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

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

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.