If you’ve been enjoying the FX miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan as much as I have, you know that these two scions of Hollywood acting royalty not only hated each other, but they also hated the situation they were placed in – limited roles for aging actresses and a studio system that treated them as disposable.
But throughout the miniseries, you see the lengths to which Joan Crawford and Bette Davis did whatever they could to stay in the public view – whether it involved participating in a game show, appearing on a sitcom, or even working with some new up-and-coming directors on TV anthology shows.
And thanks to the magic of YouTube, I have a few of those classic bits here. I flipped a coin… and Joan Crawford came up heads. So let’s start with her.
Here’s Joan Crawford on a 1962 episode of the game show Password, where she attempts to play the word association game – and does reasonably well, although I think the judges let her slide a bit (if you’re only allowed one-word clues, and your password is “Train,” how do you get away with “choo choo” as a clue?)
Here’s Joan Crawford appearing on another quiz show, the panel program I’ve Got A Secret. I’ve Got A Secret was similar to another panel program What’s My Line, in that the guests had a secret and the panelists had to guess it. While Crawford DID have a secret on this episode, it was NOT the kind of secret that would inspire her daughter to write a best-seller.
Here’s the first part of an episode of the popular sitcom The Lucy Show, where Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance interact with Joan Crawford; through a series of misunderstandings, they presume that Crawford is destitute, and the usual Lucille Ball hi-jinks ensue.
And finally, here’s a clip from the Rod Serling suspense anthology Night Gallery, featuring Joan Crawford in one of the segments. Her director for that segment? Some new guy named Steven Spielberg. Wonder how his career turned out after this…
Okay … time for Bette Davis to get some exposure. Like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis was not adverse to appearing on television shows to promote her acting or to have some fun. In fact, here’s a clip of Bette Davis from a 1952 episode of the panel show What’s My Line.
And here’s a clip of her on the game show To Tell The Truth – in this episode, the panelists had to pick the real Bette Davis from a lineup that included two Bette Davis impersonators. How well do you think they did?
It was not unusual for Bette Davis to spend a few episodes appearing on dramatic shows – I wanted to show her in an episode of Perry Mason, but the clip really wasn’t long enough to make it worthwhile. I did, however, find her in a 1966 episode of the classic western Gunsmoke, so here it is.
And with that in mind, let me close out by showing a Bette Davis comedy pilot from 1965. In this sitcom, The Decorator, Bette Davis plays Liz, a boozy interior decorator with Mary Wickes as her overstressed secretary Viola. The creator of this show? Some TV producer named Aaron Spelling. Wonder how he fared since then…
So if you’re enjoying the fantastic FX series Feud: Bette and Joan, I hope you also take a moment and enjoy some of these television clips of two of the greatest Hollywood actors of all time. Hmm… I wonder what it would take to have Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in a re-creation of The Decorator … or have Jessica Lange re-do one of Joan Crawford’s last roles in that Night Gallery episode…
Oh well… guess we’ll never know. 😀