What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by Lucas Heller from the novel by Henry Farrell
1962/USA
The Associates and Aldrich Company
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Jane: Blanche, you aren’t ever gonna sell this house… and you aren’t ever gonna leave it… either.

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.

Trailer

8 thoughts on “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

  1. One of my favorites! On my latest Top Ten Movies list, I put it at #7.

    One of my favorite thing about it is that it is so long that I don’t watch it as often as some of my other top favorites. I’ve probably seen Dracula (1931) more than 30 times since about 1970 but I bet I’ve only seen Baby Jane six or seven times in that same time period. So every time I see it, there is so much that is almost new and almost fresh!

    • I think this is a movie that really deserves multiple watches. I think it would take several to get to the bottom of Bette Davis’s awesome performance.

  2. “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” is a truly magical, horrific intersection in the careers of two “old broads.” Part of what is shocking today is just how not old they were. Betty and Joan were just dried up as far as Hollywood was concerned. Joan’s performance is very brave. Bette’s performance is in the stratosphere. The film reminds us that Davis was in that unusual category of actress in classic Hollywood – a character leading lady. (Not unlike Marie Dressler, though, obviously Davis also played romantic leads.) “Baby Jane” absolutely deserves it’s cult standing and deserves to be viewed more than once, as you suggested.

    • I looked it up. Davis was 54 and Crawford was 56, still with a lot of good years left in them. Davis was never afraid to be unlikeable or to pull out all the stops. Crawford had a lot more pride and in this had to be the “nice” one.

  3. Davis deserved that nomination. Even against Crawford she totally steals the picture. Having watched quite a few Davis pictures by now, this rate among her best performances. Baby Jane is so terribly awful and Davis looks like she is relishing it all the way.

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