Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Olivia de Havilland is mad as hell over Feud

If you've wondered why the TV series Feud: Bette and Joan  -- the FX network show about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? -- is not yet on DVD or on Netflix, and why the episodes have been removed from Amazon Instant Video, it's probably because of Olivia de Havilland. You may have heard about how the now 103-year-old actress, living in Paris, feels she was defamed and misrepresented by the program, although I suspect the biggest problem is that they never sought her input and she, therefore, felt left out. Her lawsuits against the program have certainly helped keep her name in the public eye long after Crawford and Davis went to their graves. In any case, the suits were tossed out by the California Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court, so now she is taking her case to the United States Supreme Court. We'll see. An interesting point is that de Havilland was not even in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? but she did co-star with Davis in the follow-up, Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, replacing a "sick" Crawford.

I've only seen the first episode of the series -- and thanks to de Havilland I may not see the rest of it for quite a long while -- but I have to admit that Catherine Zeta-Jones did not remind me in any way, shape or form of Olivia de Havilland. And I can't see de Havilland dissing her sister Joan Fontaine in public, no matter what she thought of her privately. Yet nothing I've heard about what happens in the series actually seems to be "defaming" de Havilland, and the problem with her suit is that she is, after all, a public figure. Still, FX and Ryan Murphy, who produced the series, should have gotten her permission or simply not have depicted de Havilland at all, and I've no doubt they wish they had just left her out of the whole show. People are afraid that this lawsuit could have a chilling effect on cinematic and television portrayals of living people (you can't libel the dead), but filmmakers also have to be responsible and accurate in their depictions. However, one could argue that this is much ado about nothing -- that is, nothing but one aging actress' ego. It should be interesting to see how -- and if -- this case develops.

UPDATE (1/7/2019). The Supreme Court turned down de Havilland's appeal to revive her lawsuit against FX. 


angelman66 said...

Ha! She has been tough since she sued Warner Brothers for making her and other contract players indentured slaves to their studios. Bravo, Dame Olivia!
I was surprised, however, how virulent she is over this one, as I thought that her portrayal in Feud was very mild indeed--I guess she prefers to be remembered as sweet Melanie Wilkes rather than Sweet Charlotte's bitchy cousin...
I guess Ryan Murphy will not be a doing a Feud series about Joan Fontaine and the sister she loved to hate! LOL.

William said...

Yeah, and that's too bad! That would make quite a story! de Havilland won acclaim as well as Oscars and is perhaps the last survivor of Hollywood's golden age, but she never had the almost hysterical appeal of Davis and Crawford, and I think it burns her up that decades after their deaths they are still getting more attention than she is!