10 Disturbing Celebrity Feuds from the Golden Age of Hollywood
From the moment the second celebrity crawled out from under the Hollywood Sign there have been celebrity feuds. To be honest celebrities at the time of Shakespeare or even Plato must have had feuds but those aren't the decades we deal with, we're digging into the nasty and brutal feuds between the stars of the Groovy era.
Whether they were stars during the studio system era of the 1950s or famous in the wild west of the 1970s these celebrities were at each other's throat for incredibly serious reasons such as "being mean," or "having a new girlfriend." These iconic feuds are honestly messy and we wish that we could go back in time and tell everyone involved to take a time out and go to the Brown Derby for a nosh.
Have you picked a side on any of these celebrity feuds from '50s, '60s, and '70s? If so, let us know and we'll pass that information along.
Joan Crawford Vs Bette Davis
Celebrity feuds don't get any more nasty than this. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis are both iconic actresses who got their start in the early days of film, with Crawford acting in some of the final silent films of the era. Both of these women had major ups and downs in their careers and were able to not only maintain their fame, but achieve a vaulted status that many actresses of the era never found.
This feud started back in 1933 when Davis' first starring role in Ex-Lady was completely overshadowed by Crawford's divorce from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - both of things hit the pages of the Old Gray Lady on the same day. What would become a trend, Crawford' drama overshadowed Davis' work and Ex-Lady was a massive bomb. Two years later, Davis appeared in a film with an actor named Franchot Tone and fell truly, madly, deeply in love with him. Crawford swooped in during the filming and snatched him out from under her. Crawford later said:
[Tone] thought Bette was a good actress but he never thought of her as a woman.
WOOF! Crawford and Davis spent the next, oh, 30 years trading barbs in the press, stealing roles from one another, and being generally nasty until they co-starred in their only film together, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? In the film the two aging actresses play sisters who's careers are behind them and they're stuck together in a Grey Gardens scenario in a big old decrepit mansion. It's amazing. Davis was really excited to go absolutely crazy as the grotesque Jane, but she later said that getting Crawford to try not to be beautiful while playing a character confined to a wheelchair. Davis said:
It was a constant battle to get her not to look gorgeous. [Joan Crawford] wanted her hair well-dressed, her gowns beautiful and her fingernails with red nail polish. For the part of an invalid who had been cooped up in a room for 20 years, she wanted to look attractive. She was wrong.
Crawford later responded:
Miss Davis was always partial to covering up her face in motion pictures. She called it 'art.' Others might call it camouflage — a cover-up for the absence of any real beauty.
To make this feud even more unhinged Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for her role but Crawford didn't let this bother her. She managed to worm her way up on stage to accept the award on behalf of Anne Bancroft who couldn't make it that night. Pure shade.
The Cast of 'Star Trek' Vs William Shatner
Where do we even start with this drama? Star Trek: The Original Series is a landmark television show that presented an idyllic world with no racial or sexual hangups, but that doesn't mean there weren't hangups on set of the series. According to the cast of the series, everyone on the bridge of the USS Enterprise had a wonderful relationship with each other - except for William Shatner.
Pretty much every one feuded with Shatner during the filming of the series and into the incredibly popular films that were adapted from the series. Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Leonard Nimoy all clashed with their captain throughout the years, with Nimoy going to the grave not speaking with Shatner. How do we even rank these feuds? Let's go from basic co-workers who don't get along to blood feud.
James Doohan and Shatner just plain didn't get along during their tenure as co-stars but when they stopped seeing each other every day and popping up at the odd conferences together things seem to have smoothed out so that's nice. Similarly, Walter Koenig has always noted that Shatner is a classic diva, and that the cast's dislike of the Captain help bring them together - can someone get us the number of his therapist?
