Feud/FX

8 Great Old Hollywood Feuds To Rival Bette And Joan

"Miss Davis was always partial to covering up her face in motion pictures. She called it 'art.' Others might call it camouflage.

Tonight is the premiere of FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, which sees Ryan Murphy chronicling the legendary beef that developed between screen greats Bette Davis and Joan Crawford while making What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?.

FEUD -- Pictured: (l-r) Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
R: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Some elements of their feud are undoubtedly apocryphal, but when Davis got a nominated for an Oscar, Crawford contacted the other nominees and offered to accept on their behalf. She ended up accepting the award for The Miracle Worker’s Anne Bancroft, who was in a play in New York at a time.

circa 1962:  Left to right: American actor Bette Davis (1908 - 1989), Canadian movie producer Jack L Warner (1892 - 1978), and American actor Joan Crawford (1904 - 1977) pose for a photo. Both actors starred together in the Warner Brothers' film 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?' in 1962.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archives/Getty Images

“It would have meant a million more dollars to our film if I had won,” Davis once remarked. “Joan was thrilled I hadn’t.”

While Feud’s next season will focus on the royal rift between Charles and Diana, we have other ideas for Murphy and Co. Here are eight feuds from the golden age of Hollywood that are just ripe for the retelling.

  1. Olivia de Havilland vs. Joan Fontaine

    Joan Fontaine and sister Olivia de Havilland during Marlene Dietrich's Opening Party - September 9, 1967 at Rainbow Room in New York City, NY, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
    Ron Galella/WireImage

    The de Havilland sisters were both Hollywood royalty: Olivia is best known for playing frail Melanie Wilkes in Gone With The Wind, as well as leading roles in The Heiress and The Adventures of Robin Hood. Joan, meanwhile gained acclaim in films like Suspicion, The Women and, of course, Rebecca.

    Their sibling rivalry began in childhood, with Joan believing their mother, British actress Lilian Fontaine, favored Olivia. (Lilian even refused to let Joan use the family name in show business.) It crystalized after Fontaine won an Academy for Suspicion over de Havilland’s performance in Hold Back the Dawn.

    Actress Olivia de Havilland (right) plays cards with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, circa 1945. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
    Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

    Age didn’t soften their spat: Olivia even neglected to invite Joan to Lilian’s memorial service. In the end, Olivia, who turned 100 last year, achieved victory–inasmuch as she outlived Joan, who died in 2013.

  2. Bette Davis vs. Tallulah Bankhead

    Talullah Bankhead Bette Davis
    STF/AFP/Getty Images; General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

    Animosity developed between the two camp icons when Davis snagged the lead in the 1941 film adaptation of The Little Foxes, which had given Bankhead one of her greatest stage triumphs.

    William Grimes/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    It escalated when Bankhead accused Davis of imitating her look, mannerisms and speaking voice in All About Eve, which she referred to as “All About Me.”

    “Don’t think I don’t know who’s been spreading gossip about me,” Bankhead once supposedly remarked. “After all the nice things I’ve said about that hag. When I get hold of her, I’ll tear out every hair of her mustache!”

  3. Orson Welles vs. William Randolph Hearst

    CITIZEN KANE william randolph hearst orson welles
    Getty

    The trailblazing actor-director was just 24 when he ignited Hearst’s fury with the 1941 film Citizen Kane, inspired by the newspaper mogul’s real life. Hearst felt the film ridiculed his longtime mistress, Marion Davies, and even tried to purchase and burn all prints of the film. He refused to run ads for it in his papers and his defenders intimidated exhibitors with threats of blackmail, bad press and FBI investigations if they screened the film. Their efforts were largely successful: It took nearly a quarter-century for Kane to receive the critical and public acclaim it now receives.

    “Hearst and Welles were proud, gifted, and destructive—geniuses each in his way,” said producer Thomas Lennon. “The fight that ruined them both was thoroughly in character with how they’d lived their lives.”

  4. Marilyn Monroe vs. Laurence Olivier

    Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe looking at each other in a scene from the film 'The Prince And The Showgirl', 1957. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
    Warner Brothers/Getty Images

    Monroe tapped Olivier, considered the greatest actor of his time, to direct and costar in her 1957 flop The Prince and the Showgirl. The notoriously undisciplined Monroe infuriated the acclaimed thespian with her chronic lateness and inability to remember her lines or her marks. Costar Jean Kent lamented Olivier “must have aged at least 15 years during the making of that film,” while cinematographer Jack Cardiff said Monroe felt Olivier was “a pain in the arse.” (Reportedly, she never forgave him for giving her the direction to “try and be sexy.”)

