Dubious Tribute to Olivia De Havilland

DATELINE: Worst Movie of Her Career

Caged Lady!

Leave it to Amazon Prime to honor the memory and career of Olivia De Havilland with the worst movie she ever made.  Long forgotten, Lady in a Cage,  is one of those 1960s hag horror movies made after Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

This features Miss De Havilland who recently passed as age 104 in her attractive, dignified middle-age as a poet trapped in her million-dollar mansion in a private elevator. She is beset upon by a gaggle of horror creatures called in the trailer: the psycho, the wino, the hustler, the weirdo and the wildo.  No kidding. These low-lifes do not rescue Miss DeHavilland, but torment, torture, and drive her to the edge of insanity.

This passed for entertainment.

The following year De Havilland replaced Joan Crawford in the Bette Davis murder horror called Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,a truly dignified and marvelous murder horror. This warm-up is a cold turkey.

In Ryan Murphy’s miniseries, Feud,about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, there is a scene where Miss De Havilland tosses the script for Lady in a Cage into her trash. Apparently, she changed her mind and agreed to contractual terms. Did she need the money? Was the limelight as star so great that she tossed away all semblance of taste?

All we know is that she chose to make this horror, which horrified us.

The supporting cast is equally shocking: there is Ann Sothern, who had just come off ten years as a TV comedy sit-com star. She apparently had no scruples and appears as a fat, middle-aged prostitute. Another wasted actor was Rafael Campos whose career was playing Puerto Rican slimeballs in movie after movie. His talent was never treated properly, and in his movie debut, there is James Caan as the head monster, looking and acting like Marlon Brando. He is a young lookalike here, and ten years later ended up playing Brando’s son in The Godfather.

We do not recommend this travesty of movie shocks. If you are curious, watch the preview in which demure, attractive De Havilland as herself, talks about the message of the movie: apparently under the surface we are all animals.

Yikes.

Murphy Trumps Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Lady in a Caged Lawsuit

 Miss De havilland to you

DeHavilland as vindictive Heiress (1949)

Perhaps the 101-year-old legendary star actress has outlived her own values.

According to a California court, Miss Olivia De Havilland has no right to stop an unflattering portrayal of herself in Ryan Murphy’s ripe black comedy called Feud. It’s the nasty tale of how Bette Davis and Joan Crawford spoiling for a fight over their careers and in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Miss DeHavilland’s character called her own sister, actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch” on screen, to which De Havilland objected. She called her many things, but never bitch.

She would have preferred “dragon lady,” but the producers of Feud and the courts felt that it was too archaic and not colorful enough to suit the story. Olivia De Havilland was kicked harder than Joan Crawford in Baby Jane, all in the name of artistic expression.

If the law is to be understood nowadays, you don’t have a right to stop the First Amendment, however disabused you may suffer at the hands of hack writers.

In all likelihood, Ryan Murphy, smug as ever, never realized Olivia DeHavilland, a two-time Oscar winner for 1940 and 1949, was still alive. He continued to call her “Olivia” this year, as if they were on a first-name basis, throughout the legal case.

So, Miss De Havilland stayed in seclusion in Paris while Hollywood glamour types and writers now have open season on living beings. A screenwriter can put whatever words he wants into your mouth, all in the name of artistic freedom, and therein rests the script.

Hollywood’s new bread-and-butter is the documentary bio-film with re-enactors and colorful revisions to history. Miss De Havilland did not stand a chance, and we wouldn’t blame her for calling Ryan Murphy “a son of a bitch.”

DeHavilland Renews Legal Fight

DATELINE:  ‘Feud’ Subject & Creator Continues in Court

Real Feud Feud

Just when producer/director/writer Ryan Murphy thought he had beaten the clock on the lawsuit filed by Olivia DeHavilland, the 101 year-old movie star legend, she has risen up again.

It’s back on, set for a March trial.

She, as you may recall, took umbrage with her portrayal and use of name in the infamously entertaining series Feud, about the relationship of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Miss DeHavilland insists that no one asked her permission to use her image and give words to her actress voice.

That’s probably because Ryan Murphy figured she was already deader than a doornail, like the rest of the characters in his hilarious series about Hollywood’s most rotten segment of the Golden Age.

Instead, Olivia rose up like Marley’s Ghost, warning Ryan Murphy. Now she is demanding the trial be held at a university where students may attend to see the shenanigans play out. Talk about a sense of drama.

Whether Miss DeHavilland will make the flight from her home in Paris is unknown, as she is elderly and frail. However, her spirit is not about to be buried by the likes of Hollywood upstarts like Ryan Murphy.

Murphy’s lawyers insist that if DeHavilland has her way, it will have a chilling effect on making docudramas where old historical figures come in and out of scenes uttering misquotes.

