29 July 2016

Bette Davis is a joy to work with


One of the (many) Joan Crawford films I have yet to see is What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), the only film Joan made with Bette Davis. Joan had always wanted to work with Bette and with Baby Jane she got her wish. Contrary to popular belief, the two actresses got along on the set. Admittedly, they didn't exactly become friends, but they were both professionals who were excited about the picture and also understood how important it was for their careers.

It wasn't until Bette received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and Joan didn't that their relationship turned sour. Bette was convinced that Joan didn't want her to win and that she was actively campaigning against her among Academy voters. It didn't help matters when Anne Bancroft won for The Miracle Worker and Joan accepted the Oscar on her behalf. (Joan had contacted the nominees beforehand, saying she would be happy to accept the Oscar for them in case they were unable to attend the ceremony; click here to watch Joan steal the show from Bette by accepting Bancroft's Oscar.) In May 1963, things got worse between the two stars when Bette and director Robert Aldrich attended the Cannes Film Festival without Joan (Bette had told Aldrich she would only attend if Joan wasn't there). Joan later threatened to take legal action against Bette and Aldrich for not being included.

By 1964, things had quieted down somewhat and Aldrich succeeded in hiring both Bette and Joan for Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, the unofficial sequel to Baby Jane. However, not long after filming had started on location in Louisiana, Joan became ill and admitted herself to a hospital. While it was later announced that Joan had pneumonia, she reportedly feigned her illness to get out of the picture. (Apparently, Bette had done her best to make life on the set difficult for Joan and Joan couldn't take it anymore.) Production was eventually suspended on 4 August, after which Aldrich began to look for Joan's replacement. Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyck were all offered the role, but declined. (Vivien Leigh supposedly said: "No, thank youI can just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis.") On 25 August 1964, Joan was finally replaced by Bette's good friend Olivia de Havilland. Joan and Bette would never work together again.

Bette Davis, studio boss Jack Warner, Joan Crawford and director Robert Aldrich pose for the press in July 1962, just days before filming on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane began.

Shown below are four short letters written by Joan Crawford in connection with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. The first letter was written to Ann Gundersen (a fan?) in which Joan mentions Baby Jane and Bette Davis, calling her co-star "a joy to work with" and "a dear human being, with a divine sense of humor". In the second letter written to a friend called Larry, Joan shares her feelings about Robert Aldrich and Bette Davis following the Cannes Film Festival incident earlier that month. (The first paragraph of that letter deals with Cliff Robertson, Joan's co-star in the 1956 Autumn Leaves.) And the third letter (to Cecil) and fourth letter (to her friend Frances Spingold) were both written in connection with Hush... Hush

____________________

source
Transcript:

August 25, 1962

Dear Ann, 

Thank you so much for your sweet letter. I am so happy you enjoyed "The Ziegfeld Touch."

Thank you too for all the nice things you had to say about my article in the Good Housekeeping Magazine. I'm so grateful to you.

"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is going along very well, and Bette Davis is a joy to work with- very professional, completely dedicated to her work; and she and I get to the Studio every morning, a half hour before our calls, just longing to get in front of that camera. She is really a dear human being, with a divine sense of humor.

Bless you.

Joan
(signed)

____________________

source


Transcript:

May 31, 1963

My dear Larry,

How wonderful it was to hear from you with such a warm, loving letter. I enjoyed the articles tremendously, and as you see, I am returning them in this envelope.

How beautifully you write, and I am so sad that you have been hurt by Cliff. You know, we were pretty good to him too, giving him "Autumn Leaves". I write him and congratulate him about "PT-109" and his television shows; and when I am in California, I write and ask him if we could see each other, and when he comes to New York, could we see each other- and I never receive a line from him. But that's life. I am sad he doesn't take care of his friends.

About the Bob Aldrich-Bette Davis treatment, well, their bitterness can only hurt them. It couldn't possibly hurt the one whom their bitterness is towards. It can only hurt them because they carry around the bitterness within their hearts, and certainly must reflect in their living and their lives. Hurt? Yes, that I am. Bitter? Never.

Thank you for your friendship and your dear letter. It made me very happy.

I am off to the West Coast in June to make a film, but all my mail is forwarded to me each day. 

Bless you, and keep that beautiful talent of yours. Nourish it and protect it. 

Joan
(signed) 

____________________

source

Transcript:

March 24, 1964

Dear Cecil,

Thank you for your nice air letter. Yes, Bette Davis and I are going to make "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" in May, probably right here in Hollywood although we may go on location in Louisiana for a short period. We are having story conferences now, and it sounds very exciting. The book was written by Henry Farrell, who wrote "Baby Jane".

I haven't seen Herb Sterne lately, but do hear from him frequently, by mail.

Bless you. Thank you again for writing.

Joan
(signed)

Above: Script meeting for Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte with Joseph Cotten, Bette Davis, Robert Aldrich and Joan Crawford.


____________________

source
Transcript:

August 12, 1964

Frances darling,

I adored your letter of August 6. It was in the newspaper that Loretta Young had been asked to replace me, but she has refused the role, so at the moment there is no replacement. It would be a blessing if they would replace me, as I must take a month's rest after I leave the hospital.

The twins are in Newsport, Rhode Island, at summer school, and they will be there only until the 22nd of this month.

What have you decided to do about the apartment? I know it would have been impossible for you to have moved during this awful heat wave.

My dearest, dearest love to you.

Joan
(signed)


All letters taken from The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia

Joan in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte before she was replaced by Olivia de Havilland

This post is my contribution to the Joan Crawford Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Check out all the other entries here.

2 comments:

  1. Even working relationships are complicated, aren't they?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not sure I believed anything in these letters, but they are beautifully written and very gracious. They're examples I can learn from. :)

    ReplyDelete