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“Feud” On FX Is Dramatic Television At It’s Best

April 8, 2017

This week James and I started watching Feud on Charter Demand.  Binge watching is always more enjoyable than waiting week to week to have the episodes aired.  The spite and catty nastiness between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis was legendary and the telling of this open hostility plays out well due to a great script and superb actresses.

Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford produces big, fun, flashy roles.  If you love the era of classic Hollywood when film stars were larger than life and the inside stories were fodder for magazines and gossip columnists than this series is for you.   Enmeshed in the shows are the themes of sexism, ageism and misogyny that plagued Davis’ and Crawford’s careers and continues to haunt women in Hollywood today.

If I were to recommend a must see for fine television and insight into the Hollywood which once was –get your remote and watch Feud.

In addition to the show itself there have been a slew of articles about these women and also the larger story about how women make their mark in Hollywood–or have their careers undermined by powerhouses.   One of the stories I much enjoyed appeared in Vanity Fair concerning Bette Davis.

Cigarettes were such a Davis signature that her Jezebel co-star Henry Fonda once joked, “I’ve been close to Bette Davis for 38 years—and I have the cigarette burns to prove it.”

They were not just accessories, either, but an extension of her already over-the-top self. Per biographer Ed Sikov, in his 2007 book Dark Victory: the Life of Bette Davis: “Cigarettes were to Bette Davis what a bottle of Southern Comfort was to Janis Joplin or a half-unbuttoned black shirt is to Tom Ford: a mundane prop elevated by sheer force of personality to the level of a stylized autograph.“ The book also quotes Dr. Ivin Prince: “She used smoking in a way I’d never seen before. It was a signature.“

She was so dependent on her signature Vanguards—of which she smoked up to four packs a day—that she could not abstain from them, even during a ten-minute television appearance. “If I did not smoke a cigarette,” she explained to TV talk show hosts, “they would not know who I was.” No one told Davis to put out her cigarettes, though, not even her dentist—who told Sikov that the actress smoked in both his waiting room and in the actual dentist’s chair. “She pretty much did what she wanted,” Prince said.

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