Vital Viewing – Feud: Bette and Joan Episode 3

My WiFi is playing up today so this review will be of limited length for fear of the auto save failing (I’m not one for rewriting stuff)


If last week’s episode was focused on director Bob Aldrich, this week returns to our two stars Bette and Joan. ‘Mommie Dearest’ highlights the relationship each star has with their daughters and it’s an episode that really lets us the audience sympathise with Bette and Joan, for the first time this series we get to see the person not just the star. Bette has previously been shown in a slightly (slightly) better light than Joan but Jessica Lange does a great job at making Crawford someone relatable this week. Despite the front put on by Crawford we can see that deep down she’s just afraid, afraid of being alone and forgotten to the extent that she seeks out to adopt another child only to be rejected due to her age. It’s a bigger kick in the teeth than anything Bette has ever said to her.

What this show does amazingly well is show the contrast between Bette and Joan whilst simultaneously revealing that they have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Both are single mothers, desperate for work in an industry that has no interest in women over a certain age. Both have had a taste of success and both have experienced bitter failure, but it’s the scene near the beginning of the episode when Bette and Joan are out for drinks together in a rare moment of bitching ceasefire , that really highlights the differences between them. The conversation turns to their own childhoods and Crawford reveals to Davis that she was sexually assaulted as a child by her own step-father. It’s beautifully acted and Lange’s calm delivery of this awful event is chilling, Sarandon’s reaction is equally good with Bette for once lost for words, the look on her face says it all.

bette reaction

It’s an amazing scene (and one the Emmy’s should take note of) and the episode as a whole shows that Feud is capable of more than camp, glitz and glamour.



Final Thoughts

  • This episode also shows us a lot of the infamous moments on set of Baby Jane, the best being Crawford messing up takes  on purpose so that Davis has to drag her around for take after take (to make it more difficult for Bette Joan is wearing a weight loaded belt under her costume).


  • “You mean, all this time we could have been friends?” There’s never been a more meta line in film


  • Lange’s delivery of “It was Gloria Swanson who was robbed in 1950 not yooooooooooooooooouuuu” has to be the best thing I’ve heard on TV ever


  • I love how excited Buono gets when he gets Bette to reenact her famous ‘What a dump’ line, but what I love more is that she does the exaggerated (and arguably more famous) Elizabeth Taylor version of the line. Here’s the somewhat understated original below…


  • Bette v Joan – this week’s gotta go to Joan, she really gave Bette a rough time on set with that weighted belt, it’s such a low move it’s almost impressive! Bette 2 – Joan 1


  • Whatever happened to…Catherine Zeta Jones and Kathy Bates? They’ve been credited as guest star the past two episodes but I missed their presence this week, hopefully we’ll see more of them in the future

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