feud bette and joan season 1 episode 1 recap

FEUD: Bette and Joan Premiere Recap: Did the Drama Put Stars in Your Eyes?

And you thought there was no love lost between Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie!

With the debut Sunday of his new FX anthology series FEUD, Ryan Murphy drew back the curtain on the rivalry between Bette and Joan, with (as you well know) Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford. The reviews, including TVLine’s, have been good. But did you, too, find the drama as intoxicating as a flask of 100-proof vodka? Let’s go over the events of the pilot, then you can weigh in in the poll below.

‘THESE ARE LEAN TIMES, MAMACITA’ | Bette and Joan kicked off with a glimpse at a 1976 documentary shoot, during which Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta-Jones) informed her interviewer that, although pal Davis and Crawford’s feud was one “of Biblical proportions… feuds are never about hate, feuds are about pain,” which we’d see soon — and often — enough. From there, we flashed back to the ’61 Golden Globes, where Joan, upset over Marilyn Monroe’s win, got so soused that she earned herself a morning-after visit from Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis). Joan hadn’t been drunk, she insisted. “I must have eaten something that disagreed with me.” Hedda’s guess: “Crow?”

When Joan — yesterday’s It girl — attempted to decline to comment on Marilyn — today’s It girl (ouch) — the columnist threatened to reveal that the actress, in spite of being the widow of a Pepsi exec, was in dire financial straits. How dire? Her loyal maid Mamacita, played by Broadway scene stealer Jackie Hoffman, had to remind the gardeners that, whether they were getting paid, it was still “an honor to prune Miss Crawford’s bush” — that dire. Desperate to get back to work but unwilling to play Elvis’ grandmother, Joan took her agent’s advice and pored through novels looking for a project to develop. After discovering the thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, she sent it to her Autumn Leaves director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina), whose assistant Pauline (Alison Wright) suggested that it could be another Psycho. In need of a hit himself, Bob quickly came on board. And, as it happened, Joan knew exactly who should — in fact, who had to — co-star.

feud bette and joan season 1 episode 1 recap‘THESE ARE THE PARTS OF A LIFETIME’ | Paying a visit to Bette in New York, where she was appearing in a Broadway production of The Night of the Iguana, Joan — whom her rival insisted on calling by her real name, Lucille — suggested that, since juicy parts for women in film weren’t coming along very often these days, they should team up on Baby Jane. Female roles would come back in fashion, Bette insisted. “But,” Joan retorted, “we won’t.” If Bette came on board, she could even play Baby Jane. The lead? asked Bette, incredulous. “You can call it that,” Joan said. After reading the book, Bette let Bob convince her that “this is gonna be the greatest horror movie ever made.” That is, if he could get it made. One studio wanted to cast younger actresses (Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day). Another wanted to tell the story from the P.O.V. of a sexy neighbor played by Natalie Wood.

Finally, Bob had no choice but to turn to Jack L. Warner (Stanley Tucci), whose loathing of Bette — who’d brought down the studio-contract system on his head — was possibly even greater than Joan’s. As you’d expect, the embittered studio head swore he’d never work with Davis again. In fact, he added, “her unemployment is my long-simmering revenge.” But, since TV was kicking the studio’s ass, Baby Jane was a genre TV wasn’t touching, and Bob would even pay Jack first, a deal was struck. Naturally, the press ate it up. Also naturally, it didn’t take long for things to sour. At the contract-signing, Joan noticed that Bette was getting $600/week more than her in expenses, and hit the roof. When Bob assured her that it was merely an oversight, and one he could fix, she got in his face seductively. “It’s not about the money,” she purred. “It’s about trust.” Since he wasn’t interested in a kiss, she angrily demanded $1,500.

