Kurt Iswarienko/FX

B.D.'s Initials May Have Some 'Feud' Fans Curious

by Megan Walsh

Screen legend Bette Davis was mother to three children from two of her four marriages: she had a biological daughter named B.D. with her third husband, artist William Grant Sherry, and then adopted two children named Margot and Michael with her fourth husband, actor Gary Merrill. B.D. makes multiple appearances in the upcoming series Feud (played by Kiernan Shipka) because she had a small part in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the filming of which is integral to the series. It's unclear whether the show will touch on B.D.'s tense relationship with her mother, but before getting into all that, you might be wondering: what does B.D. stand for on Feud?

B.D. was born Barbara Davis Sherry, a nod to her mother's surname that conveniently also gave the two women the same initials. B.D.'s last name was changed to Merrill when her mother remarried and her stepfather adopted her, and she was credited as Barbara Merrill in Baby Jane. Upon her marriage at age 16 to Jeremy Hyman (who was 13 years older than her), her surname changed again; still married today, she goes by B.D. Hyman. She is currently an author and an evangelical pastor. Though she primarily writes about her religion, she received a lot of attention for a memoir she wrote in 1985 about life with her famous mother that painted Davis in a less than favorable light.

Hyman's memoir, called My Mother's Keeper, depicted Davis as an abusive alcoholic who often left Hyman at the mercy of her similarly abusive husband Merrill. She made all kinds of allegations about Davis, including that she would fake suicide attempts to punish Hyman and also treated her like an adult by the time she was 11, even pushing her to date men much older than her. Hyman's accounts were disputed by her brother Michael and by Davis herself in her own memoir, This 'N That.

Hyman insisted that the book was not an attempt to denigrate her mother, but to reach out to her. "I could have written the manuscript and sent it to Mother and not published it," she told People in 1985 following the book's release. "She wouldn't have read it. She won't listen to anything she doesn't want to hear. She hangs up the phone or walks out the door. So I went the only route I felt would reach her: the public forum. What is seen by the world is the most important thing to Mother. This is essentially a public letter to my mother."

Whatever the truth may be, their relationship never recovered and they were estranged at the time of Davis' death. I'm sure those familiar with the duo's history will be interested to see how it is portrayed on the small screen.