Bette Davis' Newspaper Want Ad Is Real, & This 'Feud' Moment Shows It Was Desperate Times For The Award-Winning Actor
If things had gone their way, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? would have changed the landscape of the entertainment industry for Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. But, before the the movie was released, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis still struggled to find work. After her agent blew her off, Davis took out a newspaper ad in Feud asking for steady employment in Hollywood. While it was seen as desperate, Davis' ad was also calling out the entertainment industry for brushing her massive talent aside. And though not everything that occurs in Feud happened in history, the real-life Davis did take out a want ad promoting herself.
Hollywood legend has it that Davis taking out the ad in The Hollywood Reporter (some reports have that she took it out in Variety) was what actually landed her the role in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, but Feud gives a more truthful depiction of what happened. According to Snopes and Davis biographer Ed Sikov, Davis placed the employment ad nine days after filming had wrapped on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. That is more in line with what Feud portrayed during the March 26 episode, "More, or Less." Susan Sarandon's Davis took out the ad in between the time What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? filmed and before it was released since no one had thought the film would be as successful and critically acclaimed as it ended up being.
Snopes quotes Davis' agent Martin Baum as saying the situation "wasn't as dire a circumstance as she portrayed it in the ad," but the point is that Davis felt she wasn't being offered the parts that she should be. After two Academy Awards and — as she wrote — "30 years as an actress in motion pictures," Davis thought she had earned the right to have "steady employment in Hollywood" and to me, her résumé proved she had. But as Feud depicts it, Hollywood didn't want to cast an older woman, even one as critically lauded and talented as Bette Davis.
Whether you interpret Davis' want ad as a joke, an act of desperation, or a move that was pointing out the discrimination that existed in Hollywood is up to you. But I like the way that Feud showed it — Davis making a bold, humorous, and badass power move to call out the Hollywood executives who weren't giving her the respect she so rightfully deserved.