NASTIEST feud EVER as BETTE DAVIS & JOAN CRAWFORD clawed at each other both ON and OFF screen in the most celebrated catfight in all Tinsel Town!
After years of unrelenting contempt Davis and Crawford tapped into their mutual hatred in the 1962 horror hit “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
In the classic psycho thriller, Bette as Baby Jane Hudson, a washed up child star, believing she ran down sister Joan in her car, after a boozy night out, torments her crippled, wheelchair bound sister. Not content to play mind games, Bette flings her down a flight of stairs and serves up steaming dead rat ala carte.
During one helIacious sequence, Bette cracked Joan in the head, requiring three stitches for the cowed Crawford. Despite this “accident,” the two publicly denied any feud with Davis perpetuating this claim even after Joan’s death.
According to Bette, the supposed rivalry was a product of the Hollywood PR machine to boost film attendance.
Yet, privately, Bette scorned Joan for decades for stealing her man. Two years before her death, she revealed her secret love 54 years prior for Joan’s future husband, Franchot Tone.
“She took him from me,” Davis admitted bitterly in an interview. “She did it coldly, deliberately and with complete ruthlessness. I have never forgiven her for that and never will.”
In 1935, Warner Bros. had cast Bette in the tear-jerker, “Dangerous” with Tone.
The then- married Bette fell hard for the Cornell grad heartthrob. Her current marriage was already a failure with divorce pending.
The only obstacle to Bette nailing Tone? Who else but MGM’s resident sex siren – Joan — herself recently divorced from swashbuckling scion Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
But Joan got her claws in Tone first, as he then quickly became Joan’s second husband during the shooting of his film with Davis “Dangerous”. Battling Bette got some “minor” payback though –her very first Oscar.
Bitter Bette, a classically trained thesp, reportedly felt that Joan’s success in Hollywood was based solely on her looks and libidinous appetite. There were whispers that, Joan had slept her way to the top bedding everyone but Lassie to advance her star power. Famed femme stars Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Barbara Stanwyck were said to have succumbed to Crawford’s ravenous appetite as well.
There were rumors that Joan even wanted to bed the singularly hetero Bette as well – just to take her hated rival down a notch.
In the mid 1940’s, Joan moved from Metro to Bette’s home turf at Warner Bros. and promptly garnered an Oscar for her over-the-top perf as “Mildred Pierce.”
But it wasn’t until two decades later, that their hatred for one another exploded on-screen in “Baby Jane” with Joan giving the masochistic performance of her life but only Bette got an Oscar nod for her wild-haired homicidal kook.
The film revived both the flagging star’s careers propelling them both into solo horror flicks – “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” featured Bette as a supposed axe-wielding maniac while Joan teamed with mayhem maestro William Castle for “Strait-Jacket!”
Behind closed doors, however, their feud over Franchot Tone re-ignited in 1968 when the chain smoking lothario was dying from lung cancer.
Joan took him into her home nursing him, leaving Bette to exclaim “Even when the poor bastard was dying, that bitch wouldn’t let him go.”
SCORECARD: Husbands: Bette 4; Joan 4. Oscars: Bette 10 noms, 3 wins; Joan 3 noms, 1 win. Disinherited daughters after tell-all books: Bette 1; Joan 1.