Bette and Joan, laughing and smoking and drinking

19 March 2013


I’m pretty sure this was taken on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) — portraying two veteran actors often described as bitter rivals. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just a cliché that two successful women, fading stars in their 50s, must be prone to catfights.

You know what? I don’t care about that rivalry stuff. There’s something so perfect about this image, crystallizing as it does a moment between two women with long careers as revered actors — professional women laughing together over drinks, cigarettes, and some forgotten joke. This is the laughing of two independent women (Bette had divorced husband #4 a couple of years earlier, while Joan’s husband #4 had died just a little earlier than that). This is the laughing of women who are in on the same joke. Don’t you wish you knew what it was?

Oh, if only I had a director’s chair with my name on it, written in just this font. Perched right next to another broad’s matching chair for drinking and laughing.


4 Responses to “Bette and Joan, laughing and smoking and drinking”

  1. Becky Says:

    Yes, this does look like fun, doesn’t it? Although those chairs don’t look too comfortable! By the way, I watched The Americans pilot, and I loved it. You’re right, people of my age were too weary of the Cold War to be concerned much by the 80’s. The Cuban missile crisis scared me so badly as a child that nothing else compared. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Michael J Kelly Says:

    Photo taken by Hollywood master Phil Stern, featured exclusively in best selling book “Bette and Joan – The Divine Feud,” by Shaun Considine. The caption: “A rare moment of camaraderie , on the set of Baby Jane”. . . “We will never see their likes again,” columnist Liz Smith.

  3. Flo me la Says:

    Ugh. I’m so tired of people constantly pitting successful women against each other and assuming rivalry simply because they happen to work in the same field.To me it feels like there’s not enough room for more than one successful woman, so women must constantly fight each other for that small space reserved for them, instead of having each other’s backs. Old and boring. Show me more strong friendships between strong women instead!
    Love this picture.

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