Now that Ryan Murphy has turned it into a miniseries, everyone knows just how epic, and truly nasty, the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford really was. The FX show Feud shows the later half of their rivalry, though the two Hollywood queens had been going at it for much of their career. The feud was escalated by the fact when What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was nominated for the Oscars. It didn't end well for either actress.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was the first and only movie the two women starred in together and Warner Bros. sort of cast them on purpose, using their hatred for one another for publicity. Much like Hollywood today, the rumors and gossip about what went on between Davis and Crawford was good for ticket sales. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? was nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actress. But here's the thing, out of both the big name stars, only Davis received a nomination, leaving poor Crawford out in the cold.
Crawford was totally overlooked for it. Winning awards is a big deal in Hollywood (duh), but it was even more important that year to both women, as they were getting older and starting to get looked over for roles. An Academy Award would have put the winner back in demand.
Davis didn't win that year and that should have been enough to boost her arch-nemesis' ego. But Crawford went one step further. Upon learning that she herself wasn't nominated, Crawford set out on a campaign to ensure that Davis wouldn't win. But taking away Davis' win wasn't enough. She also lobbied two other actresses to let her accept the award on their behalf, so that she would be able to take the stage, hold the Oscar, and be in all the Best Actress pictures that night. Talk about conniving, right?
Susan Sarandon told People, "“Joan went around with [actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper] and did everything she could to make sure Bette didn’t win. And Bette was counting on the Oscar to keep getting leading roles, since they had gone away."
Her plan worked, too. When Anne Bancroft was announced as the winner for The Miracle Worker in 1963, Crawford took the stage in her name and read her acceptance speech for her. “That was a big breaking point. Bette never really got over that," Sarandon added during the same People interview. It puts all the nasty things the two women said about each other over the years into perspective, huh?
In the years prior to this, though, Davis did win two Best Actress Oscars (for Jezebel and Dangerous, in 1936 and 1939, respectively) and was nominated for nine others. Crawford won in 1946 for Mildred Pierce and was nominated for two others, so her desire to make sure Davis didn't get another one sort of makes sense (if you're into the whole nemesis thing, that is). It's just a shame they spent so much time trying to tear one other down when they should've been building each other up.