Putting ‘Feud: Season One’ to Rest

❉ Eight entertaining hours of supremely well cast drama.

Looking back at what I wrote about episode one, I’m not quite sure whether I was fully aware of what the series would eventually tell. The premise seemed rather short sighted, but admittedly fun. We’d see Joan Crawford and Bette Davis tear at each other’s throats for 8 hours during the making of ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ and what a grand time that would be. The final product proved to be more complex than that. We did get our fair share of antics during that film’s production, but we also saw the effects this rivalry had on other people before AND after the film.

No one ever thinks of the families, the co-workers, and others that end up getting caught in the middle of a feud. But they do. Joan and Bette would go through some drastic changes in their home life themselves. On top of that Robert Aldrich would get divorced from his wife of 20+ years. Jack Warner would later lose money over his exploitation of the involved parties. Hedda Hopper, in a feud herself, ends up just fading away; no one really caring about the woman who’s job instigated so much hate. All in all, it’s a unflattering picture of Old Hollywood. Glamorous it was not.  However, there’s something that Jack Warner says (or rather an avatar of him) that really sums it up :

” It all works out in the end, Joanie. Y’know, we showbiz folks, y’know all that anger we feel for not being loved, which is the reason we’re in this business in the first place, all the tears and the screaming, and the rage; it all disappears. And the public, what they remember, for the most part is the good stuff. The work, and all the joy that we brought them. Trust me. All the suffering will have been worth it…”

Despite the existence of shows like ‘Feud’ or books like “Mommie Dearest’ or whether any of these people were actually good and likeable in real life, doesn’t matter.  The fact is we still have films like ‘All About Eve’, ‘Mildred Pearce’, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and much, much more that are genuine pieces of art. Their contributions to society and their influences on other filmmakers are inestimable. Ultimately, that’s what we have to judge them on. Maybe it’s just me being silly, but I’d hope that someone watches this and decides to discover their work anew. These films are out there and just waiting to be enjoyed again.

As for ‘Feud’? It’s brilliant. Eight entertaining hours of supremely well cast drama. The little details and recreations of so much iconic imagery are especially endearing to the production. There are some liberties taken, but what type of show that portrays any actual real events doesn’t? This isn’t a documentary for goodness’ sake.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford could’ve been friends. They should’ve been friends. They were two people who were more alike than they cared to admit, unfortunately their differences kept them at odds with each other. That and their poor judgement. There’s so many moments where they have to make decisions and they have two very distinct routes to take and EVERY SINGLE TIME they deliberately chose the wrong one. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking, but they can’t help themselves.

Season One of ‘Feud’ is heartily recommended for fans of Bette and Joan, Old Hollywood and human nature (and I suppose Ryan Murphy’s work.)

Very much looking forward to see Season Two which is purportedly about Prince Charles and Diana, especially in the light of recent revelations about Prince Harry. It’s a much harder prospect to tackle a situation like that when the majority of the subjects are still alive. We shall see.

Oh, and one last thing. I was wrong about Catherine Zeta Jones in this. After getting through the awkward narration bits in the first few episodes, she acquits herself rather well as Olivia De Havilland when she actively takes a part in the story.

“Feud: Bette and Joan” aired on Sundays on FX at 10/9c from Sunday March 5 on FX in the US. A UK broadcaster has not yet been announced, but the show could air on FX’s UK counterpart FOX TV.

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