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'Feud' Delivered Disappointing News To Joan Crawford

From the beginning, Feud: Bette and Joan made it clear how important What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It was a chance for them to reclaim some of their past glory, to reassert themselves as bankable stars and major talents. Earning praise from fans was important, but critical success and awards attention was even more important; it proved that all their hard work had paid off. But despite the good reviews and box office success, only Bette Davis ended up nominated for an Oscar for her work in the film. So why was Joan Crawford snubbed by the Oscars?

Part of the reason could have been the limitations on the category. Warner Brothers was pushing for both women to be nominated for Best Actress, but there were only a specific number of spots available and many performances up for the honor. It was possible that the Academy didn't want two performances from one film nominated in a single category, so Crawford just didn't make the cut. And ultimately Davis' performance was calibrated for Oscar success: her role was showier and more transformative, allowing her to outshine Crawford. All those things together conspired to result in Crawford's snub.

Despite the fact that Davis didn't win (that honor would go to Anne Bancroft for The Miracle Worker), her role was still the more attention-getting of the two. Crawford was playing a type she had played before: a beautiful (though less glamorous than usual) and tormented victim. Davis left her vanity at the door and created an indelible character who still lingers in the pop culture consciousness. Both performances were great for different reasons, but Davis was a scene-stealer. The Academy has always rewarded performances like that.

And Crawford knew it too, even though the snub still bothered her. According to the book Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine, after the nominations were announced Crawford said, "But I always knew Bette would be chosen, and I hope and pray that she wins." Davis was doubtful about the authenticity of that response, claiming Crawford campaigned against her and urged people not to vote for her (and Crawford did do everything she could to steal the spotlight on Oscar night).

The lack of her nomination highlighted one of the reasons Crawford and Davis had always been at each other's throats. Davis was regularly heralded for her artistic talents, but Crawford wasn't taken half as seriously. Despite all the work she put into her performances, she still felt dismissed. That weighed on her, and turned the Oscar snub into an even bigger disappointment.