Feud Episode 3: Mommie Dearest

Joan & Bette Feud
Photo Source: Nylon

This week, Feud took a step back from the on-set drama of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and instead looked into the personal lives of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as mothers.

For many years, I only knew Joan Crawford from the campy 1981 drama Mommie Dearest. The film, based on the eponymous memoir by Crawford’s daughter, Christina, which depicted Crawford as cold, uncaring and abusive. That depiction has its champions and detractors, but Feud took a more nuanced view of both Joan, and Bette, who herself was the villain in B.D.’s 1985 memoir My Mother’s Keeper.

With that theme in mind we were introduced to two of Joan’s four children – twins Cindy and Cathy. While the two are obviously teenagers, Joan seems obsessed with making sure they stay children for as long as possible. Elsewhere, Joan’s eldest daughter Christina is opening on Broadway. When Mamacita suggests Joan sign a card to send, Joan dismisses her, explaining that her mother never sent her cards or letters and it made her “tough”. Later, however, she relents, signing the card “Mommie Dearest”.

It becomes clear in the episode that Joan’s approach to parenting is more complex than her portrayal in Mommie Dearest. She is stern, but loving, and her approach seems to reflect her awful childhood – especially her abandonment by both of her parents early on – leading her to smother her children.

In contrast, Bette and B.D. continue to butt heads. Bette suggests that B.D. be given the part of the neighbor in Mary Jane to keep her out of trouble, but is distant from her daughter who struggles to excel at acting. In contrast, Bette develops a kinship with actor Victor Buono, after she recognizes his acting talent.

At the close of the episode, the filming of Jane comes to an end, but the show still has several episodes to go. As hinted at in this episode, the drama will now turn to the Oscar race, and the events surrounding the Academy Awards that turned this simmering feud into a full-on blaze.

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