11 Epic Rivalries That Deserve Their Own Television Shows

These celebrity feuds tore through New York Society, British royalty, and Hollywood studios alike.

We love Ryan Murphy's Feud: Bette and Joan so deeply, we wish he would create more epic television devoted to classic rivalries. We pulled together a few helpful suggestions:

Hedda Hopper versus Louella Parsons

Rivalries are good for certain businesses, and there's no doubt that the feud between gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper kept the pot boiling. Parsons, employed by William Randolph Hearst, was the Queen of Hollywood, with columns read by 20 million people around the world. Hopper, who made her debut in the Los Angeles Times in 1938, was second place and fought to oust Parsons through greater ruthlessness, dubbing her Beverly Hills home "the house that fear built." They both revealed celebrities' secret love affairs and attacked their politics, being "to the right of Genghis Kahn."

After Hopper printed a "blind item" about Katherine Hepburn's affair with the married Spencer Tracy, the actor kicked her in the rear at Ciro's. When the two gossip columnists made a public show of friendship, eating cracked crab together at Romanoff's in 1948, the truce was national news. Fortunately, it didn't last long.

Olivia de Havilland versus Joan Fontaine

They were the only sisters to both win Oscars for Best Actress. But it didn't bring them any closer. De Havilland became a star first, appearing with Errol Flynn in Captain Blood in 1935. Joan Fontaine's big break was Rebecca opposite Laurence Olivier in 1940. When Fontaine won the Oscar for Suspicion, she was sure that her sister, nominated for Hold Back the Dawn, was furious, since their sibling rivalry had been epic as children. As Fontaine wrote in her memoir, "All the animus we'd felt toward each other as children, the hair-pullings, the savage wrestling matches, the time Olivia fractured my collarbone, all came rushing back in kaleidoscopic imagery. My paralysis was total." (Not so much that she couldn't pick up her statuette, of course.) After that the women stopped speaking, their animosity whipped into headline-stealing frenzy by gossip columnists.

Soon the sisters' catty remarks about each other became famous, including Fontaine's line about her sister's new husband, a writer: "It's too bad that Olivia's husband has had so many wives and only one book." Fontaine died in 2013; de Havilland, 100 years old, is still with us.

Alva Vanderbilt versus Caroline Astor

What do you do if you've married into the richest family in America but the queen of New York society, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, won't acknowledge your existence? If you are Alva Vanderbilt, you plan the party of the century. Alva, wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt (grandson of the "Commodore"), wanted to befriend Mrs. Astor, arbiter of the New York 400, but the latter found "railroad money" distasteful.

After years of being snubbed, in 1883, Alva took action. She sent out servants to hand-deliver invitations for a fancy dress ball at her French chateau-style mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue. When Mrs. Astor discovered her family members, including her excited daughter, were not invited because she'd never made a social call on the Vanderbilts, she had no choice but to drop her card at Alva's home. The next day, party invitations for the Astors arrived. The party was epic. Contemporary sources put the cost at $250,000, including $65,000 for champagne alone.

The Queen Mother versus Wallis Simpson

"That woman" is how the Queen Mother often referred to her sister-in-law, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth (above, third from the left), later known as the Queen Mother, was Duchess of York, a wife and mother of two small children, when King Edward VIII, known as David among family, abdicated the throne to be with Simpson, "the woman I love." Elizabeth's husband, "Bertie," became King George VI and reigned for 15 years. His wife was convinced that the strain of being king of England after an abdication and through World War II led to his death at age 56.

She once said, "The two people who have caused me the most trouble in my life are Wallis Simpson and Hitler." All along Simpson (above, far right) called Elizabeth unkind names such as "the dowdy duchess" and "the fat Scottish cook." At the only meeting between the two women in 30 years, the unveiling of a plaque for Queen Mary in 1967, pictured above, Wallis pointedly did not curtsey.

Mary McCarthy versus Lillian Hellman

Why did Mary McCarthy hate fellow author Lillian Hellman so much? We aren't sure….but boy, did she ever. On Oct. 10, 1979, novelist and critic McCarthy called playwright and memoirist Hellman a liar on The Dick Cavett Show: "I said once in some interview that every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" This launched one of the most famous literary feuds of all time. Hellman sued for $2.5 million—she was particularly keen on correcting the story that she fabricated the friendship that inspired the Academy Award-winning Julia, with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. The lawsuit crawled on, ending only because Hellman died. Everyone in New York publishing took sides. Nora Ephron even wrote a Broadway show based on the feud called Imaginary Friends. The play ends with McCarthy saying, "I believe in fact" and Hellman saying, "I believe in story."

