Bette Davis & Robert Aldrich's Relationship Reportedly Wasn't What 'Feud' Suggests
As Feud shows, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had no shortage of issues with one another — and, according to the series, this extended to clamoring for the affections of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte director Robert Aldrich's attention and affections. Earlier this season, Davis and Aldrich were shown hooking up and now that the three are (temporarily) working together again on Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, it appears this alleged fling will be revived on Feud. The series often takes artistic license, so what's the real deal with Bette Davis and Robert Aldrich's offscreen relationship?
Although both Davis and Crawford allegedly had reputations for relationships with colleagues, there's no evidence to prove that Davis and Aldrich had any sort of romantic relationship — so, a steamy scene between Davis and Aldrich is based more on rumor than on proven facts. According to multiple sources, Davis did have an interest in whether or not Aldrich was involved with Crawford during the production of Baby Jane — but it was reportedly because she didn't want any such relationship to undermine her role in the film. According to Andrea Passafiume of TCM, multiple sources corroborate the claim that Davis wouldn't sign on to Baby Jane until she was assured that Aldrich wasn't romantically involved with Crawford. Passafiume quoted Davis on the subject:
"Miss Crawford was famous for developing a 'meaningful relationship' with either her male star or her director ... She felt these relationships gave her a certain power, and there is no doubt in my mind that they did. I do not know, or care, if she was the sexual athlete others have described. My guess is that she was a very skilled sexual politician."
As reported by Slate writer Karina Longworth, Davis' concerns about a relationship between Crawford and Aldrich were allegedly purely motivated by the fact that she feared it would make the playing field uneven during the filming of Baby Jane. "It wasn't that I cared about his private life, or hers either. That's a matter of taste. I didn't want him favoring her with more close-ups," Davis reportedly stated. When the pair reluctantly agreed to collaborate with Aldrich again for Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, the tables were turned — Crawford was paranoid that Davis and Aldrich's potential relationship would impact her role in the film (which she ultimately withdrew from, citing health issues). In the same article, Longworth wrote:
Crawford was paranoid that Davis and Aldrich were sleeping together—just as Davis had been regarding Aldrich and Crawford before Baby Jane—and her suspicions that she was being given the opposite of the star treatment at Davis’ request was given some credence when for some reason no one was sent to pick Crawford up from the airport when she arrived in Baton Rouge for a location shoot.
Although there's no evidence that Aldrich had a relationship with either Davis or Crawford, the seeds of distrust and doubt were enough — especially in a contentious relationship between two talented actors who had been sent the loud and clear message that there was hardly room for two women of their age range to succeed in the industry.