Feud: Why Joan Crawford and Bette Davis' Rivalry Began Long Before Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Joan Crawford and Bette Davis' rivalry is chronicled on Feud, which airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on FX
Ryan Murphy’s new FX series Feud chronicles the bitter rivalry between screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as they film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, but the tension between the actresses actually started long before they filmed their 1962 thriller.
Their decades-long feud — which is dissected in the upcoming issue of PEOPLE — stemmed from their very early days as they navigated the brutal Hollywood system.
When Davis moved from Broadway to Hollywood in 1930 at age 22, a then-25-year-old Crawford was already a sought-after star. Davis was the first to win an Oscar (for 1935’s Dangerous) but lost the costar she had fallen for, Franchot Tone, to Crawford, who wed him later that year.
By 1943, Davis had already won a second Oscar (for 1938’s Jezebel) while Crawford’s fame was fading and her contract at MGM was terminated. Taking a pay cut, Crawford joined Davis at Warner Bros. Crawford wanted the strong-willed roles Davis was famous for, but her rival got first pick on all the most coveted roles. Crawford settled for taking roles Davis turned down. That paid off in 1946 when Crawford won a Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce.
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The 1950s and 1960s
Work became scarce for the actresses as they entered their 50s. So when Crawford found a book about two aging, antagonistic sisters, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, she suggested Davis to costar. They had fights on set, but things got even uglier after filming. Crawford was devastated when Davis was the only one of them to be nominated for an Academy Award for the film. Crawford campaigned against Davis and convinced eventual winner Anne Bancroft to allow her to accept the trophy on her behalf.
The 1970s and 1980s
The actresses attempted to work together again on the 1964 thriller Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but ultimately Crawford was replaced by Davis’ good friend Olivia de Havilland. Crawford and Davis remained bitter towards each other until Crawford’s death in 1977. “Bette came into the room and said, ‘Well, the bitch died today,’ ” Burt Reynolds has said of Davis, who died in 1989. “She paused for a second and then added, ‘She was always on time.’ ”
Feud airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on FX.