Dual Duel; or Dueling Duels–Now Featuring More Divas

20 Dec

Posted as part of Backlots’ Dueling Divas Blogathon.So Bette Davis and Joan Crawford feuded for years.  Genesis of feud:  ambiguous.  Rumor, hearsay, etc. suggest some sordid lesbian longing and/or boyfriend stealing fueled their burning hate for each other.

IDK and IDC.  What I do K and C about is how glamorous/best these two ladies are and how much I love them in almost anything.  While the Davis-Crawford juxtaposition is so, so, so far from original, I don’t feel that bad about jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of this dueling blogathon.  However, in an effort to distinguish myself, I’d been trying to find thematically similar movies from the same era that wouldn’t be completely obvious choices.  What I would’ve preferred is a garish technicolor post-glamour western or musical in wich the resident diva ball-busts her way through an endless stream of men, clothes, and set-pieces.

I think you know what I’m referring to, Johnny Guitar.

Don’t think you can hide out, Torch Song. I’ve got your number.

Unfortunately, Bette Davis never really dabbled in this genre.  The best she can give us in this area is Dead Ringer, which has one of the most ridiculous movie scores imaginable–SO MUCH harpsichord.

You can’t even tell which one is the glamorous twin from this photo. Sad state of affairs, Bette.

However, I can’t even remember if Dead Ringer is photographed in color or black and white, and the still above is not jogging my memory.  That obviously means it is not nearly garish enough if it is indeed in color.

Anyway, since Bette Davis disappoints in this area, and I don’t want to be biased in my assessment (which will ultimately be an infographic showdown), I’ve chosen two movies from 1941–both of which feature a set of two women who love the same man and are forced together into rustic cottages by movie circumstances.

I almost picked “In This Our Life” for the Bette Davis movie, but then it wouldn’t have been any contest at all. I mean, car wrecks and race-baiting and stealing everyone’s man and incestuous flirting. It doesn’t get any better than that!

In The Great Lie, a nonsensical melodrama, Bette Davis is country mouse to Mary Astor’s city mouse.  They both love the slightly cadish George Brent, who is a stodgy, stocky pilot.  When our story opens, George and Bette have been going steady for a long time, but one night he gets drunk at a party and marries the alluring concert pianist Mary Astor.

Pictured L-R: City Mouse, George Brent, Country Mouse

And oh man, Mary Astor.  She does it up right as the selfish and sexy and thoroughly scintillating concert pianist.  When she’s pissed, she goes and feverishly pounds out melodramatic piano sonatas!  That’s the most perfect way of being melodramatically pissed!  Why didn’t I stick with piano lessons?!

So then, George Brent finds out he’s not really married to Mary Astor because her divorce wasn’t actually final yet (whoopsy daisies).  He comes back to Bette Davis–because Mary Astor won’t give up her career for him–and they promptly get married.

While piloting around, he gets lost and is presumed dead and Mary Astor finds out she’s knocked up (whoospy daisies x2), and if she can’t have George Brent, what good’s a baby?  And Bette Davis wishes she could be pregnant so she’d have something to remember George Brent by.

Of course, the only reasonable solution in Nonsensical Melodrama Ville is for Mary Astor and Bette Davis to drive into a set of the Arizona desert and hole up together until Mary Astor can have her baby and give it to Bette Davis.

Meanwhile in the cabin, this cigarette and suspicious look exchange is happening. That’s Mary Astor as a pregnant lady, by the way.

After Bette Davis butches around being Mary Astor’s surrogate husband and the baby is born, everyone returns to her respective life.  Until George Brent shows back up and Mary Astor wants him back, so she makes a play for the kid.

Weeping and pissed-piano-playing ensue, and because Bette Davis is the good girl who doesn’t have a career, Bette Davis gets her man and kid at the end.

My Joan Crawford pick–When Ladies Meet–does not take place in Nonsensical Melodrama Ville but in the neighboring village of Contrived Society Comedy Grove, in which Joan Crawford and Greer Garson tacitly batte over Herbert Marshall.  I say tacitly because neither of them exactly know they’re battling.

