In the recent TV series FEUD , it was clear BETTE DAVIS hoped she might win her third Oscar for WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE . But it wasn’t to be. Bette was nominated but didn’t win.
In “Feud” it’s a wonder Joan ( Jessica Lange) didnt refer to “Mildred Pierce” as a possible third Oscar for Bette (Susan Sarandon) – IF she had accepted the role!
In the 1940s, there was a period of several years when Bette and Joan both worked at Warner Brothers.
After 18 years at MGM, Joan had joined Warner Brothers in 1944 on a 3 picture deal, at a salary two thirds less that she had at MGM.
Joan was offered several scripts but until “Mildred Pierce ” came along, she only did a guest spot in HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN in 1944.
Joan presumably knew that the part of Mildred was first offered to Bette who refused it because she didn’t want to work with MICHAEL CURTIZ again.
Director Michael Curtiz wanted BARBARA STANWYCK.
In his new book “Michael Curtiz, A Life On Film”, author Alan K. Rode says that, later in life, Barbara Stanwyck said that she very much wanted to play Mildred.
Like Bette replacing CLAUDETTE COLBERT in the role of Margo Channing in ALL ABOUT EVE, Joan might not have been first choice for Mildred Pierce, but she gave an Oscar winning performance which revived her career.
Apparently the Monty Beragon beach house in “Mildred Pierce” was owned by the film’s director, Michael Curtiz. Built in 1929 in Malibu, the house collapsed into the ocean in 1983 after storms.
(This information from Hookedonhouses.net.)
Too nervous to attend on Oscar night, Joan took to her bed and Michael Curtiz presented her with her Oscar . ANN BLYTH ,who played Mildred’s scheming daughter Vida ,was there too at Joan’s bedside, along with the photographers.
Bette herself wasn’t the first choice for NOW VOYAGER.
In a 1980s interview with James Bawden, Bette said,
“Hal Wallis bought Now Voyager for Irene Dunne who was freelance and her salary was $200,000 a picture……I stormed into Jack Warner and convinced him I was cheaper……I was only on $3,000 a week. And Jack said sure ,purely on the economic angle.”
Bette had wanted to play in LIFE WITH FATHER, and said,
“I slipped into the studio late at night to audition for Life With Father, but Mike Curtiz was going to direct it and he said I just wasn’t right.”
(This time Irene Dunne did get the role opposite WILLIAM POWELL.)
The ‘new’ Charlotte in Now Voyager.