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‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ Recap: ‘Abandoned!’

Published on April 18th, 2017 | Updated on April 19th, 2017 | By FanFest

Last week’s Feud taught us all about Hagsploitation. And this week, we got to see it in action. By definition, Hagsploitation demands that a woman of a certain age and stature must suffer. Cue in Joan Crawford…

Now that Bette Davis has creative control over the production of Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, all Crawford has to do is act. Simple enough, right? Not so fast.

Still reeling from the conflicts of their last picture Baby Jane, Davis and Crawford take the opportunity to go at it yet again. The difference this time is that Davis has an advantage over Crawford and she’s milking it for all it’s worth. From over-directing the performance to cutting down important dialogue, Davis gives Crawford a good run for her money. And Crawford won’t take it lying down.

Crawford’s first line of defense is Bob Aldrich with whom she pleads for a fair shake. How dare he give Davis a leg up on this picture without making a case for her as well?

“You have no idea how much harder I have to work to be taken seriously as an actress! I didn’t get my start in the theater like Miss Bette Davis. I broke in shaking my fringe in nightclubs. I’d come home after a gig with Scotch on my dress, and I’ll always have that stain on me,” Joan explains.

This speech perfectly encapsulates the pain that carried the real Joan Crawford through her many hardships in the entertainment industry. All this woman wanted was to escape her own reflection, to achieve a level of greatness that belied her meager beginnings.

Here, her pain is so real and Jessica Lange does (and has done) a marvelous job of giving Crawford some semblance of humanity, realism, and honesty. It’s a heartbreaking moment, but one that’s completely overshadowed by the shenanigans that follow.

Photo Credit: FX

As production of Sweet Charlotte continues, Crawford is more than miffed by Bette’s machinations. This all comes to a head when she discovers that Davis is holding late-night parties–parties that she’s not invited to. What Crawford doesn’t know is that Davis is privately waging her own internal war. She quietly marvels at Crawford’s ability to command an audience and wonders why she hadn’t been blessed with Crawford’s good looks.

Over the course of the episode, Crawford finds herself being pushed further and further to the sidelines. Although she initially vows to lay off the booze during production, her building frustration sends her on a drinking binge that causes her to miss a full day’s worth of shooting. When she arises from her alcohol-induced blackout, Crawford finds herself alone with Mamacita out on the Sweet Charlotte plantation. And so, she marches herself right over to Davis’ hotel room and lets her have a mouthful.

“This entire production is an elaborate opportunity for you to humiliate me, isn’t it? You, Bob, the whole fucking crew abandon me out at that plantation! What a fool I was to sign up for this picture, and a bigger fool to think I could ever trust you,” Crawford cries.

After all this, all Davis can manage to say is:  “How did it feel to be the most beautiful girl in the world?”

It’s a really poignant scene and one that highlights the pain and insecurity both women have harbored all these years. All Crawford wants is to be respected. All Davis wants is to be beautiful. Yet neither can have that which has brought the other success. And so the feud wages on, eventually landing Crawford in the hospital.

Completely fed up with Davis’ efforts to undermine her, Crawford checks out of the picture and into the hospital for an extended stay. Her hope is to delay production enough to get the film permanently shut down. What she gets instead is a lawsuit and the understanding that she is completely replaceable (the studio hires Olivia de Havilland to take her place).

Not to mention that Crawford’s beloved Mamacita takes her leave at the end of the episode. She, too, is fed up and wants something more than Joan can offer.

As all this is happening, Davis’ daughter B.D. elopes with a man twice her age. Like Crawford, Davis learns that she is and will always be replaceable–at home, on set, and on screen.

All in all, Crawford and Davis end up as the title of this episode suggests: abandoned.

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