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Seen on ‘Feud,’ Variety Remembers ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’

Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” premiered on FX on Sunday night, and with seven episodes left to go, things are going to get even more dramatic as the show delves deeper into the making of the 1962 classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Though the show focuses on the rivalry between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange), it also features appearances by the likes of Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci.)

Even Variety makes a cameo in an upcoming episode, based on an actual event that — like much of the show — is so out there, it has to be true. In 1962, just a month before “Baby Jane” hit theaters, Davis was frustrated with the lack of roles coming her way, took out an advertisement offering herself up for work. The ad ran in the Sept. 24, 1962 issue of Variety under “Situation Wanted, Women” and extolled herself as having “Thirty years experience as an actress in motion pictures.” It then nodded to her reputation as being difficult by adding, “Mobile and more affable than rumor would have it.”

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Davis need not have worried, as the film went on to be an enormous hit, grossing $9 million against an estimated $1 million budget. A week before it opened, legendary Variety columnist Army Archerd referenced Davis’ want ad while talking about attending a successful screening of the film. He noted of the audience: “they screamed and disrupted the preview of ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ at the Pantages almost every time Miss D. tossed a wrist or raised an eyebrow … If this reaction is any indication of the emotions in the biz, Miss D. is certain to get an Oscar nomination for role.”

Davis did indeed receive an Oscar nomination for the role, while Crawford did not – a drama that will play out in a future episode of “Feud.”

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Also located in Variety’s archives is the review of the film, which ran on Oct. 31, 1962, and praised the film as “an emotional toboggan ride, stopped only by its horribly obvious outcome.” The critic praised both leading ladies, calling Davis, “Whiskey-voiced, slovenly, wonderfully and hideously gowned and madeup throughout the film” and noting Crawford “gives a quiet, remarkably fine interpretation of the crippled Blanche, held in emotionally by the nature and temperament of the role.”

“Feud” airs on FX Sunday nights through April 23.

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