Everyone loves celebrity conflict, which is why we’re assuming our post a couple of weeks back on actor/filmmaker feuds generated such a huge response. It’s humanizing to see that cultural icons squabble about the same petty stuff that we do in the workplace. Performers and auteurs aren’t the only source of on-set friction however; the Hollywood history books are filled with cases of co-stars going after each other with everything they’ve got.
Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford
Few stars got along as poorly as Davis and Crawford on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, though they brought decades of rivalry and ill will to the set. The stories of their fights are legendary: Davis reportedly kicked Crawford in the head “accidentally” during one scene, while Crawford put weights in her clothes for a scene where she was dragged by Davis. But it got even uglier when that year’s Oscar nominations were announced — and Davis was nominated for Best Actress, while Crawford was not. Davis said later that her bitter co-star not only campaigned against her, but reached out to the nominees who were not able to attend and graciously offered to accept their awards for them. When Anne Bancroft won, Crawford pushed her way past Davis to triumphantly accept the trophy.
Reports of these dust-ups didn’t hurt Baby Jane at the box office — in fact, the free and juicy publicity probably helped. The stellar box office led to a reunion of the two stars (and director Robert Aldrich) for Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but Crawford only lasted four days before quitting the production, claiming illness. The rumor mill had it that Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set — and this was the last straw for Crawford, whose husband was Pepsi president Alfred Steele. Crawford was replaced on Hush by Olivia de Havilland.