'Feud': A Timeline of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford's Infamous Rivalry

Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. Kanye West and Taylor Swift. Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell (and now pretty much everyone). Hollywood feuds have been around for decades; certainly as long as there’s been an actual Tinseltown, at any rate. So it was only a matter of time before someone capitalized on the subject matter.

Ryan Murphy’s latest anthology series, FX's Feud, tackles the infamous decadeslong rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis before, during and after the filming of their 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. The eight-episode drama stars Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon in the respective roles of Crawford and Davis. The star-studded cast also includes Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich, Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper, Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland as well as longtime Murphy collaborators Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson as Joan Blondell and Geraldine Page, respectively, while Mad Men grad Kiernan Shipka plays Davis’ daughter B.D. Hyman.

With Feud's premiere a month away (March 5, to be exact), THR offers a crash-course timeline of the important events surrounding Crawford and Davis' iconic feud.

1935: Dangerous hits theaters

Davis and Franchot Tone headlined the flick about a rehabilitated, alcoholic actress who was said to be a jinx. During filming, Davis fell hard for Tone, but he had eyes for Crawford instead … especially when she allegedly invited him over to her place and greeted him — naked. The pair eventually married, sparking Davis' jealousy. 

1936: Davis wins her first Oscar

It seemed as though Tone and Davis had inevitable chemistry in Dangerous, since Davis wound up winning an Academy Award for the role. Obviously Crawford, who hadn’t yet even been nominated for an Oscar, took note.

1939: Davis wins her second Oscar

Davis may have been the bigger winner in the long run, as Tone and Crawford divorced the same year that she won her second Academy Award, this time for her role as Southern Belle Julie Marsden in Jezebel. Interestingly, she claimed to have also given the statue his famous Oscar moniker, claiming that its rear end resembled that of her husband’s (Harmon Oscar Nelson).

1945: Crawford wins her first Oscar

By this time, Crawford and Davis were both under contract with Warner Bros. (Crawford had separated from MGM), and both were at some point in consideration for the title role in Mildred Pierce. Crawford eventually landed the role when Davis turned it down, leading to her first Academy Award win. Davis, who was hungry for an Oscar trifecta, likely regretted the decision down the line.

1960: Henry Farrell releases What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Fresh off the 1959 release of The Hostage, the scribe followed up his inaugural novel with this gothic horror novel revolving around two aging sisters who grew up in the limelight. Around the same time, roles seemed to be drying up for Crawford and Davis; Crawford had starred in a number of failed TV pilots and Davis was back on Broadway.

1961: Crawford approaches Davis about Baby Jane

Director Robert Aldrich had agreed to take on a movie version of the novel, but both he and Crawford agreed they needed extra star power for the role of Jane. Crawford said she had always wanted to work with Davis, so she approached her one night after a performance of The Night of the Iguana on Broadway. Davis later agreed to tackle the role, but only after Aldrich assured her that there had been no sexual relationship between himself and Crawford, who was rumored to be quite liberal with her directors in bed. 

1962: Baby Jane goes into production

From the outset, rumors of Davis and Crawford not playing nice on set ensued. Whether it was legit or to garner interest in the film remains between them, but reports of Davis kicking Crawford in the head and of Crawford filling her pockets with rocks during a scene in which Davis had to drag her are just some of the stories that surfaced.

September 1962: Davis takes out ads in the trades

Davis, who was known to take risks with her roles, and Crawford, who embraced classic Hollywood values and looks, always approached their craft from different angles. But Davis’ classic ad in the trades just a month before Baby Jane’s release undoubtedly only added to the friction between the two:

"Mother of three — 10, 11 and 15. Divorcee. American. Thirty years experience as an actress in motion pictures. Mobile still and more affable than rumor would have it. Wants steady employment in Hollywood (has had Broadway). BETTE DAVIS, c/o Martin Baum, GAC.”

1963: Academy Award nominations are unveiled

Crawford’s biggest slight came when the nominations for best actress were released and Davis earned a nom but Crawford did not. (The film itself received five nominations, including one for supporting actor Victor Buono.) Crawford then approached all of the nominees for best actress and offered to accept their award on their behalf should they win and be unable to attend.

April 1963: Anne Bancroft wins the Oscar

Fittingly, the one person who was unable to attend the show — Anne Bancroft — won for her work in The Miracle Worker. Not only was Davis upset about not winning when so many predicted that she would, but she also later accused Crawford of campaigning against her. Unfortunately for the actress, it was her 11th and final time to ever be nominated.

1964: Production on Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte begins

Given the success of Baby Jane it didn’t take long for talk of a follow-up project reuniting the actresses and director Aldrich to get going. The film was also based on a story from Farrell (What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte) but Davis would only do it if the title was sufficiently changed to not sound like a sequel. But the tension between the actresses grew again when Crawford had a cooler of Pepsi products delivered to set (she was on the board of her late husband Alfred Steele’s Pepsi Cola Co.), and Davis responded by installing a Coke machine. Eventually Crawford took a medical leave from production (Davis was convinced she was faking it and hired a PI to follow her), and exited shortly thereafter. Davis’ friend, Olivia de Havilland replaced her.

1977: Crawford dies

The feud officially came to an end when Crawford passed away on May 10, 1977, from a heart attack in her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. Upon hearing the news, Davis supposedly held on to her grudge until the very end, reportedly commenting, “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good … Joan Crawford is dead Good.”

Feud: Bette and Joan premieres March 5 on FX. Are you planning to go along for the ride? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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