In the previous episode, Hagsploitation, Mamacita told Joan Crawford that if she ever threw anything at her head again she would leave her. Mamacita, a character who for the most part has been seemingly blindly loyal to Joan, is clearly a woman of her word for when that second vase crashes into the window next to her she pauses and packs away her bag before marching away and leaving Joan wailing after her down the hospital corridor.
‘You have done this to yourself’ Mamacita says. Boy is this true.
In the penultimate episode of the Bette v Joan saga Joan manages to kamikaze her career and her integrity spectacularly. With the production of Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte underway Joan takes offence to Bette’s position as producer and is repeatedly annoyed by the fact that Bob won’t listen to her creative suggestions. This results in her feigning sickness in order to be respected and listened to, Bob sees through this and delivers her a telling off like no other, he’s finally had enough of her antics. When she continues still to cooperate Joan is surprised that the studios decide to sue her (despite warnings from her friends, Bette and Pauline) and eventually fire her and replace her with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Olivia de Havilland.
It’s not hard to sympathise with Joan though, with Bob and Bette pursuing their relationship Joan finds herself out of the loop throughout production. Unlike on Baby Jane when the two actresses were essentially equals, Bette’s position as producer (and he relationship with Bob) places her higher up the pecking order than Joan and it’s a bitter pill to swallow. She isn’t invited to the casts’ late night parties, (wrongly) thinks they are making fun of her, has lines of her monologue cut and to top it all off is abandoned in her trailer at the deserted set. You can understand why she’d feel the way she does (not to mention all the other crap she’s been through).
Following the desertion Joan gets into an epic fight with Bette in what is probably one of the highlights of the whole series. Both actresses hurl the insults at each other but it’s Joan who crosses the line, making a crack at Bette making herself uglier. There’s a pause after this when Joan herself looks sorry to have said such a thing and the crack in Bette’s voice when she retorts that she’s a character actress shows just how deep the comment cut. We know how insecure Bette is about her image , a scene prior to this had Bette admitting to Bob that she overheard Jack Warner saying he wished she looked like Joan Crawford right after her first screen test for him, aged 22. In the same vein Joan is insecure of her talent and having Bette, the greatest actress around, sneering at her line delivery and offering ‘notes’ is equally cruel.
Mamacita’s exit has left Joan totally alone, Bette too has been abandoned by B.D. her daughter who is off marrying Jeremy (not Jerome) and it wil be interesting to see where this leaves our two stars in next episode’s grand finale.
- It has to be said that the cast on this show are all sublime. Emmys all round as far as I’m concerned but I get the feeling someone will miss out (not unlike the Oscar circumstances portrayed) FX seem to be pushing Jessica Lange’s performance for Lead Actress with Susan Sarandon possibly entering into the Supporting category. This would most likely guarantee awards for both the actresses, but it really does depend on just how much of a supporting role Bette Davis is considered, it’s only really the last two episodes that Sarandon has been noticeably less present than Lange.
- Only a voice-over appearance for Hedda this week but yay hooray Olivia de Havilland and Joan Blondell were back!
- I liked the installation of a Coca-Cola machine at the studios following Joan’s departure but I don’t think the Coca-Cola drinking game will have as big an effect with only one episode left.
- My favourite moment was one of the most heartbreaking for Joan. When she marches over to Bob’s hotel room and sees Bette mimicking the performance she’d done earlier on set. Upset, Joan hurries away, only we learn that actually Bette was simply marveling over how Joan was able to perform the scene so well. The praise she craved from Bette going unheard is just too much pain to take!
- Bette v Joan – Bette wins this round again, in fact Joan loses so badly that I’m tempted to dock her a point. Bette 5 – Joan 2
- Whatever Happened to…getting over your divorce? Sure, Bob’s marriage hasn’t been great for ages and yes, he has already slept with Bette prior to this episode, but one episode he’s crying over the fact that his wife is leaving him the next he’s undressing Bette in his hotel room!