These impressions contain spoilers for the first episode of ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’. Feud started airing March 5th on FX.
Ryan Murphy has a new anthology series. Not content with American Horror Story and American Crime Story, now we have Feud. This first season is all about Bette and Joan, two titans of old Hollywood. Spoiler alert for next season, it’s been picked up as Charles and Diana.
Jessica Lange, a recurring player in American Horror Story appears here as Joan Crawford. Susan Sarandon, yes that Susan Sarandon, is Bette Davis. This season is based on real events of the so-called ‘feud’ between the two actresses working on the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
This first episode sets up how the two actors ended up on the film and even record a first scene. Joan rolls her eyes at the Oscars as Marilyn Monroe accepts a reward. She laments the fact there’s no good roles for women her age.
There’s no scripts in town. Determined, she gets a whole bunch of books and eventually settles on the psychological horror What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? She sends this to director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) recommending Bette for the other leading role. He tries to shop the film around, and a reluctant Jack L. Warner (Stanley Tucci), yep, of Warner Brothers, ends up funding the film.
While trying to get on in the public eye, behind the scenes the two clash. The personalities couldn’t be more opposite. Bette is brash and to the point, and believes in sacrificing oneself for her art, while Joan hides behind niceties, and is obsessed with her appearance. Annoyed at Joan for not truly becoming her character, Bette throws together a wig (once used by Joan) and overdoses on foundation and declares this her look for the film to a thunderous applause from the stage crew.
Another aspect of the show is that two other actresses are telling the story of Bette and Joan in a fake documentary. I’m not overly fond of that method usually, but it’s used sparingly here, and has Catherine Zeta-Jones. Who can say no to some Catherine Zeta-Jones?
But the real selling point are Lange and Sarandon. Having not read up much on Bette and Joan (sorry), I can’t attest to how accurate they play these real women. Having said that, their melodramatic performances as these polarising personalities are something to be seen.
While mostly interior-shots Feud is beautiful, from the Hollywood mansion set decoration to the behind the scenes sets themselves, and the dazzling costumes of the 60’s. We even see reimagined black and white film footage of Baby Jane. These snippets will inevitably be put online alongside the original film for comparison. C’mon, we all know the Internet at this point.
First Impressions: Not knowing much about early Hollywood this season is fascinating. The two leading ladies are brilliant and I want to see how their snarky feud plays out.