‘You should never say bad things about the dead, only good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.’
Best of enemies Joan Crawford and Bette Davis have intrigued a new generation with their famously fractious relationship, represented recently in a play starring Anita Dobson and Greta Scacchi. Their loathing of one another led to exciting rumours of incidents from Crawford putting rocks in her pockets to weigh herself down when Davis had to carry her for a scene, to real life oneupmanship.
Bette said Joan had eyebrows like ‘African caterpillars’ (she had a point), and the feisty Joan gave as good as she got: ‘poor Bette, she looks like she’s never had a happy day, or night, in her life.’ Their animosity is commonly cited as one of the great power clashes in Hollywood, much like Lady Astor and Churchill failed to see eye to eye over here. We all enjoy stories of the disputes, the battles of wits and the downright wickedness between the two so why do we find it so hard to accept that a little hate may not be the worst thing?
Hate has a terribly bad reputation but it comes with a myriad of benefits, not least of which is the absolute nature of disenchantment – you never hate in halves. So many other emotions are so entangled with one another that I personally find them exhausting. It is a pleasant holiday from self-analysis and examination to just down right dislike someone or something. I like to practice a little of it at least weekly.
Like so many of my niche personality traits, I think I got this from my grandmother. She once told a fellow patient in her nursing home that from the front she looked like a monkey and from the back like a baboon. I think she would have really fit in with Davis and Crawford, it is a great shame they never had the opportunity for an altercation – that would have been quite something.
My father often repeats the maxim that ‘you can’t really hate anything’. He is an eternal optimist and tries to brush intense dislike, along with the subjects of said dislike, out of his life expediently.
Perhaps he has a point. Hatred may not be as black and white as I would like it to be, but I choose to ignore that when I’m full flow. There are so few opportunities nowadays for the passion that this optimum level of dislike allows, and it is nice to indulge.
Consider that flatmate who always forgot to flush the loo, a boyfriend who left the dishes for you, or the colleague who would take the credit for your effort. Do you really, truly hate them? No, probably not. But I bet you stamped your feet and hoped they’d go to the devil at one point, anyway. ‘The best time I ever had with Joan was when I pushed her down some stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,’ said Davis. It must have been a satisfying, schoolgirl moment indeed.
Of course I know love is ultimately the thing to be trying to achieve overall in life, but there has to be a ying to every yang and in the eye of love always lies a little hate. Don’t make it a villain, there are plenty of ripe subjects out there to villainise, and such fun to be had in doing so.