Feud: Bette And Joan Reignites Famed Warfare Between Davis And Crawford

The rivalry between silver screen icons Joan Crawford and Bette Davis has provided fodder for film buffs over the years, with magazine articles, books and a documentary offering scintillating details more than half a century after the Oscar-winners starred in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Now they’re back in the most high-profile retelling yet. Feud, an eight-part series produced by Ryan Murphy that will premiere on March 5, is  deliriously entertaining and filled with a lot of fascinating Old Hollywood lore. I didn’t know that one producer wanted to turn it into a vehicle for Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn. It even shows Jessica Lange reenacting a scene from Sudden Fear and Susan Sarandon on the staircase from All About Eve. Jessica Lange utterly steals the show as Joan Crawford. She has arguably the tougher challenge, which is to compete with Faye Dunaway’s Kabuki theatre-style performance in Mommie Dearest. Lange is sensational and deeply invested in showing the multitude of contradictory emotions rushing through Crawford as she tries to maneuver a return to the big screen against so many obstacles. There’s a lot of exposition in the first episode, which I guess is necessary since everyone isn’t as obsessed with the back story as I am. Susan Sarandon is…just OK. She has a couple of strong moments as Bette Davis, especially when she decides on the look for her Baby Jane character and debuts it in front of the crew, as Lange recoils in horror. Mostly, it feels like Sarandon is doing a cold reading of the script and still finding her way into playing such a familiar icon. There’s strong support from the great New York theater staple Jackie Hoffman as Crawford’s maid Mamacita and Judy Davis, who’s a hoot as gossip vulture Hedda Hopper. Kathy Bates also garners a few laughs as Joan Blondell swilling a cocktail to loosen up on camera. All things considered, it’s an incredibly entertaining first episode. I can’t wait to see the next one.

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