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

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

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.