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The “Battling Broads” Myth or True?

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford  in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”

             BETTE DAVIS  (1908 – 1989)             JOAN CRAWFORD  (1905 – 1977)    

Was it a myth or was it true. So much has been written about the feud between these two mega stars when they were working together in the film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”  which was a smash hit when it was released in 1962. It earned five Academy Award nominations and was responsible for revitalizing the careers of two of Hollywood’s most famous and accomplished actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both Academy Award winners, the movie work for Davis and Crawford had dried up since they had reached a certain age. The success of the film led each to a busy second phase of their careers in mostly B movies which kept them working and in the public eye until their deaths. With her go-for-broke and completely vanity free performance as the grotesque, unstable Jane, Bette Davis created one of the most famous and iconic characterizations of her career.

She earned her eleventh Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for it, and embraced the character throughout the remainder of her life, often referring to Jane as one of her all-time favorite roles. Part macabre psychological thriller, part black comedy and part camp, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? quickly entered into the American pop cultural lexicon. It became an instant classic that has been imitated and parodied ad infinitum over the years. Making it a major “Film Noir”

The pairing of legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford captured the public’s imagination before the film was even released. Rumor had it that they had always been bitter competitive rivals, much like the Hudson sisters in the story, and everyone wanted to see how much fur would fly in the completed film. Davis and Crawford had both been top actresses of their day in the 1930s and 40s and had even shared adjoining dressing rooms in former days on the Warner Brothers lot. However, the two barely knew each other and had never appeared in the same film together.

From the beginning, everyone wanted to believe that there was a terrible feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. While they weren’t friends, the perceived rivalry became so exaggerated that it has gone down in the annals of legendary Hollywood lore.

Most of the outrageous tall tales are unsubstantiated, but they have nevertheless become part of Baby Jane’s cachet, which makes for a better story that most people would rather believe. Even though this was the only film that Davis and Crawford ever made together, the two actresses were forever linked in the public’s mind, and each was asked about the other untill their dying days.

Written by Andrea Passafiume.

BUT IN MY RESEARCH, I have come across a picture of Joan and Bette on the set of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” that belies the fact of the terrible feud between these two ladies.  Look closely at the pair of them, relaxed and happy laughing at some personal joke. They seem so happy in each others company. If they hated one another so much why were they sitting together? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FEUD. WAS IT WAS ALL A PUBLICITY GIMIC?

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”

Both these Ladies were known to be the toughest in the business and they would stand no nonsense from anyone.  So why are they sitting together looking so happy? Had they told one another a dirty joke? Or maybe Bette had farted!

Joan Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors and was reported as saying at the first company meeting:  

“DON’T  FUCK  WITH  ME,  FELLAS.  THIS  COWGIRL  HAS  BEEN  TO  THE  RODEO  BEFORE” 

so she was forcibly retired in 1973. Does that sound like a lady who would only say when asked about Bette Davis:

“WORKING  WITH  BETTE  DAVIS   WAS  MY  GREATEST   CHALLENGE  AND  I  MEAN  THAT  KINDLY.  SHE  LIKED  TO  SCREAM  AND  YELL.   I  JUST  SIT  AND  KNIT.   DURING  THE  FILMING  OF  ‘WHAT  EVER  HAPPENED  TO  BABY  JANE?’ (1962),  I  KNITTED  A  SCARF  FROM  HOLLYWOOD  TO  MALIBU” 

I don’t think so. This Lady would stand no nonsense from anyone?    

One of Bette Davis’s most  amusing quotes was:

“THE  BEST  TIME  I  EVER  HAD  WITH  JOAN CRAWFORD  WAS  WHEN  I  PUSHED  HER  DOWN  THE  STAIRS  IN  ‘WHATEVER  HAPPENED  TO  BABY  JANE?”  

Joan Crawford was not in the chair when she was pushed down the stairs, it was a Stunt Double. But I suppose it makes good reading. She was also quoted as saying:

“WHY  AM  I  SO  GOOD  AT  PLAYING  BITCHES?  I  THINK  IT’S  BECAUSE  I’M  NOT  A  BITCH. MAYBE  THAT’S  WHY  MISS CRAWFORD  ALWAYS  PLAYS  LADIES”

But to be truthful Bette Davis was a prize bitch as many Actors and Directors confirmed who had worked with her. Also it was proven when she said on hearing of the death of Joan Crawford:

“MY  MOTHER  TOLD  ME  NEVER  TO  SPEAK  BADLY  OF  THE  DEAD.  SHE’S  DEAD……GOOD”

They don’t make them like that any more! ! !

 

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