Bette and Joan and Baby Jane by Tracy-Ann Oberman

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BBC Radio 4, 29 April 2010
Tracy-Ann Oberman's docu-drama focused on the intense rivalry between Bette Davis (Catherine Tate) and Joan Crawford (Tracy-Ann Oberman) during the filming of their 1962 hit Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Although the film revived both actress' careers, the experience proved unhappy for both of them. Partly this was due to intense rivalry: the play suggested that both actresses had competed for actor Franchot Tone's affections during the 1930s, and Crawford had emerged victorious. Davis had never forgiven her for this apparent 'treachery.' In truth this was no more than a pretext: the reason why Crawford and Davis disliked one another so much was because they had spent their entire careers competing for cinemagoers' affections. They could not (or would not) acknowledge one another's abilities: Davis was particularly scathing about Crawford's Oscar-winning performance in Mildred Pierce (1946).
By the early 1960s both actress' stars had waned, but they still could not establish any kind of working relationship. They were basically insecure - although well aware of each other's abilities, they did not want to admit anything in public - especially to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Lorelei King) - for fear that they would appear weak (and hence contradict their respective screen images). As a result they came across as rather pathetic, imprisoned within their self-created worlds. Davis uses whisky as a tranquillizer; Crawford drunk Pepsi-Cola laced with vodka.
Tate and Oberman gave convincing impersonations of the two fading stars, vying with one another for the listeners' attention. At the same time they also came across as rather pathetic; if they did not keep the so-called feud going, then perhaps they would have nothing left in their lives except alcohol and loneliness. The producer of this entertaining Afternoon Play was Liz Anstee.