Monday, July 16, 2012

Battle Royale #3: Battle of the Tinsel Town Bitches

Welcome to the third Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

For our third edition, we are going the bitchy route.  Pitting perennial arch-rivals against each other in what is sure to be the doggiest of dogfights - and these ladies are pit bulls indeed.  In the first corner is Ruth Elizabeth Davis, better known as Bette.  Hailing from Lowell Mass., Bette was a headstrong woman in a male dominated world.  A tireless campaigner of equality for women in Hollywood, co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen and a crusader for the war effort - not to mention, one hell of an actor - Bette was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  She was winner of two Academy Awards and the first person to receive double digits in nominations.  Of course she was also what one might call a thorn in the proverbial sides of the old studio system, but the thing she hated more than anything else (one presumes here) was the lady standing on the opposite side of our Battle Royale ring.

Born Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, the woman better known by her stage name of Joan Crawford, was one of the few women in Hollywood that could match Davis blow for blow in demanding equality for women in the business.  Starting out in flapper roles in the precode days before "graduating" to more prestigious roles - one of which, Mildred Pierce, would win her an Oscar - Joan, like Bette, was also a crusader for the war effort, and she too was a thorn in the sides of the studios.  She was so much a thorn that it pretty much destroyed her career before she pulled herself back up to the top, only to see it collapse once again.  Joan, it would come out much later, was also a thorn in private life.  Not one to win any mother of the year awards (though the stories may be exaggerated for dramatic flair) Joan is now looked upon just as much for her homelife antics (watch out for those wire hangers) as she was for her stellar acting - perhaps, sadly enough, even more so.

Now while Davis' career would slow down in her old age, Crawford's would train wreck by the sad end.  Her final film was the b-horror thing known as Trog.  But it is not necessarily the careers of these two powerful actresses that we are here to discuss today.  It is the tabloid-esque duel in the sun that these two powerful women had going for years.  This historic rivalry would come to a head in the one and only film these two women did together - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.   The in-fighting on this production was quite legendary.  From Davis kicking Crawford so hard she needed stitches to Crawford putting weights in her clothes for a scene where Davis had to drag her body around, resulting in Davis having back spasms, these two simply hated each other.   Davis even said of her costar, "The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"  Davis also said of Crawford "I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire." Obviously theirs was not a friendly relationship.  Rivals from early on, these actresses competed for many of the same roles, though Davis always considered herself above Joan, calling Crawford a movie star while she herself was the true actor.  Crawford went so far as to attempt a sabotage of the Academy Awards.  When Davis was nominated for Baby Jane and Crawford was not, Joan was furious.  She actually persuaded the other nominated actresses to allow her to accept their Oscar if they could not be there.  When Anne Bancroft was declared the winner for her work in The Miracle Worker, Joan triumphantly pushed her way past Davis saying "Step aside!", and swept onstage to pick up the trophy.  The two rivals were meant to do a follow-up to Baby Jane, called Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but after a few days, Crawford backed out due to illness.  It is probably a good thing though because one of them may have ended up dead by the end of production.

So whether your choice is Bette Davis, of whom Crawford said, "Bette and I work differently. Bette screams and I knit. While she screamed, I knitted a scarf that stretched clear to Malibu.", or Joan Crawford, of whom Bette quipped, "She has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie." - it is time to vote for your favourite Tinsel Town Bitch.  You can vote for whom you believe to be the better actor or you can vote for the one you think would win in a fight.  The point is to vote vote vote.  You will have three weeks to get your vote in before we announce the bruised and bloody victor.  And please remember that you can make as many comments below as you wish (and please feel free to do so) but in order for your vote to be counted, you must go and click on your choice in the poll at the top of the sidebar. Allow me to close with yet another Davis quip about Crawford.  This one came shorty after Crawford's death.  "You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good."  Now get over there and vote.


Jeffrey Anderson said...

I don't know... I'm voting for Joan because she was campier and her movies were more fun ("The Unknown," "Johnny Guitar," "Strait-Jacket," etc.), although I concede that Bette was a better actress.

Kevyn Knox said...

My sentiments exactly!

Dave Enkosky said...

Holy crap, I love that Bette Davis Jim Beam ad.

Kevyn Knox said...

I tried to find a Joan ad to match it, but none seemed to equal it (a Chesterfield ad was the closest, but nothing as campy/cool as Jim Beam), so I went with a crazy-eyed young and Untamed Joan publicity still. Of course a shot with her holding an axe from Straight Jacket would have worked too.

Katie said...

Bette was a funny bitch and Joan was a mean bitch..and a bit odd. Case closed!