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But Crawford's seduction of Tone had not diminished her wish to add Davis to her list of conquests.'Franchot isn't interested in Bette,' she said, 'but I wouldn't mind giving her a poke if I was in the right mood.'When Crawford first entertained Tone at her Hollywood home, he found her in the solarium, tanned from head to foot, and stark naked.
According to friends and neighbours, Tone did not emerge from the solarium until nightfall.'He was madly in love with her,' Davis admitted bitterly. After lunch, he would return to the set, his face covered in lipstick.
Hearing that Crawford had told gossip columnist Louella Parsons that she and Davis 'may even do a picture together', Bette commented implacably: 'When hell freezes over.'Yet, ironically, by the early Sixties, when both stars, now in their 50s, were regarded as box office poison, it was Crawford who came to her rival's rescue by finding the novel that teamed them both in the most sensational comeback in cinema history. , Davis was inspirationally cast as Baby Jane Hudson, a demented and alcoholic former child star, who allegedly cripples her sister Blanche, a Hollywood movie queen (Crawford) in a mysterious car accident. 'In a scene dramatised in the new TV series, Davis, who was supposed only to simulate violence, raises and swings her right foot to kick her crippled sister on the floor.
Jack Warner, the former studio boss of Davis and Crawford, flatly refused to finance the film, commenting: 'I wouldn't give you one dime for those two washed-up old bitches.'As Davis later recounted with glee in a series of chat shows, studio after studio rejected the project, telling producer-director Robert Aldrich: 'If you get rid of those two old broads and sign some real box office names, we'll give you the money.'But Aldrich remained adamant that he would only make the film with Davis and Crawford, and went ahead on a modest budget with a lightning-fast six-week schedule.'Fasten your seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy night! But she made contact with Crawford's head, gashing her scalp, which required three stitches, and raising a lump the size of an egg.
In Mildred Pierce, her first major picture for the studio, Crawford upstaged Davis by winning a Best Actress Oscar, and was signed by Warner Bros to a seven-year contract at 0,000 a film. Having watched helplessly as Crawford stole the love of her life, she was now forced to look on as her rival made a determined assault on her Hollywood crown.
None of this stopped Crawford making more overtures to Davis, all of which were rebuffed by Davis.
For years it was assumed their bitter decades-long war arose from their utterly contrasting backgrounds and characters.
Even in the earliest days of their acquaintance, Davis viewed Crawford with contempt, believing she was a woman who used sex to advance her career.'She slept with every star at MGM,' Bette announced later. Most of Crawford's leading men had succumbed to her sexual magnetism.
' Davis had memorably vowed in All About Eve — she might have been referring to the making of Baby Jane. When Crawford, widow of Pepsi-Cola boss Alfred Steele, provided the set with an enormous Pepsi cooler, Davis discovered that Joan's own bottle of Pepsi, constantly at her elbow, was always half-full of vodka.'That bitch is loaded half the time! As Jessica Lange, as Crawford, screams and writhes on the floor, Susan Sarandon, as Davis, protests: 'I barely touched her.'When Baby Jane was released, complete with the baroque scene in which Davis serves up a dead rat on a silver salver for Crawford's supper, it packed cinemas and became a blockbuster hit. At the Oscars ceremony, when Anne Bancroft was announced as Best Actress, Crawford swept past Davis to receive the Oscar on behalf of the absent Bancroft.
On-set observers noticed Davis running her pen through whole pages of the script.'Whose dialogue are you cutting, Bette? Both stars, who were on a percentage of the profits, made a fortune. Next day's newspapers showed Crawford holding the Oscar which her lifelong rival had failed to win. Two years later, when Aldrich attempted to re-team Davis and Crawford in another film, Hush ...
Hush, Sweet Charlotte, their escalating hatred defeated him.
A vengeful Davis assembled the cast and crew, minus Crawford, for photographs in which they all ostentatiously drank Coca-Cola, Pepsi's rival.