The Feud depicted in the new FX series of the same name is between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, but both of them have been involved in much more personal feuds than what they had with each other. Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka plays one of Bette Davis’ daughters in the new series, B.D. Hyman, who had a contentious relationship with her famous mother. While there was never a movie made about their relationship like there was for Crawford, B.D. Hyman, and Bette Davis had a great deal of baggage, so their dynamic should be interesting to see play out on Feud..
Hyman detailed her relationship with her mother in the memoir My Mother’s Keeper, which painted Davis as a cruel and domineering parental figure. The book was released in 1985 to great controversy, with critics citing the book as nothing more than a collection of attacks on Davis’ character. Jill Gertsen of the Orlando Sentinel called the memoir “less a portrait than a bitter, angry, petty compilation of every gripe that Hyman ever harbored against her mother.”
Davis closed out her second memoir released in 1989, This’n That, with a response that denies the claims in Hyman’s book. The long letter, as quoted by The Telegraph, reads in part:
“There is no doubt you have a great potential as a writer of fiction. You have always been a great storyteller. I have often, lo these many years, said to you, ‘BD, that is not the way it was. You are imagining things.’
Many of the scenes in your book I have played on the screen. It could be you have confused the ‘me’ on the screen with ‘me’ who is your mother.”
When Davis passed away in 1989, the Los Angeles Times reported that she had left both Hyman and her other daughter, Margo Mosher Merrill, out of her will, along with Hyman’s two sons. The newspaper reported that the will explicitly stated, “I declare that I have intentionally and with full knowledge omitted to provide herein for my daughter, Margo, and my daughter, Barbara, and-or my grandsons, Ashley Hyman and Justin Hyman.”
It seems that Hyman has tried her best to move past their strained relationship, as she now runs the B.D. Hyman Ministry. The ministry’s website states, “In the mid-1980s, B.D. Hyman received God’s solution to her dysfunctional relationship with her controlling mother.”
The feud between Crawford and Davis may be the basis of this new FX series, but if Feud shows the relationship between Davis and Hyman, it should make for another level of compelling drama. And casting Shipka as Hyman may be the best casting choice in an especially well-cast series. She spent seven seasons cutting her teeth on dramatic, nuanced material in Mad Men, and will likely be a natural when it comes to portraying Hyman. While most roles involve creating the character and inventing a backstory, Shipka and Sarandon should have more than enough material to work with.