When Bette Davis met Joan Crawford

After a year in Hollywood playing teary-eyed ingenues in dull movies, Bette Davis is ready to throw in the Kleenex and head back to Broadway. Her bags are packed when Warner Bros surprises her with a contract and transforms her into a platinum blonde. Film exhibitors take note and in 1932 vote her a "Star of Tomorrow". At the awards banquet the diminutive Davis steps up to the radio microphones and is about to gush her thanks over the airwaves when loud shrieks are heard, followed by the glittering entrance of Joan Crawford and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. The radio crew and photographers zoom to the divine couple, leaving Davis stranded, forgotten - and fuming.

Fade to 1935. Davis, too, is now a star. Crawford, her marriage to Fairbanks and her affair with Clark Gable both over, eyes her leading man, Franchot Tone. Just as their romance heats up, Tone is sent over to Warners to co-star in Dangerous with Davis. She's married, but falls for Tone anyway. She demands that their scenes together be expanded, which entails more private meetings. Davis is sure she can win the upper-class Phi Beta Kappa from the shallow movie queen. She is wrong. When shooting ends, Crawford and Tone marry. Davis's consolation is her first Oscar.

Cut to 1942. The War is on. Crawford will soon disband her fan club for the duration. Davis wonders whether she should continue acting. "But then I felt that's what the enemy wanted - to destroy and paralyse America. So I decided to keep on working." By 1945, she is the highest-paid woman in America, but soon thereafter the tide turns. Crawford, now at Warners, wins an Oscar for Mildred Pierce and replaces Davis as the studio's big moneymaker.

The years slip away but the grudges don't. In 1962, both are 54, washed up in Hollywood, and the survivors of four marriages apiece when, in desperation, they sign to co-star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Bette plays Joan's sister, who, jealous of her sibling's success, schemes to kill her. You could hardly call it a stretch

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