sex couples to be legally married.
The “Loving” movie, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. It is very much their story, with most of the legal issues and court appearances taking place off screen.