    14th July 1956: American film star Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Mortenson or Norma Jean Baker, 1926 - 1962) with her husband Arthur Miller being greeted by Sir Laurence Olivier (1907 - 1989) and his wife Vivien Leigh (1913 - 1967) (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
    Central Press/Getty Images

    A romanticized version of the making of The Prince and the Showgirl was recounted in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn.

  5. Elizabeth Taylor vs. Debbie Reynolds

    1958: American singer Eddie Fisher, wearing a tuxedo, stands with arm around his wife, American actor Debbie Reynolds (R) and smiles while looking at British-born actor Elizabeth Taylor, smoking a cigarette, Las Vegas, Nevada. The next year Fisher left Reynolds and married Taylor. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    The two actresses were close starlet pals on the MGM lot and Reynolds served as matron of honor at Taylor’s wedding to film producer Mike Todd. Todd, in turn, was something of a surrogate brother to Reynolds’ husband, Eddie Fisher.

    When Todd died suddenly in a plane crash, Fisher rushed to Taylor’s side to comfort her—”with his penis,” as his daughter Carrie Fisher put it. Reynolds was left to raise their two children alone, and didn’t see Taylor until years later when she had dumped Fisher for Richard Burton. Bumping into each other on a cruise, the former friends decided to bury the hatchet over dinner.

    Elizabeth Taylor Debbie Reynolds
    These Old Broads/ABC/Sony Pictures Television

    Many years later, the two appeared together in the 2001 TV movie These Old Broads, alongside Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins.

  6. Shelley Winters vs. Frank Sinatra

    Frank Sinatra embraces Shelley Winters in a scene from the film 'Meet Danny Wilson', 1951. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images)
    Universal Pictures/Getty Images

    Winters was a, shall we say, “friendly” sort who had affairs with nearly every heterosexual leading man in Hollywood—except for Sinatra. Winters’ blowsy sex appeal was lost on the legendary crooner when they costarred in the 1952 rom-com Meet Danny Wilson.

    American actress Shelley Winters (1920 - 2006) tends to Frank Sinatra's bruised jaw in a scene from the film 'Meet Danny Wilson', 1951. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
    Universal Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images
    Ol’ Blue Eyes referred to Winters as a “bow-legged bitch of a Brooklyn blonde,” while she labeled him a “skinny, no-talent, stupid Hoboken bastard.”

    Tell us what you really think, guys.

  7. Vivian Vance vs. William Frawley

    The cast of 'I Love Lucy,' 1956. From left, American actors Lucille Ball (1911 - 1989), Vivian Vance (1909 -1979), William Frawley (1887 - 1966), and Cuban-born Desi Arnaz (1917 - 1986). (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
    CBS Photo Archive/Getty

    As Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy, the chemistry between Vance and Frawley was so strong they rank among TV’s all-time favorite sidekicks. Off-screen, however, Vance and Frawley loathed one another. She was appalled that Frawley, 22 years her senior, was cast as her husband. And Frawley reportedly overheard Vance call him “old coot” behind his back, and never forgave her.

    LOS ANGELES,CA - MARCH 7,1955: Actress Vivian Vance poses with co star William Frawley during the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles,CA. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
    Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

    Frawley was known to have a drinking problem and a temper—he was once fired for punching another actor in the nose—though he was always professional on Lucy. Still, their relationship was extremely contentious: “She’s one of the finest girls to come out of Kansas,” he once remarked of Vance, “But I often wish she’d go back there.”

    Vance had such a distaste for him, she put the kibosh on a planned Fred and Ethel spinoff. When Frawley died in 1966, it’s rumored she said, “Champagne for everyone!”

  8. Faye Dunaway vs. Roman Polanski

    1974: The actress Faye Dunaway taking instructions from director Roman Polanski on the set of 'Chinatown'. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
    Keystone/Getty Images

    The infamously “difficult” actress gave one of her most indelible performances as a femme fatale in the 1974 noir Chinatown, but director Polanski was notoriously exacting. (When he felt a stray hair from Dunaway’s head was ruining his shot, he plucked it from her scalp without asking.)

    Jack Nicholson sitting at outside table with Faye Dunaway in a scene from the film 'Chinatown', 1974. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
    Paramount/Getty Images

    It only got worse from there: Once, Dunaway asked Polanski what her motivation for a particular scene was, and he replied “your paycheck.” Still, she has consistently—and furiously—denied the longstanding rumor she tossed a cup of urine at him at the end of a long scene after he refused her request for a bathroom break.

Jeremy Kinser is a pop culture writer based in Los Angeles, where he once crashed the Golden Globes. His role model is Patsy Stone.