Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis in “Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX)
I have a thing for Classic Hollywood. “Singin’ in The Rain“, “North by Northwest“, “Double Indemnity“, “Carmen Jones“, “The Seven Year Itch“, “It’s A Wonderful Life“- there is something so wonderful about the films of the 1940s and 50s.
There is also something to the films of the 60s and 70s, too, but something decidedly different. With the collapse of the Old Hollywood studio system and the massive changes in society concerning sex, civil rights and technology, the movies tended to be less polished formality and more… “The Graduate“. Goodbye George Bailey, helloooo Mrs. Robinson.
And crammed right between the time of A-line crinoline skirts and miniskirts with go-go boots, there was “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?“. Starring Classic Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, it was released in 1962, and capitalized on the fact that its protagonists were over-the-hill, relics from an era gone by.
Now there’s the FX/ Ryan Murphy series “Feud: Bette and Joan” starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, who both are decades past their respective times of being PYTs (although I want to make it clear that I personally view them this way, it’s no secret Hollywood still has a major problem casting “women of a certain age” in solid parts). You may recall Lange’s debut in the 70s version of “King Kong” or in the 80s in “Frances”, while Sarandon made her mark in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Thelma & Louise”.
And before I move on, how cool is the opening theme art? Very Saul Bass.
Episode 2, which was written by Tim Minear (“American Horror Story”), starts with a rapprochement between Davis and Crawford (Aldrich [Robert Aldrich, director of “Baby Jane” played capably by Alfred Molina,-ADF] compares it to the Hitler-Stalin pact). They team up to have him fire an attention-getting young actress and to scold him for a poorly written scene. (“I don’t need subtext, Bob,” Davis says. “I need good text.”) Pressure is put on Aldrich by both Warner and Hopper to play the PR game, dish the dirt and manufacture the feud, if necessary. Aldrich caves and participates in Hopper’s blind-item-driven publicity campaign, feeding her rumors, hating himself the whole time.
The entire episode made me think of one word: deceit. When Bette and Joan actually work together to make changes to the film they both have much invested in, especially after last episode’s depiction of how nasty they could be to each other, Studio head Jack Warner decides to push director Aldrich to get the women to turn on each other again. Why? Because Warner felt the best way to get butts into theatre seats was through malicious gossip, and pathetically, Aldrich complied and fed lies to gossip columnist queen Hedda Hopper. Things unravel in no time, and both Joan and Bette become insecure and begin lashing out at family members. Meanwhile, Aldridge further damages his already tumultuous marriage.
Bette Davis as Jane and Joan Crawford as Blanche in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”. (Image Source)
In 2 Kings 5, the prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is motivated by greed and decides to lie… and pays dearly:
After Naaman had traveled some distance,
20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
21 So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked.
22 “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent[a] of silver and two sets of clothing.’”
23 “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi.
24 When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
25 When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
26 But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? 27 Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
While most of the time the result of deceit won’t be as obvious and immediate as instantaneous leprosy, lies do have a way of causing long term, chronic and often permanent damage… and sometimes, death.