8 Standout Moments From 'Feud: Bette and Joan' Episode 5
If you thought the 2019 Oscars were messy… well, you'd be right, because that Best Picture flub was an epic screw-up of entirely unprecedented proportions. But the 1963 Oscars, which are central to this week's episode ofFeud: Bette and Joan, were also packed with drama. Here are the eight standout moments from "And the Winner is... (The Oscars of 1963)."
Susan Sarandon's delivery is everything. Bette stops just short of openly telling the press that Joan didn't deserve an Oscar nomination, but this abrupt barb leaves very little room for interpretation.
2) A secondary feud emerges
Catherine Zeta Jones's Olivia De Havilland gets an expanded role this week, having previously appeared only to offer exposition in the straight-to-camera interview segments with Kathy Bates's Joan Blondell. Not only does Olivia appear in the show's main storyline for the first time, accompanying Bette to the Oscars for moral support, but she also gets a backstory, and her own feud. "There is no feud," Olivia insists, when asked by the documentarian about her publicly fraught relationship with younger sister Joan Fontaine. A feud requires hostility on both sides, Olivia insists, and the acrimony is coming solely from Joan—but the press has focused heavily on a photograph from the 1947 Oscars that seems to show Olivia ignoring her sister backstage. Those Oscars! They're a minefield!
3) Joan's shameless sabotage
You've gotta hand it to Joan: she is ruthlessly, shamelessly committed to the cause of stealing Bette's thunder at all costs, and has no qualms about maintaining much dignity. Having conspired with Hedda and concluded that Geraldine Page and Anne Bancroft are the likely frontrunners to beat Bette to the Oscar, and that both are unlikely to attend the ceremony, Joan offers to accept the win on their behalf.
It's easy to dismiss what Joan is doing here as desperate and undignified, essentially begging other Best Actress nominees for their scraps—and yet Lange doesn't play this as though Joan is unaware of how she's coming off. When Bancroft asks if accepting her Oscar would make Joan happy, there's some self-awareness in her emphatic response. No matter how undignified her path to that stage might be, in Joan's eyes, being in the limelight on Oscar night is validation enough to counteract that.
4) Sarah Paulson as Geraldine Page
No Ryan Murphy production—or honestly any TV production, full stop—is complete without Sarah Paulson, who makes her debut here as Geraldine Page, nominated at the 1963 awards forSweet Bird of Youth. Joan calls her up and subtly tries to freak her out about the pressures of the ceremony, asking about her gown and her hair and how she's planning to deal with those "punishing" cameras.
It seems to be working, and Geraldine agrees to let Joan attend the ceremony in her place while she stays safely tucked up in New York. But once they hang up, her conversation with husband Rip Torn (not played by Ryan Reynolds, despite appearances to the contrary) makes it clear she has Joan's number. When Rip asks why she's letting that "high-strung show pony" accept her award, Geraldine replies quietly that Joan needs this more than she does, and "Hollywood should be forced to look at what they've done to her." Unfortunately, if there's one thingFeudmakes clear, it's that Hollywood DGAF.
5) Olivia and Bette's connection
The battle lines are drawn: Joan and Hedda on one side, Bette and Olivia on the other, and the latter seem to be in a genuine and warm friendship. Olivia knows that Bette's steely facade is hiding deep fear and insecurity, and credits Bette for being one of the first people to see her as more than just a pretty face and for showing her "how to fight." But at the same time, Olivia has no illusions about why their friendship works; Bette doesn't see her as a threat, because Olivia's not ambitious about her career in the same way Bette (or Joan) is.
6) Joan's in her element backstage
As soon as Joan arrives at the Oscars, resplendent in all-silver garb, it's clear why she hustled so hard to be a part of that ceremony. She owns that joint from the minute she gets backstage, so much so that Olivia tries to keep Bette out of her way as much as possible. After presenting the Best Director award to David Lean, Joan smoothly leads a bewildered Lean through the labyrinthine corridors backstage, because she knows this setup like the back of her hand. She might have felt inferior to Bette on set, but in this particular space, she's queen.
And there's a heartbreaking moment in which Bette makes it clear just how badly she really wants this Oscar. In stark contrast to Hedda's tabloid claims that she keeps her previous Oscars in the bathroom, Bette admits to Hedda that she likes to hold her most recent statuette while she watches TV, as a reminder of "that perfect night when I won, and the whole world stood up and cheered, and I was loved." What's perhaps the difference between Bette and Joan is that Bette has the self-awareness to know how depressing this sounds.
7) "It's not ladylike to bring a pet to the Academy Awards."
Let her live, Joan! Patty Duke and her dog would probably have a killer Instagram following today—although it's hard to imagine anyone bringing a dog to the Oscars now.
8) The Best Actress upset
Everything in this episode is leading up to the stunning moment in which Bette loses that Oscar statuette—and Joan is the one who physically takes it from her. First there's Bette and Joan's tense face-off backstage, in which Joan extends a hand to Bette in a show of faux sportsmanship, and Bette declines to shake it.
Notably absent from the ceremony—and the episode—is Aldrich, who wasn't nominated, and neither wasBaby Janeitself in the Best Picture category. The film earned a total of five nominations, but ultimately the only winner was costume designer Norma Koch. Bette loses to Anne Bancroft, and Joan sails right past her with a smirk after graciously accepting on Bancroft's behalf. Bette is stunned, trying to remember how to breathe. But as the episode's bleak final moments make clear, those few hours of glory haven't changed Joan's fundamentally lonely reality.
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