What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

"Essential"

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Review


Watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? fills one with a sense of nostalgia for a time they may never have known but can always relive. In 1962, Baby Jane's year of birth, the cinema was a wonderful place to be. Films mattered, genres were being stretched, and classics were produced. To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia, and Baby Jane - it was quite a year. It was also the time when the late Bette Davis, Hollywood's own Elizabethan matriarch, was performing. A vehicle for Davis and archrival Joan Crawford, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a stunning testimony to a golden age.

Baby Jane Hudson (played in her older years by a gloriously dilapidated Davis) was a star. As a goldie-locked kindergarten beauty, Baby Jane performed to sold-out audiences in 1917. Sister Blanche, then the plainer of the two, was always reminded of that depressing reality. Standing off-stage left, enviously watching her sister screech through a set of syrupy "I love you daddy" numbers, Blanche could only dream of a future when the audience's eyes and inclinations might shift. And they do. Flashing decades forward with superb audacity, director Robert Aldrich introduces us to a new world, where Blanche is a superstar who, though crippled, is still adored by her fans. Baby Jane is as Baby Jane was destined to be, a pale shadow of her juvenile success.

Aldrich's macabre psychodrama is an exploration of what moderns might call the "child star syndrome." When Baby Jane's star fades and her features droop, her tempestuous calls for ice cream become bitter and twisted latter-life jealousy. "Caring" for the wheelchair-bound Blanche, in a rotting unkempt home, Jane parades around in caked make-up and baby doll dresses slapping meals together and rehashing her stage numbers for an audience of dusty walls and dirty kettles. Blanche (an undernourished Crawford) has sympathy for what she increasingly realizes is her sister's "condition," but the affection is not mutually shared. With a series of television specials airing celebrating Blanche's career, Baby Jane casts an envious and evil eye over her ailing sister, and Aldrich's brilliantly twisted film unwinds.

The greatest pleasure of Baby Jane is the performances of its two leads. Davis was nominated for an Oscar for this role and deservedly so. Jane is a diabolically bizarre creation, neurotic and schizophrenic but oddly endearing. As Davis plays her, Jane never really grew up. Whether batting her eyelashes at opportunistic pianist Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono), or hammering at the head of her suspicious housekeeper, Jane is always pathetic and sad more than frightening. Her darkest hours tick on desperation rather than inherent evil. Crawford, in the less noisy role, is equally commanding. Squeaky and domineered, Crawford's physical transformation is astounding. Her fading greatness speaks in her sunken cheeks and arched eyes. Neither performance is internal, subtle, or understated. Davis and Crawford are overacting here, but it is always fascinating, funny and frightening. The two divas were bitter enemies in real life and that tension crackles on screen. Of working with Crawford, Davis had said, "That bitch hated working with me on Jane, and vice versa... She was a pain in the ass before, during, and after the picture was made." Their rivalry is enough to make one think they toned it down in the film.

Yet Baby Jane is more than just a realization of this enmity and a celebration of these performers. It is a taut, tense, intriguing, and an exploratory psychological experience. In great thriller style, it shocks and titillates. Aldrich and screenwriter Lukas Heller embrace the grisly and the gruesome; Jane's pet dinners are particularly wicked inclusions. The film follows a type of cycle to suspense. It builds marvelously; each trip Jane makes up the stairs to Blanche's bedroom is crueler than the last. First, the phone goes, and then the pets, and then... well we don't want to spoil it. Suffice to say the film is a master class in the type of escalating suspense one sees in Rear Window and more recently in Misery.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is as close to genre perfection as one is likely to come. As a trip back in time, it is an endearing testimonial, but as a film, it is a complex and frightening, ferocious event.

Aka Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?



What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Facts and Figures

Run time: 134 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 31st October 1962

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Associates & Aldrich Company, The, Seven Arts Productions, Warner Bros.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 42 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Kenneth Hyman

Starring: as Baby Jane Hudson, as Blanche Hudson, as Edwin Flagg, as Marty Mc Donald, Julie Allred as Baby Jane Hudson, in 1917, Anne Barton as Cora Hudson (as Ann Barton), Marjorie Bennett as Dehlia Flagg, Bert Freed as Ben Golden (as Robert Freed), as Mrs. Bates, Maidie Norman as Elvira Stitt, Dave Willock as Ray Hudson, as Lunch counter assistant at beach, Russ Conway as Police Officer, Maxine Cooper as Bank teller, Robert O. Cornthwaite as Dr. Shelby

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.