Feud: A TV series review

Reading around the blogs this year, I was excited to see positive reviews for this TV series. I imagined it would only become available here on Netflix or cable, and that I might never see it. However, the reliable BBC bought the rights, and showed it on BBC 2 recently. As it is about well-known people in historical events, spoilers do not apply.

The feud in the title refers to the relationship between two former Hollywood greats, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. Both past their best years, and unable to find work, they are finding life hard away from the spotlight, and struggling financially too. Joan Crawford sets out to find her own project, one that will give a starring role to an older woman. She buys large numbers of paperback books, reading through them until she finds the perfect story, a pulp-horror novel titled “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” She takes the idea to jobbing film director Robert Aldrich, and manages to convince him to not only direct it, but to invest heavily too.

But they need another older female lead, to play the role of Baby Jane, and he brings in Bette Davis. The two diva-like actresses have never worked together before, and their rivalry from the golden years of Hollywood soon surfaces. Aldrich also has to convince Jack Warner to allow him to use film studios, and to release the film when it is completed, not an easy task. Once filming begins, the troublesome pair soon clash, and make life difficult for everyone on set.

This is really my kind of thing. Great period feel, a wonderful cast, and that film within a film feel so familiar from the ‘old days’. Everything about this production screams ‘class’, and no expense has been spared to deliver a convincing TV drama of the highest order. Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford with some flair, and a lot of pathos too. The studio system is examined, from casting couch to double-dealing, and actors treated as disposable commodities. So too the role of the bitchy gossip columnists, with Hedda Hopper played by the brilliant Judy Davis. British actor Alfred Molina is outstanding as the struggling Aldrich, trying to juggle the wants and needs of his difficult stars, alongside the demands of the studio bosses.

Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner displays that callousness and head for profit very well, though still comes over more as Stanley Tucci most of the time. Jackie Hoffman delivers well in a supporting role, as Mamasita, Crawford’s put-upon housemaid, managing to expand that part into one of the leads. But rising above all is the exceptional Susan Sarandon. She plays Bette Davis just right. Not trying too hard to look like her, but managing to capture the very essence of that famous film star. In a cast where nobody is bad or wasted, Sarandon steals the show, just as Bette Davis did from Joan Crawford, in the real story.

This is wonderful television for anyone interested in films and cinema. But it is also just as wonderful for anyone interested in well-made drama, and fine acting. It will have its detractors, I have no doubt. But for what it’s worth, I loved it.

62 thoughts on “Feud: A TV series review

  1. Great post 🙂 I am going to start watching this show because I really like the two lead actresses and it is interesting to see these actors play these real life people of the past. I mean Sarandon, Lange, Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Robert Aldrich and Jack Warner just sounds fascinating. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous review, Pete. Thanks for leaving me a link on my post. Unfortunately, I wasn’t here when it was shown (I’m sure I would have watched it) but will make sure to catch up. I thought Susan Sarandon was a fabulous idea for Bette Davis, indeed. Thanks again.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Best to see it from the beginning, Ian. Certain threads of the story intertwine, and some characters develop through the series. Hence the title in French, ‘Engrenages’, which means gears, and the meshing of same. I don’t have Netflix, but I understand the whole thing is on there.
          Cheers, Pete.

          Like

  3. What a great cast! Normally, I don’t care much for actors playing actors because I know the actors themselves too well for the suspension of disbelief to work. But I would definitely make an exception for this film. I have the seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”…but it was a very long time ago. I do enjoy Bette Davis (and a certain MM) in “All About Eve,” which I have on DVD.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like a really fun series. I have never heard of it, so thank you for sharing this. Will try and see if I can track this down somewhere (that is if I can find some time for it, which I lately seem to have way too little of lol 😂😂).

    Liked by 2 people

          1. supremely, mightily, vastly…
            but, adverbs are overused, generally speaking, anyway. 😉
            There’s the emotional attachment to a star. Tom and I are the same age and we’ve had an audience/actor relationship since 1979. That’s longer than my marriage or any boyfriend. I am sure there are actors and actresses for whom you’ve journeyed decades with loving them from afar (or at least journeying through life with–same goes for musicians/groups).
            So you are probably right about Tom’s limited abilities, but to me, he’s my brother. I feel like I’ve known him my whole life because I have, in a weird, virtual, celluloid kind of way.

            Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I first noticed her in the remake of ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ (1981), alongside Jack Nicholson. She is very good indeed, but Sarandon tops her in this particular series, at least for me.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Like

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