What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by Lucas Heller from the novel by Henry Farrell
The Associates and Aldrich Company
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
It’s as if Billy Wilder took Sunset Blvd. that one extra step over into horror territory.
As the movie begins, it is 1917 and vaudeville is in full flower. Cute little Baby Jane Hudson is a popular headliner with her song and dance routine. Her less-cute sister Blanche waits in the wings in some jealousy and resentment. Off-stage Baby Jane is a demanding brat.
Baby Jane and Blanche grow up to be Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. By 1935, Blanche is a beloved movie star. Alcoholism and continued brattiness make Baby Jane persona-non-grata in Hollywood. She works only because Blanche refuses to make films unless Jane does. At the height of her popularity, Blanche is run down by a car and left paraplegic. She becomes totally dependent on Jane for care, just as Jane is on Blanche for money.
By the time the story proper begins, both sisters are well into middle age. Jane’s alcoholism and mental illness have only progressed. She begins a war of terror on poor Blanche. Now that Jane is able to duplicate Blanche’s voice and signature, the time appears to be coming when Jane will be able to dispense with Blanche altogether and launch her comeback.
I hadn’t seen this for decades, possibly since its theatrical release, It improved greatly from my memory. Davis is completely fabulous in this movie! She has found the ideal part that allows her to pull out all the stops and chew the scenery with relish. And I love it. Crawford resented Davis for her Oscar nomination but she deserved it. I believe Crawford’s part could have been played by any middle-aged movie star. This movie is a hell of a lot of fun and warmly recommended.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White. It was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Davis); Best Supporting Actor (Victor Buono); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; and Best Sound.