During filming of the series Shatner and Nimoy had a somewhat friendly feud over their similarly rising stars. Shatner felt that he was the lead of the show, but Nimoy's Spock was way more popular than Kirk and that gave Shatner the irk. The two were on again off again friends, but when Shatner filmed Nimoy without his consent at a sci-fi convention for use in the documentary The Captains it led to a fallout that kept the men from speaking with each other for the last five years of Nimoy's life. To make things even more fraught Shatner didn't even attend Nimoy's funeral.
Speaking of not attending, when co-star George Takei married his husband, Brad, Shatner wasn't there along with everyone else from the series. Shatner went on to call Takei "psychotic" for not sending an invite, but Takei claims that the invite was lost in the mail - a classic true thing that happens all the time.
Elizabeth Taylor Vs Debbie Reynolds
After meeting at MGM as teen actors, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor formed such a close friendships that Reynolds was Taylor's Matron of Honor when she married Mike Todd. After Todd's death Reynolds' husband Eddie Fisher consoled Taylor, and by consoled we mean that they started hooking up, i.e. having an affair. You get it.
Fisher abandoned Reynolds with their two children (Carrie Fisher, et al) only to be abandoned by Taylor for Richard Burton. It happens. Reynolds and Taylor didn't speak for seven years until they realized that they were on vacation on the same cruise ship. They had dinner and squashed their beef.
Jerry Lewis Vs Dean Martin
This feud is a huge drag, not because it's not fun but because these two friends truly fell apart and we love friendship. After a decade of working as a killer comedy duo as well as members of the Rat Pack, and a 16 film run along with a bank vault full of money these two guys called it quits in 1956.
Why break up the duo when people are literally backing up a Brink truck to your door because they love your work? Allegedly Martin was tired of Lewis being a workaholic and pushing them to work when he thought they could stand to rest on their laurels. More to the point, Lewis was quickly becoming more and more popular and people started to see him as the real talent out of the two performers.
After Martin put the duo on ice he continued performing as a member of the Rat Pack while releasing albums, and Lewis became and incredibly prolific and popular comedic performer who also started a long-running Labor Day telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy. It took two decades for the two to ever speak again, and it took a suggestion from Frank Sinatra for Martin to appear on the telethon unannounced. The next time the two worked together was briefly in 1989 in Las Vegas where Lewis was open about their breakup.
Frank Sinatra Vs Marlon Brando
It doesn't sound like it was easy to be a celebrity while Frank Sinatra was out here with his Rat Pack. In 1955, the filming of Guys and Dolls went from a small actor's squabble with Marlon Brando over the role of Sky Masterson (Sinatra wanted it, Brando was cast) to a possible mob hit.
During the filming of Guys and Dolls, Sinatra referred to Brando as "mumbles" after tiring of the actor's marble mouth ways. This didn't sit well with Brando, who started to lash out at Sinatra in a ways both amusing and childish. In one scene where Sinatra had to eat a piece of cake Brando pretended to forget his lines over and over again.
After the cake incident Brando and Sinatra stopped talking to each other, and only communicated through various cast and crew members. Then it came out that Sinatra's then-wife, Ava Gardner, was palling around with Brando which led to an alleged kidnapping incident by some of Sinatra's buddies. One night Brando was allegedly pushed into a car by three wise guys with a gun who drove him around the Hollywood Hills threatening him until they dumped him off all on his lonesome. Brando's friend, Carlo Fiore later said:
Marlon told me, ‘One of the goons told me he was going to offer me a choice. He could kill me, a quick and easy death with a bullet in the heart. Or else he’d let me live. If he let me live, he’d castrate me and carve up my face so that no plastic surgeon could ever repair it… Marlon told me he had never been so frightened in all his life, ‘I was sweating blood.'
Orson Welles Vs William Randolph Hearst
Nothing starts a feud like someone making a movie about another man's mistress, and Orson Welles sure stepped in it when he decided to make his first feature film, Citizen Kane (heard of it?). Based on the life and scandals of Willam Randolph Hearst, a newspaper mogul who really didn't like it when he was called out on stuff like cheating on his wife and trying to destroy people with his power.