Pictured: BFFs

Joan Crawford plays a very successful, very progressive lady novelist who is having an affair with her married publisher and is so urbane to think that this is totally acceptable.  The man who wants to be her boyfriend, Robert Taylor, does not approve.  Not so much on moral grounds as on I-want-you-for-myself-and-Herbert-Marshall-is-standing-in-my-way grounds.

What is this guy’s appeal, anyway? He was always bagging the choicest dames–Dietrich, Astor, Davis, Crawford, Garson. Did they have a shortage of leading men over at whatever studio he worked for?

So, because this is Contrived Society-Comedy Grove, Robert Taylor sets up a meeting between his would-be-lady-love and the publisher’s wife (Greer Garson).  They all end up together at a weekend getaway at Spring Byington’s cottage in the country, saying witty things and drinking.

Of course, Joan Crawford and Greer Garson become instant gal pals because they are both glamorous and witty and charming and gay and whatnot.  And Robert Taylor even thinks it’s a fun game to pretend to be having a thing with Greer Garson to make Joan Crawford jealous.

Well, Joan starts telling Greer all about her ideas about marriage and sex and stuff, and Greer is interested, but she respectfully disagrees.  And then when Greer finds out that Joan’s her husband’s newest dish, she doesn’t get angry.  She knows her husband’s a cad, yet she knows she still loves him and will stand by her man.

Joan Crawford, through her interactions with the wise and beautiful Greer Garson, whom she has really come to like and respect, decides her ideas about men and marriage are probably a little naive, and she probably just wants a man who will like her and respect her and not just use her for sex.  Novel, right?

Greer Garson does have a small stick-it-to-the-man scene, in which she lays it out for Herbert Marshall.  But’s it kind of a day late, a dollar short, and not that satisfying, in my book.  However, she does look great in this scene (which is near the end)–her head tilted back in that cavalier Greer Garson way that she had.

Anyway, I promised an infographic on how these dual duel movies stack up:

In conclusion, Bette Davis wins this round of Dual Duel.

Hopefully, I can drum up something of Bette Davis’s that will compare/contrast well with Sudden Fear or The Damned Don’t Cry so I can do this again sometime.

And maybe a Venn diagram will be in order.

8 Responses to “Dual Duel; or Dueling Duels–Now Featuring More Divas”

  1. Paul S 20 December 2011 at 4:16 PM #

    This post is so good it’s quite intimidating to even attempt to leave a comment that would do it justice.
    All I can say is that I really enjoyed it and that infographic is brilliant!

    • TheBestofAlexandra 22 December 2011 at 9:27 PM #

      Thanks so much!

  2. Kendra 24 December 2011 at 3:52 PM #

    This post was definitely the funniest of the Dueling Divas entries. Well done! I’ll have to check out both of these films now and possibly try and come up with my own infographics 😉

    • TheBestofAlexandra 24 December 2011 at 4:46 PM #

      Thanks a lot. I do love infographics; I’ll have to keep an eye on your blog to see if you keep your word. 🙂


  1. THE DUELING DIVA ENTRIES | Backlots - 20 December 2011

    […] Crawford and Bette Davis movies–The Great Lie and When Ladies Meet. You will love this one!! https://thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/dual-duel-or-dueling-duels-now-featuring-more-div… Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark […]

  2. LAMB Acting School 101: Joan Crawford | | Beth Stollman BlogBeth Stollman Blog - 30 January 2012

    […] Alexandra also examines who wins in the feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis? […]

  3. Backlots’ First Blogathon–DUELING DIVAS! | Backlots - 1 September 2012

    […] I STARTED LATE AND FORGOT THE DOG: Divine and witty entry comparing and contrasting two Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movies–The Great Lie and When Ladies Meet. You will love this one!! https://thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/dual-duel-or-dueling-duels-now-featuring-more-div… […]

  4. Dueling Divas: #SpinsterHeiressProbz Edition « I Started Late and Forgot the Dog. - 23 December 2012

    […] thinking it would be a pretty even spinster-heiress match up, like my Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis Dual Duel had been last year.  Ha!  No […]

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