‘SHE COULD FINALLY EXHALE’ | During another documentary interview, Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates) informed us that Crawford had continued making great movies throughout the ’50s — a rough time for broads like them in La La Land — until she’d married Pepsi bigwig Alfred Steele. For her part, Bette, crushed when offers didn’t come rolling in post-All About Eve, had miscast herself as the missus of her Eve leading man Gary Merrill (Mark Valley) when, really, she was “the one who needed a wife,” she noted. Ironically, the marriage hadn’t gone south because Gary had been bad in bed but because he had been bad on stage. “When Bette had to choose,” Blondell observed, “she always chose the professional over the private.”

Meanwhile, Joan complained incessantly to the man in her life about Bette, even blaming her nemesis for one of her failed marriages. When he wondered aloud why they weren’t friends, having as much in common as they did, Joan recalled that, after winning the Oscar for Mildred Pierce, she’d received many congratulatory notes — but not one from any of Hollywood’s bitches, and certainly not from the queen bitch. Hearing that, he realized that Joan actually admired Bette — and was he ever right. “I will have her respect,” Joan vowed, “even if I have to kill both of us to get it!”

feud bette and joan season 1 episode 1 recap‘TOGETHER AT LAST’ | On the first day of the Baby Jane shoot, Joan irritated Bette — who brought along daughter B.D. (Kiernan Shipka) — by handing out gifts to the crew. But both of the movie’s stars were nervous. When Bette caught Joan tippling in her dressing room before noon, she asked, “Got enough for two?” and they raised a glass to their team-up. Cutting through the B.S., Bette went so far as to ask Joan to do her best, because when she was good, she was great. “Oh Christ,” Bette then exclaimed upon seeing tears in Joan’s eyes, “you’re not gonna cry?” But she was. The compliment meant that much to her. However, as quickly as the truce was called, it was broken. “Lose the shoulder pads and cut back on the lipstick,” Bette told her co-star. “You’re playing a recluse who hasn’t seen the sun for 20 years, for Chrissake.”

Later, Joan pitched a fit when she spotted Bette bending Bob’s ear about her look, and the director begged Davis to let him handle Crawford carefully. They hadn’t even worked out Bette’s Baby Jane drag yet, for crying out loud. By the time the cameras rolled, Joan’s look had been toned down significantly, and she basked in the praise she received from Bob after playing her first scene. “I’m just getting warmed up,” she said, relieved. At the same time, Bette shocked B.D. with the extreme look she’d developed for her own character. “Christ,” gasped Joan upon getting a gander at Bette in costume, “she can’t be serious.” Of course, not only was Bette serious, her daring was applauded — literally — by Bob and the crew.

‘WELCOME TO THE HOUSE THAT FEAR BUILT’ | Watching dailies, Joan worried aloud about how unnecessarily harsh the lighting was on her. Finally, she could stand to see no more and left. Bette, for all of her bravery on the set, had difficulty watching, too. She wiped away tears after the scene unspooled in which Baby Jane reacted in horror to her own reflection. Then, as Episode 1 drew to a close, the “Hudson sisters” arrived at Hedda’s for a party, only to discover that they were to be the only guests. In spite of the ambush — and because of the free-flowing vodka — the gossipmonger was hoping that Bette and Joan would dish on one another. Instead, to Hedda’s chagrin, the actresses kept their claws retracted. For the moment, at least.

So, what did you think of the premiere of Bette and Joan? Are you digging Sarandon and Lange as Davis and Crawford? Vote in the poll below, then hit the comments with your review.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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41 Comments
  1. Sarah says:

    Loved it!

  2. Joey says:

    I have a huge hankering for a Pepsi-cola.

  3. Ron says:

    I feel like this is something I could get in to. And usually I don’t get all in my feelings. But right now, I’m all in my feelings–and by that I mean I really can’t tolerate Susan Sarandon right now as a person, thus that prevented me from watching. Usually I can put that kind of stuff aside and just enjoy good art. I’m shamefully struggling to do that right now, though. Maybe if I continue to hear good things about it, I’ll put my big boy undies on and get over myself and just watch it.

