10 Classic Movie Diva Showdowns

“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels,” goes the famous quote from an old cartoon. The actress is the subject of a film retrospective at MoMa through March 27. “A sassy woman, a street smart girl, a lady with chutzpah, and dame with integrity… she played them all. She was them all. It is her strength that continues to speak to future generations and to women in particular,” writes Meredith Grau of the prolific actress. MoMA’s lineup honoring the dancing diva boasts several films with multiple starlets who demand the spotlight. Here are other great stories with classic movie divas that go head-to-head when it comes to relationship rivalries, showbiz struggles, and more.


Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte

A reclusive, ailing southern belle Charlotte (Bette Davis) was accused of murdering her lover and suffers a lifetime of public disgrace. But terrible family secrets start to surface after she is driven to madness by her wicked cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), who is plotting to steal her money and run off with the local doctor (Joseph Cotten). Davis and De Havilland play delightfully off each other. Of course, the real diva standoff was happening behind the scenes. Joan Crawford was slated to star opposite Davis after the success of their film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, but dropped our after a few days claiming to be ill. It’s rumored she told director pal Vincent Sherman, “I’m not sick. I just couldn’t stand working another minute with that Bette Davis.”