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Robert Burgess Aldrich is a main character on the first season of Feud. He was an American film director, writer, and producer. He directed and produced the 1962 Oscar-nominated film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which caused the off-screen rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

He is portrayed by Alfred Molina.[1]

Biography

Pilot

We first see Aldrich on the set of his upcoming film, Sodom and Gomorrah, where he appears frustrated with his clumsy cast and crew members after shooting a particularly unsuccessful scene. His son, Bill, then notifies Robert that he is needed in his office. There, his assistant, Pauline Jameson, informs him that he has a call from Eva Braun, a woman with whom Robert is clearly having an affair. After speaking with her on the phone, he explains to Pauline that Eva is interested in signing on to Sodom and Gomorrah, but he turns her down because he knows the film is a bust. Pauline then makes a snide comment about how Robert only pays attention to women if they're in front of his camera.

Robert then asks Pauline if they have any good scripts, and Pauline pulls out the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? novel explaining that this would be a great film opportunity. She states that it would be an easier production with one set and a small cast, enabling Robert to produce it himself. Robert seems intrigued with the idea, until Pauline shows him the carton of Pepsi Cola that came with the offer, making it clear that the sender of the package was someone he had conflicts with in the past: Joan Crawford.

Robert immediately goes to visit Joan at her home to talk business. She explains that if Robert can satisfy her demands, they can make the picture together. Robert is still hesitant, given how difficult it was to work with Joan on the set of their previous film, Autumn Leaves, in 1956, claiming that it would've made a million more in revenue if Joan wasn't so stubborn. However, Joan insists that she can get the perfect co-star, Bette Davis, to play the title role, and ultimately Robert is convinced.

After Joan visits Bette to offer her the role, Bette goes home that night and immediately calls Robert to question him about Joan's intentions. She asks him if they ever slept together, but Robert swiftly denies it. He explains that Crawford's name on the marquee will get them distribution, but that he needs Bette to make the picture great, as she is willing to take risks that no one else will. He goes on to say that they both need this film, as good offers aren't coming in for him either, and he promises that Baby Jane will be the greatest horror movie ever made. He assures her that she is much too big for Broadway and convinces her to ultimately quit stage acting and return to Hollywood where she belongs.

After securing both Bette and Joan, Robert takes the film proposal to a studio executive, who gives it a green light, but not before suggesting that they go with younger actresses for the starring roles, which Robert abruptly shuts down. He then goes to speak with another executive, who contrastingly thinks that Bette and Joan are perfect for the film, but insists on shifting focus to the attractive neighbor role, even going so far as to tell the story from her point of view. Next, he goes to a third executive, who admits that Bette and Joan aren't the deal breaker for the film, but rather Bob himself, as Sodom and Gomorrah really plummeted his career. Desperate for any shred of acceptance, Robert goes to speak with one final person - Warner Bros President Jack Warner, with whom he already has a relationship.

Jack laughs in Robert's face at first, considering it disrespectful that Robert came to him as an absolute last resort, but Robert explains that it's fate, as Warner Bros was the studio where both Bette and Joan worked when they were still under contract. However, Jack insists that both women made his life a living hell when they worked for him and states that their unemployment is simply his revenge. Robert refuses to take no for an answer, and demands that Jack makes his picture. He tells Jack that he needs Baby Jane, as television is beating out the film industry and all of his recent movies are bombs. Robert explains that he received funding from Seven Arts, but that he just needs Jack to release the film in his theaters. He tells Jack he can be the single largest profit participant and offers to pay him first, and since money is his favorite language, Jack ultimately agrees.

Shortly thereafter, Robert and Jack attend a press interview for Bette and Joan to discuss their roles in Baby Jane and to publicly sign their contracts. However, it isn't long before Joan notices that Bette will be paid $600 more in expenses per week than she will, and as a result, she leaves in a tizzy without signing the contract. Aldrich notices this, and Joan tells him that she expected more from him, as the whole film project was her idea. While Robert insists he will get it fixed, Joan clarifies that the issue is a matter of trust, rather than solely about the money. Nonetheless, she still demands to be paid $1,500 per week in order to move forward with the film.

On the first day of filming for Baby Jane, Joan is getting prepped for her first scene, when suddenly she notices Robert and Bette speaking with each other on the far end of the set. She immediately confronts them and asks if they're talking about her, and although Robert denies it, Bette responds that she was merely giving Bob some ideas about Joan's character. Joan scolds Bette and angrily threatens Bob to take Bette back to her dressing room to prepare for her scenes or else she will walk off set. Robert then escorts Bette and explains that she has to make it work between her and Joan, as he took out a second mortgage on his house to make the picture, and he can't be losing money for nothing. He adds that he also has to nail the look for Bette's character and doesn't have time to deal with the drama, and Bette tells him to handle it before storming off.

Later that day, it comes time for a nervous Joan to film her first scene. She immediately manages to screw up the first take, and Robert does his best to calm her down and give her some direction. Luckily, she is able to bounce back and nail it on the second try, and Robert praises her for the performance. After filming a few takes, Joan gives Robert constructive criticism on the script, explaining that it's a bit too wordy. Just then, Bette comes out of her dressing room and makes a grand entrance in her self-designed "Baby Jane" outfit. Robert is left in pure astonishment and gives her a round of applause, as the rest of the set follows before Robert tells them to get back to work.

Robert and Pauline, along with Bette and Joan, then attend a brief screening of the scenes they have shot so far. Joan is unhappy with certain aspects of the shots, especially the harsh lighting, and brings it up to Bob. Bob tells her not to worry and assures her that they haven't balanced the footage yet, but nonetheless, Joan is still upset and chooses to leave early.

Appearances

Bette and Joan (6/8)

Multimedia

Images

Pilot

Videos

References

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