So here goes...
First, there's a concern with the way director Robert Aldrich is being portrayed. In my initial essay on "Feud," titled when the legend becomes fact, print the legend, I questioned the veracity of the series, wondering exactly how well researched it is versus how much of it is facile speculation. A good deal of the time, it plays like juicy gossip.
Which is what makes it such a hoot and so entertaining.
But until this show, Aldrich had a place in movie history as a solid craftsman, an effective storyteller and a nurturing director of actors. Three of his earliest films were "Vera Cruz" (1954) and the two noirs, "The Big Knife" and "Kiss Me Deadly" (both from 1955). All terrific films. Before filming "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," he helmed the very good Kirk Douglas-Rock Hudson Western, "The Last Sunset" (1961).
Aldrich was no hack, as "Feud" consistently implies. True, immediately prior to "Jane," he had a elephantine flop, "Sodom and Gomorrah" (1962), but he was far from washed-up. His befuddled desperation, as played by Alfred Molina, seems a tad exaggerated. And more than a little insulting.
"Autumn Leaves" - Aldrich's first collaboration with his "Baby Jane" star, Joan Crawford, and a really fascinating dual-character study - won him the best director award at the 1956 Berlin Film Festival. Later in his career, Aldrich directed "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965), "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), "Too Late the Hero" (1970), "The Grissom Gang" (1971), "Ulzana's Raid" (1972), "Emperor of the North" (1973), two with Burt Reynolds, "The Longest Yard" (1974) and "Hustle" (1975) and my favorite Aldrich - the camp classic, "The Legend of Lylah Clare" (1968). And, of course, "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), his sturdy "Baby Jane" encore.
Secondly, the Jack Warner character (a horrible monster as delineated by Stanley Tucci) and others continually refer to "Jane" as a B-movie, even after it's completed and on the screen - where it looks like anything but a B-movie. What it looks like is an artful psychodrama, enhanced by witty (and wicked) comic touches. The final image of Bette Davis doing her little Baby Jane dance on a beach is powerfully evocative. A B-movie? Right.
Number Three. Aldrich and Warner aren't the only characters being bashed and debased here. Frankly, no one in "Feud" comes off looking good. Not one character is redeeming, although Jessica Lange's Joan Crawford is borderline sympathetic. But this negativity may have more to do with the show's makers than with the people that "Feud" depicts.
Nombre Quatre. The past episode of "Feud," devoted to the early filming of "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte,"depicts several scenes shot by Crawford, reunited with Davis, before bailing from the film. And here I always believed that Crawford dropped out of "Charlotte" without filming anything, before she was replaced by Olivia DeHavilland. That said, where is her footage and why hasn't it materialized as an extra on any "Charlotte" disc?
Then there's the bit of trivia that I brought up in the essay bette & joan & anne & faye, namely that Crawford's connection to Anne Bancroft extended beyond the 1963 Oscarcast, where Joan accepted Anne's Oscar for "The Miracle Worker." Two decades later, Bancroft would be Paramount's first choice to play Crawford in its tell-all biopic, "Mommie Dearest" (1981). Faye Dunaway, of course, got the role and ran with it.
Finally, there's the 1991 TV remake of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," directed by David Greene ("The People Next Door" and "Godspell") and starring no less than the Redgrave sisters as the Hudson sisters - Vanessa as Blanche and Lynn as Jane. Does anyone else remember it? Seems not. The film has seemingly disappeared but not before its title was shortened (for some inexplicable reason) to "What Ever Happened to...?" for its home-entertainment release.
Note in Passing: But wait! You can view the 1991 remake, courtesy of You Tube, here.