“Joan And Bette In Same Film Can Pack Wallop” by Jim Meyer of The Miami News, April 29th, 1962
New York - "Can Joan Crawford and Bette Davis - both of whom are still actresses and stars of the First Magnitude - work together peacefully in the same film?
The ladies will have a chance to find out when, in June, they begin a picture entitled “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” - in which they have roles of equal importance.
But it’s significant that Joan Crawford wanted Bette for the film; and that Robert Aldrich (who will direct) reported back to Joan that Bette had told him, at great length, that she always admired Joan for what the latter had accomplished in her unprecedented 36 years of movie stardom.
To a rapt audience of three - Bernice, a close friend of Joan’s, Douglas McClelland, editor of “Music Vendor”, a New York trade magazine, and this writer - Joan briefly told what happened to the fictitious Baby Jane.
“Baby Jane was a fabulously successful child star. But by the time she was 11, her career was over.
Nothing she could do after that ever got her career going again.”
Joan took a sip of her vodka, inhaled deeply on her menthol cigarette, and in low tones of suppressed excitement, continued:
“Baby Jane is now a woman in her fifties. She often goes down to the basement of her home, dresses her hair somewhat like Shirley Temple’s - when Shirley was a child star - and re-enacts scenes from her old movies for her now-deceased father, on whom she has a fixation.
Insane? Of course! What else! Bette plays Baby Jane. I play a woman in a wheelchair - all during the picture, unless they put in a flashback - who is hated by Baby Jane and I am in that wheelchair because Baby Jane tried to harm me.”
It was late Sunday afternoon in Joan’s superlative-defying duplex apartment high above central park.
We were seated around a small bar in the alcove separating her mammoth living room from what appeared to be her business office. (She is a member of the board of Pepsi-Cola, of which her husband, the late Alfred N. Steele, had been president.)
Only the night before, Joan had returned from nine days in Hollywood, during which time she had presented the Best Actor Oscar to Maximillian Schell (“I did the biggest ovation of the evening,” she admitted gratefully, “and I loved it!”)
A ‘phone call to her earlier in the afternoon revealed that “Bernice and I have been cleaning out a closet; but come up at 5:30 for cocktails - if you guys are sure you won’t be shocked at the sight of me in slacks and no makeup!”
Joan Crawford is a challenge to any woman who admits, as freely as Joan does, that she has passed 50.
Sleek and slim, she is vastly more beautiful in person than she has been in many of her films. She wore a green, tailored slack suit. And a minimum of makeup only served to enhance her freckles.
“After ‘Baby Jane,’ I may do a film for Carlo Ponti. It’s a story of destructive love and, in outline at least, is very exciting, very daring.”
Many of Joan’s earlier films can be seen on TV now, and though she once vigorously deplored this situation (“It’s frustrating to realize that our films in the theaters are competing with our films on TV!”), mention of many of these pictures brought back both happy and grim memories:
“Rain” - “I know I've said it almost killed my career, but I’d watch it on TV now if I had the chance.
No. I haven’t seen it since it was released (in 1932).”
“The Women” - “Crystal was horrible, wasn't she? But I loved playing her.”
"Susan And God” - “You’re right, Doug! I did have a ball making that. And how I've thanked God for (director) George Cukor!”
“A Woman’s Face” - “Cukor was a tough taskmaster on that one, too; but I’m so grateful that he was!”
“They All Kissed The Bride” - “Carole Lombard, if she had lived, was to played that, you know.”
“Reunion In France” - “It was SO corny! So was ‘Above Suspicion.’
“Flamingo Road” - “I saw it again on TV the other night. Some friends came by and asked how I liked it. Fabulous, I laughed!”
“Yes, that scene in “The Damned Don’t Cry” WAS as vicious as it looked. Vincent Sherman (the director) ordered David Brian to treat me rough. After David had slapped and thrown me all around the set, and after the cameras stopped grinding, he gently picked me up and said “Joan, honey - I’m so sorry but Sherman said I had to let you have it!’ ‘I know, I know, I sobbed, but it hurts SO much!’ Poor David suffered almost as much as I did.”
“Look, it’s snowing!” she suddenly exclaimed. But the snow fall was brief, and since we’d been there two hours, it was past time to leave."