From the moment that Welles announced that he was making a movie about Hearst (bad idea!), the mogul forbid any of his papers from printing a word about Citizen Kane. After the film was finished, Hearst tried to buy the original print of the movie and destroy it. Clearly that didn't work, but Hearst's plan more or less worked and Citizen Kane didn't fair so well on its initial release. Hearst's campaign to defame Welles was so bad that when anything about Citizen Kane was mentioned at the 1942 Academy Awards there were ripples of boos throughout the audience.
Welles has since been vindicated by every film studies professor in North America but no one really came out a winner in this feud.
Sophia Loren Vs Jayne Mansfield
These gorgeous actresses of the Golden Era of Hollywood never should have been at each other's throats, but here was Jayne Mansfield showing up at a party in Beverly Hills on Lorens' behalf in the most low cut dress available at the time sans bra. How long was Mansfield there? We don't know, but it was long enough to pose with Loren in a few photos that show the Italian actress shooting some of the most deadly looks to Mansfield that we've ever seen. Loren later said:
[Mansfield] came right for my table. She knew everyone was watching. She sat down. And now, she was barely… Listen. Look at the picture. Where are my eyes? I’m staring at her [chest] because I am afraid they are about to come onto my plate. In my face you can see the fear. I'm so frightened that everything in her dress is going to blow — BOOM! — and spill all over the table.
Steven McQueen Vs Yul Brenner
In 1960, The Magnificent Seven changed westerns forever. An adaptation of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, the film starred Yul Brenner, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, and Steve McQueen - that a lot of ego flying around, but the most tension was found between McQueen and Brenner. At the time Brynner was an Academy Award winner and McQueen was a newcomer to the scene with only a few credited roles under his belt so it makes sense that Brynner thought he was the most magnificent of the seven.
McQueen was on the rise and he used his sheer charisma to get what he wanted on set which drove Brynner insane. McQueen only had seven lines in the original script so he did everything he could to draw attention to himself onscreen - he rattled his shotgun shells while Brynner monologued, he flipped a coin throughout scenes, and he even repeatedly knocked over a mound of dirt that Brynner used to adjust his height on camera. Brynner responded by getting physical with McQueen briefly. McQueen later explained:
I was in my element. He wasn’t. When you work in a scene with Yul, you’re supposed to stand perfectly still, 10 feet away. Well, I don’t work that way.
It doesn't sound like these guys ever cleared up their beef, maybe the movie's better for it.
Boris Karloff Vs Bela Lugosi
This is really a one sided feud but it's worth talking about. Both of these old-timey monster men became stars when they played iconic characters in Universal Horror films in the 1930s. For Karloff, his career took off when he played Frankenstein's monster in the aptly named Frankenstein, and Lugosi played Count Dracula in *checks notes* Dracula.
Lugosi was initially offered the role of Frankenstein's monster but he turned it down because he didn't want to wear the makeup, but makeup or no Karloff made the character of the Monster a truly emotional experience for the viewer. Rather than let the role of the Monster hang around his neck like an albatross Karloff used it as a springboard to success (an excellent metaphor). He went on to play everything from mad scientists to detectives, to aging horror actors. The man WORKED.
The same can sort of be said of Lugosi, but on a much sadder level. Lugosi saw Karloff as a lesser actor for the rest of his life and saw him as the reason the he was never offered work outside of horror films. The real irony here is that Karloff didn't even think about Lugosi, and Lugosi even went on to play Frankenstein's Monster in later and lesser Universal sequels.
Faye Dunaway Vs Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski is not only a big time creep, he's also hard to work with. Big Surprise. While filming Chinatown he and Faye Dunaway were at odds on a day to day basis over everything from her character to literally going to the bathroom.
Famously, Dunaway asked once asked what her motivation was for a scene and Polanski answered, "your paycheck." Which isn't so great, but the real tea allegedly occurred on a day when Dunaway had to take a bathroom break but Polanski refused to let her leave the car where she was filming. Supposedly Dunaway grabbed a cup, filled it up, and threw it at the director. Someone had to do it.