The penultimate episode of Ryan Murphy‘s anthology series “Feud: Bette and Joan” laid bare the insecurities of both Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). But while Davis seeks to maintain control during production of “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” Crawford seeks to sabotage the film, leading to a showdown that will have devastating consequences for Crawford. “Abandoned!” written by Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam, and directed by Emmy and Oscar-winner Helen Hunt, reveals both actresses at their most vulnerable as the series heads towards the finish line. Below are the Top 5 moments from “Feud: Bette and Joan” Season 1, Episode 7.
Joan learns the truth — Crawford has been suspicious of Davis since the moment she arrived in Louisiana, suspicions that are confirmed when Davis criticizes Crawford’s performance of a scene in front of director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) and the crew. Joan flees to her trailer, where Aldrich reveals that he made Davis an associate producer. Crawford now realizes that she is in a no-win situation. In a rage-filled monologue, Joan talks about how her background as a nightclub dancer has always required her to work hard make people take her talents seriously, something that she can’t do with Davis in control. She also rails against Aldrich, claiming that he never had her best interests in mind. She gets right in his face, and in a chilling warning, says how much she is going to enjoy seeing Aldrich realize how much he has misplaced his allegiances. The scene is full of melodrama and camp, and Lange bites into the lines with a zeal and relish that is magnetic.
Bette’s Confession — A drunk Bette is entertaining Aldrich in her hotel room. As he attempts to get her undressed, she wonders what it would be like to be noticed for her beauty instead of her acting. The rules for women, she says, are different. A man like Aldrich, with his “beer gut and middle aged sag” as she puts it, have never prevented him from any sexual conquest, but for women, there is always scrutiny and competition. She recalls her first screen test for Jack Warner where she hid behind a door to hear his reaction. But instead of commenting on her talent, he said she had no sex appeal: “Who would want to f–k that?” The insult is cemented when Warner says he wishes she looked like Joan Crawford. The scene contains some of Sarandon’s finest work thus far, revealing a fragility in Davis that is simply heartbreaking; despite all her accolades, she has never been made to feel beautiful.
The Divas Lay It All On the Table — After passing out drunk in her trailer, Crawford awakens to find that the entire crew has left the plantation set, effectively stranding Crawford in the middle of nowhere. She makes her way back to the hotel and bangs on Davis’s door, leading to one of the most intense and revealing confrontations between the two thus far. Davis claims she had nothing to do with what happened, but Joan isn’t buying it. She calls Davis “overrated” and says that the only reason Bette received so many Oscar nominations was because the Academy could see the acting and that the answer to feeling unattractive isn’t to make herself uglier. Davis responds that she is a character actress rather than some glamourous movie star, but Crawford’s comment stings, calling back to Davis’s earlier scene with Aldrich. She asks Crawford what it felt like to be the most beautiful girl in the world. Crawford says it was wonderful, but it was never enough. She in turn asks Davis what is was like to be the most talented girl in the world. Davis responds in kind, that it was never enough. It’s a stellar scene for both ladies as we finally see how much of the rivalry between Davis and Crawford stems from mutual envy– Joan of Bette’s talent, and Bette of Joan’s looks.
Aldrich Takes Charge — After the numerous perceived slights from Davis, Crawford walks off the picture claiming to be ill. Crawford lies in a hospital bed, claiming that she is suffering from a rare case of pneumonia. Aldrich visits Joan in the hospital and begs her to come back to work as he can no longer shoot around her absence. Joan uses the opportunity to suggest some changes to the script– more leading men, and expensive party sequence. But this time, Aldrich isn’t biting, and in an expletive-laden diatribe, tells Joan to read her contract and be on set the next morning, without excuses. The scene is surprising as the balance of power between director and actress has shifted, and Molina is clearly having a ball as Aldrich finally gets a chance to exert his power.
Adios Mamacita — Joan is convinced that her “illness” will give her the leverage she needs. Little does she know that Davis and Aldrich are working on a Plan B. Aldrich manages to convince Davis’s friend and ally Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta Jones) to take Crawford’s role. Joan hears the announcement on the radio in her hospital room, and her response is classic Crawford: she screams and throws a vase of flowers at the radio. Unfortunately, Mamacita (Jackie Hoffman) is in the line of fire, and making good on her threat in last week’s episode, calmly grabs her purse and leaves Crawford screaming in the hospital hallway. Davis’s triumph seems complete as she embraces de Havilland while Crawford lies alone in her hospital room.
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