    • Haz says:

      That’s exactly why I wish celebrities would shut up about politics. It puts me off when they go on and on about it in interviews or at awards ceremonies. I wish they would limit their opinions to Twitter. Part of the reason I dropped Mysteries of Laura last year was because of Debra Messings approach to politics. I could not see past her to enjoy the character she was playing anymore.

      • DV says:

        That’s your problem. Not theirs. Most people have enough sense to separate the two and just enjoy a good show.

        • Mary says:

          Thank you. One really has nothing to do with the other. It speaks volume about themselves and it must be tough because I guess they have no friends with opposite views. Oh well it is their lost.

      • nate says:

        i dont understand this whole thing about peoples issues with celebs talking about politics. they are people just like you are, the voted just like i presume you did. whats the problem? its ok for you talk about it but not them just because they’re movie stars?

        • Ron says:

          I do want to clarify something. I have no problem with celebs talking about politics. I have the same thought as you: they are just as much American citizens as I am. And I believed in Bernie’s message just like Sarandon. So it’s not even that we’re on different sides of the aisle. My problem with her was the reason she had so much disdain for Hillary and wouldn’t say Trump would be/is worse than Hillary. The long and short is I saw an online interview where she basically said she recommended advice to Hillary while she was Sec of State, but that Hillary did the opposite of what she (Sarandon) told her to do. It came off as ridiculously insane that she felt she had any room to imply that the US’s top diplomat should listen to her. Having a different approach to it is fine. Disagreeing greatly on it is fine. But her pretentiousness on the matter was so off putting. Again, I admit I’m ashamed of myself that I can’t put that aside, as I’m usually really good with that kind of stuff. And yet…

          • Kim says:

            I get you Ron. I get you. I still watched though. This cast has me starstruck and I will always give anything by Ryan Murphy a chance. Lange far makes up for Sarandon for me.

          • A says:

            I actually relate to your feelings Ron. I have some Susan Sarandon “issues” too due to some of her political comments. But she really is great in this. It’s worth watching. I’d give it a shot. You’ll enjoy it :)

          • M. D. Cohen says:

            I understand, Ron. I actually loathe Sarandon because of her public pronouncements right before the election. For an obscenely rich movie star to make such idiotic statements about the country from her know-nothing bubble and knowing that she probably swayed some uninformed voters still bugs me. But…I admit I watched the pilot. I enjoyed it and may watch more! I really do know where you’re coming from though, in this case.

          • Collette says:

            Human nature is what makes us recoil from something that appears fine but we know is repugnant or distasteful to us on the inside. I’ve had to write off Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and several others due to their beliefs/loyalties.

          • Mary says:

            @Collette, so you only associate with people who has your beliefs like you do. Your choice but I would say it is narrow minded.

          • Collette says:

            @ Mary I don’t “associate” with any of the people I mentioned because I don’t know them. I just don’t spend time or money supporting any of their projects. As for my personal associations, yes to a degree I avoid people whose convictions are diametrically opposed to mine. In a business situation I will try to find common ground within those narrow perimeters, but would not befriend them.

  4. fernando933 says:

    Jessica Lange did amazing as Joan. She was the star of the hour.

  5. Zeta says:

    Can I rate it higher than an A?

    • Garbo says:

      Right ? This was, to me at least, the best thing Ryan Murphy has ever done, very close second is OJ, in third place is the gone-too-soon cult POPULAR. Yes, I don’t much care for his “big” hits (GLEE, AHS).

      P.S. I hope he will secure a Knightley/Cumberbatch reunion for the second season of Feud. They would be perfect for Diana/Charles : British, right age, right look, talented and committed enough to pull off playing such iconic characters.

  6. BrightLight says:

    This was everything I didn’t know I needed and I hate that I have to wait a week for more.

  7. TV Gord says:

    I wish I could see more Bette in the character of Bette. Susan was just playing Susan.

