Joan Crawford had it in her contract that her trailer be placed so many yards from Bette Davis. The trailer was set up at the back of the house, with her own golf cart to take her back and forth when filming.
Joan Crawford took sick and was hospitalized as filming began so scenes were shot around her, but when it became evident that she would have to be replaced, her role was offered to Katharine Hepburn and Vivien Leigh. Hepburn didn't return the studio's call, while Leigh declined, saying, "No, thank you. I can just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis."
Joan Crawford was seething when she read that Robert Aldrich had replaced her with Olivia de Havilland. She is quoted in "Hollywood Reporter" as saying, "Aldrich knew where to long distance me all over the world when he needed me, but he made no effort to reach me here that he had signed Olivia. He let me hear it for the first time in a radio release - and, frankly, I think it stinks."
Joan Crawford would always say 'Good Morning' when she walked onto the set. Bette Davis however would seldom answer her. Three hours later she might say 'Hi,' prompting Crawford to look around to see if she was addressing her or someone else.
Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young were both offered the role of Miriam when Joan Crawford became ill but they turned it down. Young felt the role was totally wrong for her, saying "I don't believe in horror stories for women and I wouldn't play a part like that if I were starving." At the time Crawford was good friends with both Stanwyck and Young.
Robert Aldrich had to take three planes, a train, and a taxi up a goat trail to get to Olivia de Havilland's home, which was in the Swiss Mountains. There, it took him four days to convince her to step in and replace Joan Crawford.
Bette Davis was publicly derisive of Joan Crawford's extensive location wardrobe. "For a goddamn week in Baton Rouge, she brought twenty pieces of luggage. It was a black-and-white movie but she had color-coordinated outfits for the daytime scenes, and for the night shots all of her evening dresses were chiffon, which meant that the wardrobe lady had to spend hours ironing them in the one-hundred-degree weather."
Bette Davis' trailer was parked at the front of the mansion but she was seldom there. She set up a huge mirror in the hallway of the house and she put on her makeup there. At lunchtime she had her meals outside, with the director and the grips.
Bette Davis's son Michael Merrill says his mother did not want to do this film, and that the idea of the head being cut off and rolling down the staircase was something she was appalled by.
After being in the hospital for five weeks, Joan Crawford returned to work on Monday, July 20, 1964. On the first day, after she spent three hours in make-up, she stepped onto the sound-stage where she was greeted with applause and hugs from the cast and crew. Bette Davis also joined in the welcoming and handed Joan, one perfect red rose. On the second day, Davis announced during a scene between Crawford and Joseph Cotten, that she wanted some lines eliminated. "I am cutting some dialogue," said Bette, wielding a large red pencil and then excising large chunks of dialogue from Joan's scene. "Miriam doesn't need them, and you, Mr. Cotten, I hope you don't mind. These lines hold me up." Joan, abandoned her professionalism, she turned on her heel and went to her dressing room. After this incident, she was unable to work a full day without feeling tired.
Although she was replaced by Olivia de Havilland midway through production, Joan Crawford (then on the Pepsi board of directors) was notorious for demanding that product placement shots of her company's soft drink appear in all her pictures of that era. Perhaps to spite her, there's a shot of a rival Cola-Cola truck barreling through town just before Miriam sees Jewel Mayhew on the street.
At 28 minutes and 30 seconds the taxi carrying Miriam pulls up in front of the mansion and for two seconds Joan Crawford can be seen peering out from the backseat window wearing dark sunglasses and dark clothes. When Olivia de Havilland as Miriam is seen in the taxi before she arrives she is wearing a white hat and her clothing is light colored.
Because there was no time to redo the costumes for Miriam, many of her clothes come from Olivia de Havilland's personal wardrobe.
During the filming of a Crawford scene on the veranda, Bette Davis positioned herself in front of the camera. Then during one of Joan's close-ups, Bette turned to the director, Robert Aldrich and said in a loud voice, "You're not going to let her do it like that, are you?" Crawford, trembling, finished the scene and returned to her dressing room.
Features the final film performance of Mary Astor.
Joan felt that Davis was manipulating the director, Robert Aldrich, saying, "She's practically directing the picture for him right in front of me, so God knows what else she's up to behind my back. I might wind up on the cutting room floor."
Life magazine was interested in the re-teaming of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, so Robert Aldrich thought it would be a great idea to have the women pose for photographs sitting on tombstones. Davis was all for it while Crawford was a little reluctant, but because it was for Life magazine she went along with it. Aldrich had a fake cemetery built a short distance away from the house and the photos were done in three to four sessions. The sessions were done during filming, and lasted for hours. Joan would be ready when Bette would be called away. Then when Bette returned, Joan would be gone, back in her trailer, with her clothes off, resting. She would take a long time getting ready. For the last session, Bette came back and Joan was missing, so Davis went to the back of the house to Crawford's dressing room, rapped on the door, stood outside and yelled, "Joan Crawford. Get your clothes on and come do these photographs, right away." Joan came hurtling out the door and the photographs were finished.
On Friday, July 31, 1964, while resting in her Fox dressing room, Joan Crawford suffered a relapse, and at 7:00 p.m. she was taken, by ambulance, back to Cedars Sinai Hospital where she remained for the next thirty days. During Crawford's second or third week in the hospital, she called her friend, director Vincent Sherman, and asked him to come visit her because she was dying for some company. When Sherman got to her room, she jumped out of bed, locked the door and told him, "I'm not sick. I just couldn't stand working another minute with that Bette Davis."
On Friday, June 12, 1964, the last day of shooting in Louisiana, after some late-afternoon shots, Joan Crawford was relaxing in her trailer, on hand if needed for additional scenes. She apparently dozed off, because when she woke up it was dark. When she sent her maid to check when shooting would be completed, she found the place empty. The crew had packed up and left, leaving Joan at the rear of the house, in her trailer, with no transportation back to the motel. Outraged, Joan returned to Los Angeles the very next day and checked herself into Cedars Sinai Hospital.
On Thursday, July 30, 1964, Bette Davis was scheduled to report to Fox to record dialogue with the other cast members, but the morning of the recording she called Robert Aldrich and begged him to let her have the day off. Davis doubted her capacity to contribute much to the recording because she was so depressed at not knowing when and if the film was ever going to be finished. After speaking with Dick Zanuck, Aldrich excused Bette, and the recording was canceled.