Feud Episode 6, "Hagsploitation," found Joan Crawford struggling to carry on with her career in the wake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? While she thought the film's success would give her waning career a boost, once it was done she found herself in the same situation as she was in before: being shut out of roles left and right because of her age. And while her future was looking less certain than ever, her past came back to haunt her in the form of a movie called Velvet Lips. But what is Velvet Lips on Feud?
Hedda Hopper first brought the news to Joan: apparently someone was shopping around a stag film (read: sex tape) called Velvet Lips that featured a young Joan. Despite the fact that Joan was an old friend, Hedda was ready to sell her out in a second by printing a story about the movie. Though she'd ruined more than one life with her gossipmongering, Hedda considered herself to be someone who upheld the moral fiber of Hollywood by exposing people's secrets. Especially when those secrets were particularly scandalous for the time.
Joan denied that she had anything to do with Velvet Lips, but later went directly to the source to cut the story off: she visited her brother Hal, who was the one trying to sell the film. By the episode's end, Hal had passed away, saving Joan from the immediate threat of exposure, though it wasn't clear if Hedda was going to give up the story so easily.
While the situation didn't play out quite the same way in real life, rumors of a "blue movie" followed the real Joan Crawford from the earliest days of her career. In fact, it was rumored that Crawford appeared in more than one stag film; alongside Velvet Lips, there was The Casting Couch. The alleged films never made it to the public and even their actual existence was never confirmed, but it was said that Crawford spent a hundred grand buying up every copy she could find. Another story claimed that MGM fixer Eddie Mannix was the one tasked with tracking down all the tapes. That was in the late 1920s, when Crawford's career was still starting, and the rumors followed her for years afterwards.
A popular and successful actress being dogged by rumors of a sex scandal are nothing new. If anything, Joan Crawford's story is so painfully familiar that one wonders how nothing has changed in the last century in Hollywood.