The thing about Hollywood is the thing about life: You’re only as good as your last hit. With the success of “Baby Jane” now behind them, and the new psycho-biddy genre hitting the zeitgeist, everyone we know — from the studio to the stars — is eager for their next big thing. “Hagsploitation” (Apr. 10), is all about getting the band back together — whether they actually want to or not.
The new picture is “Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?” which was based on an unpublished short story also written by “Baby Jane” author Henry Farrell. Summoned back to Warner Bros. by Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) to see if they can quickly capitalize on the genre they created, Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) agrees to make the movie with his two former leading ladies, Bette and Joan… But things turn sour right from the start when Warner threatens that all three of them will make the movie for less than “Baby Jane,” and they’ll be grateful for it.
Having learned his lesson the first time around, and seemingly inspired by Bette’s (Susan Sarandon) push for creative control in her agreement to do the film, Aldrich returns to Warner not just with a ready script and full cast, but with news: He’ll be making the picture for for another studio, and will have total control over the film. It seems both Bette and Aldrich have learned their lesson.
And while Joan (Jessica Lange), too, has learned to strike a better deal for herself this time around (demanding a larger signing bonus upfront, as opposed to payments on the backend), she makes her motivations for wanting to do the film heartbreakingly clear in her justification to Mamasita (Jackie Hoffman).
“I can’t show my face at a party without a picture to discuss,” she reasons. “If I’m not working I might as well be dead.”
So off we go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where production of “Cousin Charlotte,” the story of a reclusive Southern belle plagued by a horrifying family secret, is set to begin filming. And off we go with the
trauma drama of making another successful Hollywood movie.
For Joan, the fun begins at the airport. Having arrived a few days later than most of the other crew, Joan and Mamasita step off the plane to find that they don’t have a driver waiting for them at their gate (remember those days?)… And once they do finally make their way to the hotel, they’re told by a sweet Southern desk clerk that the hotel is actually full — due to a movie being filmed there.
“We are with the movie,” Mamasita barks at the front desk clerk.
Luckily Bette, just coming back from filling an ice bucket for champagne, is there to greet them and clear things up, having already ingratiated herself with the hotel staff. “Relax, Joan,” Bette chirps when Joan balks at the hour she’s quoted it’ll take to get her room ready. “This is Baton Rouge, not Beverly Hills.”
“She’s enjoying this too much,” Mamasita observes, shrewdly. After the stunt Joan pulled at the Oscars, allegedly campaigning against Bette — and for herself to accept an award for anyone who wasn’t able to attend — Bette would naturally take just a little pleasure in any sort of discomfort or perceived slight coming Joan’s way, intentional or otherwise.
It also doesn’t hurt that Joan quickly finds out Bette and Aldrich, recently notified that his wife wants a divorce, have apparently started an affair — the champagne Bette was getting when they ran into her at the front desk was for her and Robert to share, alone, in his room.
The history books already tell us that Joan doesn’t make it through the whole production of “Cousin Charlotte,” claiming illness to get out of her contract and being replaced by Olivia de Havilland at the last minute.
But is it Bette that actually drives her away, or will it be Joan’s own special talent for self-destruction that seals her fate?
“Feud” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.