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Rose Joan Blondell is a recurring character on the first season of Feud. She was an American actress who was famously signed with Warner Brothers from 1930-1939. She was also close friends with fellow actress Bette Davis.

She is portrayed by Kathy Bates.[1]

Biography

Pilot

Joan is first shown at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California in 1978, doing an interview for a documentary about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. She explains to the interviewer, Adam, that the 50s-early 60s were tough times for older women. The studio system was dying out, and only younger attractive women were getting cast in good roles. However, Blondell clarifies that Crawford, on the other hand, never had trouble getting breakthrough roles. Her career in the 50s was massive, and despite the fact that her co-stars may have been getting younger and younger, Crawford was still a shining star and her ambition allowed her star in numerous blockbuster hits. Blondell also describes Crawford's marriage with Alfred Steele, CEO of Pepsi-Cola, as a then-relief to her forty years of consecutive work and financial worries.

Blondell goes on to say that Bette was a different story. After having starred in All About Eve, Blondell says that Bette was on top of the world and expected to get swamped with roles, but her biggest comeback was her biggest letdown, and that ended up not being the case. She decided to focus on her personal life instead, taking on the role of wife and mother, but as Blondell describes it, Bette was inevitably miscast. She ended up marrying her All About Eve co-star, Gary Merrill, and unfortunately, the marriage didn't work out so well, and the pair ended up getting divorced after ten years together.

Blondell continues talking about Davis, claiming that Gary's performance in bed was not the reason their marriage failed, but rather it was his performance on stage that caused the real problems. Blondell admits that Gary was a stiff, and Bette couldn't stand it. She explains that when Bette realized her marriage was coming to a close, she decided to take her Broadway show, The World of Carl Sandburg, on tour, with Gary as her co-star. Discouraged with Gary's awful onstage presence, Bette ultimately opted to fire her own husband from the tour and replace him with another actor, Barry Sullivan, the very next day, because in the end, Bette always picked the professional over the personal, according to Blondell.

The Other Woman

Continuing the interview with Adam, Blondell is asked to speak about the origins of the feud between Bette and Joan, and she explains that they didn't even need a reason to hate each other, as their relationship was simply chemical. She says that things didn't start to get heated until the 40s, when Bette was flourishing with Warner Brothers and Joan was tanking over at MGM. Joan was sick of the typical shopgirl roles and wanted to play parts with more dignity. She fought for the role of Marie Curie, but when she was turned down, she decided to sign with Warner Brothers two weeks later.

Blondell then reveals that Jack Warner's primary reason for signing Joan was to take a jab at Bette, who, although problematic, was the undisputed queen of the lot at the time. Bette was expensive, difficult, and far too powerful, so Jack wanted to send the message that Bette wasn't the only great actress out there, and that Joan would give her a run for her money, especially since she wasn't too proud to take Bette's scraps. Those scraps lead her to Mildred Pierce, which won her an Oscar for Best Actress. Jack then started to give the good roles to Joan instead, and ironically, Bette ended up playing the shopgirl characters that Joan was originally trying to get away from. Blondell then goes on to say that through it all, it was Jack who made millions off the actresses, despite being solely responsible for igniting the longstanding feud between them.

Olivia de Havilland later joins in on the interview with Blondell, explaining that the two of them were completely unaware that Bette and Joan, both good friends of theirs, were being so cruelly manipulated by men in the industry. Blondell comments that women didn't have any power back then, as they still don't now, and that she and Olivia couldn't have done anything to mend the feud. Olivia agrees, adding that this all happened before the modern women's liberation movement, and suggests that things are different now and that women would revolt if pitted against one another. However, Blondell strongly disagrees and tells Olivia that nothing has changed. She explains that no matter how liberated, women will do what they always do when they're cornered: eat their own and pick their teeth with the bones.

Appearances

Bette and Joan (5/8)

Multimedia

Videos

References

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