Feud: Bette and Joan airs its last episode on Sunday, and to celebrate the finale of this sensational show, let us celebrate with the words of Olivia de Havilland, the only actor featured in Feud—she’s played by Catherine Zeta-Jones—who is still alive. Ms. de Havilland is 100 and living in Paris, and when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg to comment on the show in general and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in particular, she responded with the most beautiful missive, it simply must be appreciated in its entirety:
“I have received your email with its two questions. […] I would like to reply first to the second of these, which inquires of me the accuracy of a current television series entitled Feud, which concerns Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and their supposed animosity toward each other. Having not seen the show, I cannot make a valid comment about it. However, in principle, I am opposed to any representation of personages who are no longer alive to judge the accuracy of any incident depicted as involving themselves. […] As to the 1963 Oscar ceremony, which took place over half a century ago, I regret to say that I have no memory of it whatsoever and therefore cannot vouch for its accuracy.”
She sent this response to Feinberg via email, but I can’t help but imagine her sitting at an antique escritoire—from the Regency, perhaps—near a window overlooking a small garden, writing on elegant stationery embossed with her monogram, her fountain pen a gift from Errol Flynn. Her penmanship is beautiful and flowy, except she crosses her t’s like swords and dots her i’s like she’s stabbing the page. Letter complete, she seals the envelope and leaves it for her jealous and conniving butler to mail. Then she goes back to her business, which undoubtedly involves solving murders at dinner parties where Everyone Is A Suspect.
But seriously, does anyone believe she doesn’t remember the 1963 Oscars? One hundred is a lot of years, but based on her prose, I’d say Olivia de Havilland is still a sharp tack. She reminds me of my great aunt, Martila, who was ancient and would swear up and down she was deaf, blind, and too forgetful to know anything. But Great Aunt Martila was a spy and an eavesdropper and a born again gossip who knew everyone’s business and remembered absolutely EVERYTHING. And she would happily gossip an afternoon away, but she would never ever air family laundry outside the backyard, so to speak. Olivia de Havilland undoubtedly has the strongest tea and she’s never going to spill any of it.