Karl Lagerfeld versus Yves Saint Laurent

One would assume the two designers fell out over fashion. But they were good friends for a time, each finding the first taste of fame in Paris in the 1950s. A rivalry gradually emerged, though. St. Laurent, creative director of Christian Dior, was consumed with aesthetics and called himself "the last couturier." Lagerfeld, the eventual head of Chanel, was the more forward-looking and commercially successful.

But the breaking point was a man—both designers were in love with Jacques de Bascher, a minor aristocrat. "What he lacked in character is mitigated by what he lacked in good intentions," wrote one fashion scribe. When Saint Laurent died in 2008, Lagerfeld did not go to the funeral. Their rivalry is wonderfully captured in the book The Beautiful Fall:Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris.

John Fairchild versus Geoffrey Beene

John Fairchild, the legendary publisher and editor in chief of Women's Wear Daily for three decades, was famous for passing judgment—he even gave designers grades. But his feud with Geoffrey Bean took pride of place, sparked, some say, when the designer complained about a reporter Fairchild sent to cover a fall collection in 1983. Afterward, Fairchild deemed Beene "extremely difficult" and the designer called Fairchild "a despicable man." They did not speak for more than 15 years. When the Council of Fashion Designers of America wanted to give each man an award in 1998, Fairchild eventually said he would not be attending because of a prior engagement: a birthday party for a paternal uncle. Needless to say, Beene's collections were not covered in Fairchild's fashion bible, joining the ranks of "the Disappeared."

Truman Capote versus Jack Kerouac

As so many literary feuds, this one ignited on a talk show. In 1959, on David Susskind's Open End, Truman Capote, author of the newly published novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, said about the "Beat" writers, known for their nonconformist ways and impressionist prose, "None of these people have anything interesting to say and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac….It isn't writing at all, it's typing." Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road, didn't fight back in public, but he wasn't happy.

When a journalist came to the house he shared with his mother, Kerouac imitated Capote's high-pitched voice: "That's not writing, it's typewriting." Observers wondered if Capote attacked the more famous novelist to get a publicity charge for Tiffany's. Literary warfare takes a heavy toll, however. Kerouac died of alcoholism in 1969; Capote expired of drug-related liver disease in 1984.

Andrew Carnegie versus Henry Clay Frick

Together they built an American steel empire, but when Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie put Pennsylvania native Henry Clay Frick in charge of Carnegie Steel while he traveled to Europe in 1892, he may have gotten more than he bargained for. A union-busting effort turned into the Homestead Strike: a riot, deaths and terrible scandal. In 1899, Frick resigned. A lawsuit over stock followed, and their partnership was over. Both men migrated to New York City, spending their time and fortunes on philanthropy. But the acrimony continued. In 1919, when Carnegie, 83, was dying, he sent a message to Frick seeking reconciliation. The note traveled from one man's mansion to the other's. "Yes, you can tell Carnegie I'll meet him," Frick responded. "Tell him I'll see him in Hell, where we both are going."

Alice Roosevelt Longworth versus Eleanor Roosevelt

"Princess Alice," the beautiful daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, was famously the author of the phrase "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." She apparently couldn't abide her cousin Eleanor, and was a thorn in the First Lady's side for decades. A staunch Republican, she mocked Eleanor to friends and was quoted in an article saying "There's always the possibility that people will say, 'We didn't elect her. What is she horning in for?"  Eleanor suffered in silence for the most part, although at one White House luncheon she fought back in her own way by putting her cousin publicly on the spot: "Alice, why don't you give one of your impersonations of me now?" Perhaps worst of all, Alice encouraged Franklin Roosevelt's affair with Lucy Mercer, saying, "He deserved a good time—he was married to Eleanor." 

Gore Vidal versus Norman Mailer

The pugilistic Norman Mailer struck Gore Vidal not once but twice. To be sure, Vidal made his contempt for Mailer clear, once saying, "Norman Mailer often sounds like the deranged commander of an American Legion post, particularly about women, whom he doesn't like very much." After Vidal gave one of Mailer's novels a withering review, Mailer punched him at a party. Vidal rose to his feet and declared: "Once again words fail Norman Mailer." That was not their only tangle. After receiving another bad review from Vidal and being compared to Charles Manson, a drunken Mailer head-butted Vidal in the green room of the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Of course, Vidal feuded with several people simultaneously. He sued Truman Capote, whom he "truly loathed," praising his death as "a wise career move." 

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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