If you’re tuning in to watch Feud Episode 5 live Sunday, get ready to stream Joan Crawford going all the way off the deep end.
Episode 5 of Feud will feature what is perhaps the ultimate moment of nastiness between Joan and Bette Davis. Furious that she was snubbed for an Oscar while Davis landed a nomination, Crawford teamed up with Hedda Hopper to smear her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star ahead of the ceremony. Furthermore, she personally contacted at least two of the other best actress nominees to offer her services as a stand-in should they be unable to attend the Academy Awards. Supposedly, she even encouraged Geraldine Page to make other plans.
Fate smiled on Joan and she did indeed get the chance to accept the Best Actress Oscar for Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker. No doubt to be included in Episode 5 of Feud, there are even pictures of her with Gregory Peck, Patty Duke, and Ed Begley at the after party. She also presented the award for Best Director to David Lean for Lawrence of Arabia. It’s surreal to watch the look of elation on Crawford’s face and realize just how much she wanted that statue for her own, even if it wasn’t real. At least, she seems to be thinking, Davis won’t have it.
Joan Crawford, accepting an award on behalf of Anne Bancroft, poses with other acting winners, Gregory Peck, Patty Duke and Ed Begley, 1963. pic.twitter.com/70PqRU8fZc
— lorelai (@srta_pseudo) March 13, 2017
— Man Who Saved BenHur (@savedbenhur) February 19, 2016
Series creator Ryan Murphy, previously of American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck fame, took nitpicking pains to create an authentic portrait of the legendary feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, with the Oscar night episode being the crowning jewel of those efforts. Every outfit in the audience is a re-creation of one that a star actually wore, and every Oscar statue we see is detailed down to the engraving. Production poured millions of dollars in returning the original venue, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, to its 1963 likeness.
Furthermore, what viewers watch on the show isn’t far off from the cruel reality of how these women were driven over the edge by one another. Feud takes the occasional dramatic license, but almost all of its most shocking moments are considered a part of the official story, he told Deadline. Murphy was always particularly fascinated by Joan’s bizarre behavior in the lead-up to Oscar season, something he thinks she probably did at personal expense to her own career.
“I just couldn’t believe that Joan Crawford did what she did… even though it probably cost her a couple million dollars because they were profit participants in the film… I literally had to look it up like three times to make sure that it was accurate when we started writing it, but she also literally dressed up as sort of a silver Oscar so that she could pull focus from the actual gold statuettes in case Bette Davis won.”
Still, as Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland in Feud, noted on the Today Show, the hatred we watch between Joan and Bette may have had more to do with the era than the women themselves. At the time, exaggerating rivalries between famous women was even more common than it is today. De Havilland even found herself in one such media-stoked cat fight with her sister, Joan Fontaine.
“Salacious and juicy is something that we still secretly love, but in those days, it was a very cut-throat kind of business… My father-in-law Kirk Douglas told me, ‘It was a tough for us guys, but it was really tough for the women because they were pitted against each other.'”
That kind of treatment isn’t just apparent in memoirs of old Hollywood figures, but it’s also present in a lot of the films of the day that held a pessimistic mirror up to the industry and high society women in general. For instance, Crawford appeared in a 1939 film called The Women, where she plays a shopgirl who coerces a married man to leave his wife (Norma Shearer). Hedda Hopper, the acerbic gossip columnist who inflames the Joan and Bette debacle on Feud, even make a guest appearance, running around the powder room scrambling for details on the love lives of the rich and famous. The fact that the columnist would appear in such a tongue-in-cheek role illustrates just how accepted her brand of nastiness was at the time.
You can watch Feud Episode 5 live on FX online tonight at 10 ET/9 CT, or you can wait it out for three more weeks and binge stream the whole thing after the finale. In the meantime, there’s plenty of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford movies to hold you over. Being familiar with the two icons makes the show a lot more entertaining, so you make sure at least check out All About Eve and Mildred Pierce before you jump in.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]