'Feud': A Closer Look at the 1963 Best Actress Oscar Race

THR revisits the historic Academy Awards in advance of Sunday's big episode.
Courtesy of Suzanne Tenner/FX

And the 1963 Oscar goes to …

It’s easy for viewers to look up the award-winning fates of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford following the making of their one and only film together, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. The 1963 ceremony, however — and more specifically the race for best actress — is a huge culminating point in Ryan Murphy’s anthology series Feud, and is examined in full in Sunday’s latest installment of the FX series, “And the Winner Is ... (The Oscars of 1963).”

As audiences recall from last week’s cliffhanger ending, Crawford (Jessica Lange) was snubbed for her work in the film while Davis (Susan Sarandon) was deemed a shoo-in to win following her "brave" choice of costume and makeup in the role of Baby Jane Hudson. For both actresses, winning that award meant everything, since it was the validation they needed to justify their ongoing careers with the studios; without that trophy they might as well have been just as washed up as everyone thought.

So when Crawford was snubbed, she made it her personal mission to make sure that her rival Davis didn’t win, and took the entire feud one step further by asking the other female nominees in the category if she could accept on their behalf should their names be called. Meanwhile, Crawford also ensured she would be at the show that year, demanding to present one of the more prestigious categories (she handed the best director statue to David Lean for Lawrence of Arabia) and turning the green room into her own private party.

It was a drama to rival this year's #EnvelopeGate, to be sure.

In advance of Sunday night's episode, THR revisited the best actress nominees from that year.

Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Davis’ take on Baby Jane Hudson included a padded nightgown to make her appear plumper than she was and heavy makeup inspired by the image of a washed-up movie star. Both were considered bold choices in an era when actresses wanted to always appear in the best light. The fact that Baby Jane was another villainous role meant most industry insiders thought Davis would win, especially after her loss for her role in Of Human Bondage, which garnered her a write-in nomination.

Katharine Hepburn, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Despite winning her very first nomination in 1934 for Morning Glory, Hepburn had amassed a string of seven follow-up Academy Award losses by 1963. Considering that she long boycotted the ceremony itself, no one actually expected her to win for her the matriarchal role of Mary Tyrone in the film inspired by the play from Eugene O’Neill.

Geraldine Page, Sweet Bird of Youth

This marked the third nomination for the up-and-coming actress, and some insiders felt her third time might be the charm. The actress’ take as aging actress Alexandra Del Lago in the film based on Tennessee Williams’ work garnered plenty of critical acclaim. For Crawford, however, the story may have hit a little too close to home. 

Lee Remick, Days of Wine and Roses

Although Lee Remick was hailed as one of the most versatile actresses of her time, 1963 was the only year she was ever nominated for an Academy Award. Heading into the big night, she was considered an underdog to win for her boozy take on Kirsten Arnesen Clay.

Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker

Many thought it would take an actual miracle for thespian Anne Bancroft to win over Bette Davis, but she was a strong candidate in the close race. Her biographical take on Anne Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen Keller how to communicate, was heartwarming to say the least.

Feud: Bette and Joan airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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