His money is on Miss Olivia DeHavilland croaking before the case, and his inevitable loss to a living legend, occurs. Our money is on Gone with the Wind‘s Melanie Wilkes, the survivor of The Snake Pit, the vindictive Heiress, and the Lady in a Cage.

Round Seven: Feud, Crawford Down for Count

DATELINE:  Series on Bette & Joan Continues…

Real Feud

A re-teaming of Crawford and Davis in a second movie was never going to work, despite filming on location in Louisiana and hypocritical attempts at camaraderie by the stars.

Joan Crawford soon went on strike by feigning illness.

Feud, the series with Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, spends the penultimate episode on the crisis during Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. The two stars seemed to realize their careers were never enough to compensate for their shortcomings in personal life. Yet, they continued to self-destruct personally.

Interestingly, the miniseries puts more focus on the failed mother-daughter relationship between Bette and BD. We never see Christina Crawford interact with her mother, despite the famous Mommie Dearest legend.

The episodes rely heavily on the bad karma and worse characters that emerged from the slice and dice books done by the two daughters of the stars in subsequent years. Bette and Joan were done irreparable harm by the tell-all, revenge books by their progeny.

We told Miss Davis in 1986 that the BD Hyman book would never have a lasting impact to assuage the aging and distraught star. We don’t think she believed us, but responded politely to the reassurance. How wrong we were 31 years ago.

As for the episode in the sweep of Hollywood vindictiveness, we never hear why Bette nixed Vivien Leigh for the replacement for Joan—likely because Leigh won the coveted Scarlett O’Hara role that Bette wanted. It is also stated that Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyk turned down the key part in Charlotte because they were friends of Joan.

The emergence of Olivia De Havilland as the new co-star likely was the result of her ties to Bette, though even Livy suggested they call her sister Joan Fontaine to take over from the other Joan.

Juicy gossip has become the printed legend of whatever happened to the two star subjects of Feud. The knock-out punch should arrive in the final episode.

 

 

Round Five: Bette, Joan, & Oscar in The Eternal Triangle

DATELINE:  Feud Progresses

oscar night

As the Oscar race for 1963 heats up, Joan Crawford and Hedda Hopper begin a campaign to deny Davis her third winning Academy Award. Feud takes another turn for the dark side.

In the meantime, Bette calls on old pal Olivia de Havilland for comfort. Played by Catherine Zeta-Jones as the saccharine Melanie Wilkes, they commiserate at which one has the worst Joan in their lives (Joan Fontaine being Olivia’s sister).

Bette wants Olivia there at the Oscars as her escort to show not all actresses of their generation hate the bombastic thespian who is more like Margo Channing than she herself realizes.

Once again the series drops names like they were F-bombs. Cary, Doris, Loretta, receive calls from Joan as she touts anyone but Bette to win the Oscar. She needs to influence about 100 Academy voters to deny Bette the winning statuette.

Wearing a variety of ugly hats (her hallmark), Hedda Hopper hisses into every scene, played by Judy Davis in fine fettle as the confidante of Joan and detractor of Bette in the contemporary gossip columns of the era.

This episode has far more pathos and fewer guffaws. Surprising moments include the deep friendship exhibited by DeHavilland for her friend Bette, and the kindness shown to Joan by Anne Bancroft.

Again, the series production flashes with a rich tapestry of colors, especially in Crawford’s wardrobe, but also in the sets. Like poisonous flowers, the most beautiful and attractive hues will be the deadliest. This TV show features gorgeous set design

Round Four: Bette & Joan in Post Production

DATELINE: Hold the Oscar

 lange as Crawford Crawfish

For those who forgot, we are reminded that Bette Davis gave the Academy Award its nickname, “Oscar,” because he resembled an old flame. As you might expect, Joan Crawford did not appreciate this usurping of Hollywood legend.

The two stars await bad news in the fourth episode. Word of mouth is that Baby Jane, or mistakenly called Baby Doll, is a stinkeroo. And, their work has not brought in more roles. In fact, everyone has lost faith in their project.

But, a sneak preview is a shocker, even more than the movie. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a hit. That sends Bette and Joan into different strata of psychology. Bette revels in the rejuvenation, and Joan realizes she is second banana for the critics.

Director Bob Aldrich (Alfred Molina) also comes to realize one-time success will not change his career. Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) wastes no time in belittling him as much as star Frank Sinatra who proves a boorish star in his rat pack picture directed by Aldrich.

The series continues to use sharp-edged Hollywood trivia to provide laughs and hoots about the era and the foibles of the stars. It was the age of television as a publicity machine—and Bette goes all out on TV guest roles (as in Perry Mason, or on talk shows like Jack Paar), while Joan wallows in drink, fires her agents, makes drunken calls to Bette.

All this precedes the dreaded announcement for nominations for Oscar; everyone thinks Bette Davis is a shoo-in, and Crawfish is a dead fish.

The crux is that we the viewers enjoy this stuff more than those “old broads,” as Crawford takes offense to Davis’s characterization.