Feud is currently telling the story of the rivalry between Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford with this week’s episode telling the story of the 1963 Academy Awards. Bette Davis was nominated for Best Actress for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? that year, creating further animosity between herself and Joan Crawford, who felt she should have received the nomination. Feud creator opens up about recreating that eventful night with Jessica Lange as Joan and Susan Sarandon as Bette, sharing what motivated him to use the episode to show love for the Oscars.
Ryan Murphy Says Feud Allowed Him To Create His “Love Letter” To The Oscars
Viewers might have expected the 1963 Academy Awards to come later in the season, possibly as the season finale, but Ryan Murphy told the Hollywood Reporter that he had a definite plan for how he wanted Feud to go through this season. In his mind, the Oscars wasn’t the climax of the Crawford and Davis feud. The series creator always felt that the 35th Academy Awards drama was just the middle of the Feud story, because the conflict between Crawford and Davis continues on long after that, until it ends with the passing of Joan Crawford in 1977.
Still to come on Feud, there’s the story behind Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, a film Bette Davis and Ms. Crawford made together in spite of their rivalry, and Ryan Murphy suggests that may be an even more dramatic incident than the ’63 Oscars.
“Making Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte was always going to be a two-part episode because it’s very complicated: what happened and why they did it and why they agreed to do it even though they disliked each other,” says the Feud showrunner.
Ryan adds that the Oscars event is still a vital part of the story, because it did bring Bette and Joan head to head in public venue, forcing their animosity toward one another to get the better of them.
Creating the ’63 Oscars was something Murphy took very seriously, determined to do the Academy Awards justice, because, as he explains, the Oscars were always an important part of his childhood. Lacking social media and growing up in a rural, Christian home, the Feud creator says Oscar night was the one night every year that let him live among the stars.
“That was my love letter to the Academy Awards,” explains the Feud boss.
The Feud showrunner was determined to create the 1963 Academy Awards as authentically and realistically as possible, even searching out the site of the original ceremony.
“I found out we could actually use the auditorium where the real Oscars were at so that was exciting. But then we found out that a lot of the period stuff had been torn out and removed so I was devastated. So then we just decided to spend a lot of time and money rebuilding it,” reveals Murphy. “We spent months researching it and copying it, from the scaffolding outside the auditorium to the seats inside and the stage and that tier where all of the Oscars sat to the gowns that all the women wore.”
The Feud boss added that he even treated every one of the extras like a star, making sure their hair was perfect and their vintage formal wear was as beautiful and stunning as it was those many decades ago.
Feud Production Designer Judy Becker Shares Her Secrets To Recreating 1963 Hollywood
Ms. Becker revealed to Vox that recreating the 60s for Ryan Murphy’s Feud isn’t as simple as one would think. While Google is certainly a help, the Feud production designer says much of the research done for the show requires real world leg work. Judy sends her people to speak with historians and archivists, as well as with people who were present at the time in which Feud is set. Becker says her best resources are living eye witnesses to the events in Murphy’s series.
One example provided by Judy will be seen in a later episode. Becker and her Feud team were able to contact the interior decorator who designed an apartment for Joan Crawford. She says the designer was able to give her insight into Crawford’s apartment that she couldn’t have possibly obtained elsewhere.
Becker says the key to creating a believable era living space is to meld authenticity with a little creative license, but she adds that in creating the homes of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, everything was as authentic as possible. The Feud production designer says recreating the homes of both stars was a challenge, particularly because they each had their own sense of style.
“Joan had a much more up-to-date, glamorous, fashionable house,” said the Feud designer. “She was very careful with her furniture, and was constantly decorating, redecorating, and renovating. You know, keeping up with the times.”
For Bette Davis, Becker says it was a little easier to rebuild her style, because she lived more simply.
“And although Bette moved around a lot, her houses kind of always looked the same: very east coast traditional, American colonial.”
The next episode of Feud, “Hagsploitation,” is set to air on Sunday, April 9 on FX.
[Featured Image by FX]