It's often said that though Bette Davis was a better actress, Joan Crawford was a better movie star.
In an exposition montage narrated by Joan Blondell (Kathy Bates) as part of the fake 1978 documentary which frames the show (a Ryan Murphy must), we learn that the seeds for the feud were planted in the 1940s, when Bette's star was on the rise, while Joan's had already seen better days.
Crawford became famous playing showgirls and socialites, roles that enabled her to be both sexy and spunky. In 1938, she was labeled "box office poison" a label that made her star value plummet just as she was starting to age out of her sweet-spot roles. As a result, she started pushing for meatier parts, which would show her range as an actress. When MGM turned her down for Marie Curie, Crawford left in a huff, and signed with Warner Bros. at what Blondell calls "close-out, everything must go, bargain basement rates."
The former contract player tells the fake documentarian that Warner intended Crawford to be a warning for his other problem-child — you guessed it — Bette Davis.
"She was difficult, expensive and far too powerful — especially for a woman," Blondell narrates.
Crawford, on the other hand, was eager for work, and took on roles that Davis turned down. One of those turned out to be her big comeback: Mildred Pierce.
The film, in which Crawford plays a mother of two daughters striving to be financially independent of her husband amidst a murder mystery, earned the actress her first and only Academy Award for Best Actress in 1946.
And this is where we get to the good part. Like the true boss lady that she was, Crawford decided that instead of attending the actual ceremony, she would accept her Oscar...from her bed. Her excuse was that she was too nervous to leave her room — but come on. I mean, who does that? Can you imagine Emma Stone ever having the audacity to say: "Sorry guys, I'm too nervous about potentially losing this gold statue to one of my rivals so I'm just gonna phone it in from my mattress"?
Only a true, bona fide movie star like Joan could pull that off. And pull it off she did, in style.
Here she is, in full makeup and hair, holding her Oscar for publicity shots:
Photo: Courtesy of FX.
And here's the moment IRL, for comparison:
Can I get a "yaaass kween"?
Photo: Courtesy of FX Networks.