    • The Beach says:

      My thoughts exactly. Bette had such a distinctive and over-the-top way of speaking and moving. I wish Sarandon had given me more “Bette”.

  8. California love says:

    So good both women were mean witches….love it !!!

  9. A says:

    Loved it and cannot wait for more. I’m blown away by this cast: Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Judy Davis, Kathy Bates, etc All wonderful. This is a real treat.

  10. Jared says:

    Amazing pilot! I love anything old Hollywood and Jessica and Susan never disappoint.

  11. Andrew says:

    I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would.

    The only parts I liked were the ones on the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? set, but that’s not saying much. When compared to the actual scenes from the film, the reenactments were embarrassingly over the top/exaggerated. Susan Sarandon looked good as Jane Hudson, though.

    The rest of it was just odd, like Crawford having a maid named “Mamacita” and a liquor cabinet/ice chest underneath her bathroom sink stocked with vodka…?

    Other things they showed didn’t even match up with actual facts, like Crawford being shocked by Davis’s makeup choice for Jane. In reality, Crawford actually told Davis she “got it right” (or something like that).

    Neither actress did much to sound like the people they were supposed to be portraying, either, as both actresses had distinct accents in real life.

    I don’t know. I’ll watch it for the reenactments from the actual film, but that’s about it. Maybe it’ll get better.

    • Nick says:

      I felt the same way Andrew. I was expecting to like it much more than I did. I am glad that TMC was playing the original movie “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” this weekend. I hadn’t seen it before and watching it certainly heightened my interest in this show. I will continue to watch but not with the same enthusiasm.

    • Antwon303 says:

      Perhaps you should do your homework before labeling something as inauthentic. It seems that Ryan and his team did. The made named Mamacita, the plastic on the furniture and the fridge in the bathroom stocked with vodka and lemons were all validated.sir. Please see link below:

      http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/03/feud-joan-crawford

    • Antwon303 says:

      I did a reply with a link and I guess the mods deleted it. All you have to do is Google and you will see that what was shown in the pilot is legit…including the maid named Mamacita and the fridge in the bathroom

  12. me says:

    Guess I was the only one who thought it was boring…

    • ravynrobyn says:

      No you’re not! Although I’ll keep watching, I found it rather flat.

    • Nan says:

      It was boring the only reason I kept watching was for the baby jane scenes….but I did find the acting superb…I amy watch another one to see if it gets better.

    • Ray says:

      Nope, I was quite bored as well. It took me two days and five hours to get through the episode…with fast forwarding. Will not be returning for seconds.

  13. Mike says:

    The episode felt overwritten, and I wasn’t rooting for anyone. I really dislike the interview portions– they’re basically just an information dump with a lot of exposition. Hopefully, it’s only the pilot that feels like this.

    • Antwon303 says:

      Every show doesn’t contain someone to root for. Both women were victims as well as petty. The ego is a powerful thing. They were not Krystle and Alexis. There will not be a Lilly pond fight lol

  14. Alex says:

    It was not good at all. Just like all the previous Ryan Murphy’s shows combined, predictable and boring. I bet they even re-used the costumes from AHS, and sorry for Jessica Lange who just keeps on playing her characters from that series :(

  15. Tony says:

    I was surprised that Jessica Lange just seems so wrong for the part of Joan Crawford, whereas Susan Sarandon stole the show as Davis. Sarandon didn’t try hard and played it as straight as possible; scene-chewer Lange was playing a Murphy diva from AHS.

    I lost interest by the end … camp is camp and can just hold my interest for so long.

  16. Chanell Lauxman says:

    I thought Jessica Lange was awesome as joan Crawford but Susan did not hold a light to Betty Davis

  17. Jackie says:

    Anybody else notice that Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford bears a striking resemblance to Caitlyn Jenner?

  18. Rebs says:

    Super entertaining and something different. Celebrating times gone by in a most fun way.