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Why Did Joan Crawford & Bette Davis Hate Each Other? 'Feud' Explores Their Real-Life Drama

Ryan Murphy snagged himself yet another anthology series for FX following the success of American Crime Story entitled Feud, which aims to dramatize some of history's greatest real-life clashes. The first, eight-episode season is dedicated to the midcentury rivalry between Golden Age Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, who are played by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, respectively. But why did Joan Crawford and Bette Davis hate each other in real life? Their bad blood spanned decades.

Feud catches up with them late in their careers, chronicling their work on 1962's Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, an attempt at the time to revive both of their careers. After hugely successful film work throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Crawford and Davis were left with languishing prospects in middle age. Using their rivalry to fuel publicity, they decided to team up for the campy horror film, in which Davis played an unhinged former child star who kept her disabled sister, played by Crawford, hostage. The washed up has-been tropes in Baby Jane obviously mirrored real life, and it made life on set contentious. Davis would go on to earn an Academy Award nomination for her work on the film, but, through a series of devious events, Joan Crawford wound up on stage accepting the award.

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Basically, Crawford was so furious that Davis had garnered a nomination and she hadn't that she called up every single other nominee in the category, congratulating them on their nomination and asking if they'd be able to make it to the Oscars. Crawford then assured all the people who said they couldn't make it that she'd be honored to accept the award on their behalf if they won, getting several people to agree. Among those people was Anne Bancroft, who actually wound up beating out Davis in the category for her work on the film Miracle Worker. Not only did Davis have to deal with losing Best Actress after being favored to win, but she also had to watch her arch nemesis accept the award on behalf of the winning actress.

But Crawford and Davis' feud took root some two or three decades earlier. Joan Crawford enjoyed immense popularity on screen throughout the 1930s, but she came to Hollywood as a conventionally attractive showgirl who often banked on her looks and ability to seduce studio execs to get roles. Conversely, Bette Davis was a classically trained actor on Broadway who struggled to break into film during the same period of time. But once Crawford's film career began to decline in the late '30s, Davis' film career took off, and she was far more successful throughout the 1940s. They feuded over roles, awards, and men. Crawford's only Oscar was one she received for a role Davis had turned down. Davis had a crush on a co-star who adored working with her, Franchot Tone, so Crawford retaliated by marrying him.

It went on like this for decades, with Davis as the more talented, but brusque and less conventionally attractive actress, and Joan as the sexy starlet whose acting chops never quite measured up. Feud promises to deliver us the nexus of these events when it premieres on March 5. And with Lange and Sarandon at the helm, there's pretty much no way it'll be disappointing.