This series continues to break my heart.
Obviously, so much of what we're watching is from the minds of the writers, because it's not claiming to be a documentary, but FEUD: Bette and Joan Season 1 Episode 3 drove home so much of what Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had in common.
If the Hollywood system of their time had given them an inch to breathe, their story could have been so much different.
Both were single mothers struggling to raise their children and find peace of mind with their decisions.
At times, their mothering was called into question and they were forced to defend themselves. Considering the lives they led, they probably weren't doing even half of what they were being accused.
BD wasn't great in the role of the neighbor girl, but neither was she terrible. She did stick out a bit in the finished film, but no more than many of the young actresses of the day.
I loved the idea that her joining the film gave Bette and Joan a reason to talk about their own childhoods, to see how the competition came to be. Bette was rather shocked to learn about Joan's upbringing...or lack thereof.
Losing her virginity at age eleven wasn't even the half of Joan's story, and it explained a lot about her couch surfing her way to the top of the Hollywood elite list. Thankfully, she had talent, so it wasn't necessary to hold too much against her.
Joan: Well in the desert that was my childhood, I was grateful for any kind of genuine affection to feel cherished.
Bette: Who was the lucky cub scout?
Joan: My mother's second husband, Henry Cassen. He was a lovely man. Meant the world to me. Well, we called him Daddy Cassen, but he wasn't really my daddy. We weren't blood relations, so it wasn't incest, but he was kind and gentle, and he loved me. I led him into it.
Bette: You were just a child. Your mother should have kicked him out!
From Bette's side, her mother gave her up to a lack-of-charm school to make money so they could live. Baths in the snow toughened up Bette, and her mother was, she believed, her only female friend for as long as she lived.
Losing her the year before filming Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? would have given the actresses the perfect opportunity to throw aside their differences and get to know each other, especially with as lonely as Joan was feeling.
For everything that has been said about Joan and her mothering skills over the years, her twins, Cathy and Cynthia, have never agreed. Joan appeared to miss them like crazy when they were away and the idea was their absence brought out the deep thoughts about life.
It was almost time for them to leave the house, for her career to be gone for good and finding another man was probably not looking all that interesting at that point. Mamacita, stoic as always, was either offended at not being included in the conversation, or we were simply meant to see her as open for the invitation.
Either way, Joan did have Mamacita, which was more than Bette had at the time, and there are a lot worse things life could lead to other than a night watching TV with Mamacita, sharing a sandwich.
After Joan and Bette talked, Joan wanted to stop the presses on Hedda's next piece on Bette. Once something hits the rumor mill, it's not stopping. Of all people to open your mouth to, Hedda Hopper wouldn't be one I'd befriend.
She's not a friend. She's a mouthpiece. A loudspeaker. At least she doesn't appear to be one who mutilates words, as if she did, they'd likely stop flowing.
But those teases between Bette and Joan, one step forward and five steps backward, only made things worse.
Ironically, making things worse also highlighted how much they had in common. With so much zeal on the attack as they filmed the rest of Baby Jane, they were laughing despite themselves. They hated every minute of it, but loved it, too.
Joan waged an all out assault on Bette, adding weights to her body and sabotaging every take so Bette had to drag her again and again from the bed. She was giggling like a little girl knowing what she was doing.
Imagine if the two were friends. Even if they still sabotaged all of their scenes together, they'd get together at the end of each day and toss back a few drinks, laughing at how they pulled one over on each other. Then they'd gripe about their kids, moan about the director and bitch about Jack Warner.
Instead, they missed out on what should have been the best time of their lives.
Bette and Joan arguing on set over who was going to be the lead and who the supporting actress for the Academy Awards was another doozy, with Joan wanting her own set of bookends while Bette assuredly thought she should have three, having been robbed by Judy Holliday in 1950.
The tone of their voices as they were arguing were perfection, and I loved hearing this as Joan was dragging herself off set:
And it was Gloria Swanson who was robbed in 1950, not YOU, bitch!Joan
It's so annoying that Jack Warner called Baby Jane a B-movie, and I hope he's still being berated wherever he is IF that's what he actually thought of the picture.
That line, "Do you mean we could have actually been friends?" just eats me up, both in the film and during "Mommie Dearest."
Forces conspired against the women even after Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? They never got over their feud, and as we are watching at this point, it's probably mid-way through.
Their careers aren't nearly finished at this point, as they do revive them. It's only going to get messier as the Oscar Nominations are announced and only one of them gets the nod. FEUD should get epic as we move along.
Their chance at friendship has set sail. What's next? What did you think of this hour and how similar (and shocking) their lives have been to date? Drop me a comment!
Don't forget, you can watch FEUD: Bette and Joan online anytime. Do it, right? It's a fantastic show. Why are you missing something about old Hollywood? We wouldn't be here if not for it.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.