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MCN Review: FX's 'Feud: Bette and Joan'

Having enjoyed great success with its true-crime limited series People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, FX is tapping the true Hollywood genre for its next big hit, Feud: Bette and Joan.

Producer Ryan Murphy, who helmed The People v. O.J. Simpson, takes the reins of this eight-part limited series, which chronicles the backstage battle between aging stars Joan Crawford and Bette Davis during the filming of their only project together, the 1962 cult classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

The series stars Jessica Lange as Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Davis at the twilight of their careers in the early 1960s, a time when both actresses were unable to secure leading roles in a youth-dominated Hollywood. Particularly bitter about her treatment is Crawford, who — in one of the first scenes in the series — scowls at younger actress Marilyn Monroe after the Some Like It Hot wins the Golden Globe for best actress. As Monroe parades up to receive her reward, a petulant Crawford startles everyone at her table, saying, “I’ve got great tits, too, but I don’t throw them in everyone’s face.”

Recently widowed and nearly broke, Crawford looks for a script to mark her triumphant return to the screen, and finds the perfect vehicle in a horror-thriller book about the lives of two aging actresses, an invalid and her abusive custodian. She convinces her nemesis Davis — now in her 50s and forced to turn to Broadway for roles — to be her co-star in the film.

While Crawford and Davis realize they need each other to relaunch their movie careers, their often-petty competitiveness threatens to torpedo What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? before it delivers on the first dollar at the box office.

The Crawford-Davis grudge is legendary. But as with The People v. O.J. Simpson, the anticipation of how the story will unwind is the biggest draw. Murphy continues his mastery of retelling stories that have been examined, poked and explored numerous times, while wrapping the familiar storyline into a broader context — this time, sexism in Hollywood.

Feud benefits from terrific performances by Lange and Sarandon, as well as a supporting cast that includes Judy Davis as notorious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich.