The working class twin sister of a callous wealthy woman impulsively murders her out of revenge and assumes the identity of the dead woman. But impersonating her dead twin is more complicated and risky than she anticipated.
In a tale that almost redefines sibling rivalry, faded actresses Blanche and 'Baby' Jane Hudson live together. Jane was by far the most famous when she performed with their father in vaudeville but as they got older, it was Blanche who became the finer actress, which Jane still resents. Blanche is now confined to a wheelchair - Jane ran her over with the car while drunk, even though she has no memory of it - and Jane is firmly in control. As time goes by, Jane exercises greater and greater control over her sister, intercepting her letters and ensuring that few if anyone from the outside has any contact with her. As Jane slowly loses her mind, she torments her sister going to ever greater extremes. Written by
It takes a while for both leads to appear on screen, with Joan Crawford appearing first while watching her character's old picture. Bette Davis finally appears about a minute later, and by this point, it's nearly 20 minutes into the picture. See more »
After Jane kicks Blanche, Blanche falls and Jane walks around her to kick her again, but when she kicks her again, she is in the same position that she was when she first kicked her, obviously as she kicks her from the right side of the screen (she would be on the left side of the screen if she walked around her). See more »
I recently viewed this film with a friend who had never seen it before. Much to my surprise, we had to turn it off early because this friend actually found Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? boring.
I'll admit that Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is a dated piece of work. By today's standards, there is no shock value. The actresses are not well known by the younger crowds out there. There is a lot of dialogue and very little action. It simply doesn't fit in with today's expectations of horror and suspense. So why does it hold up as a great film, at least by my standards and by the standards of so many others?
To truly appreciate this film, it would be necessary to understand the background. What actually contributed to the making of this film is what I find truly fascinating.
The story itself is about two elderly sisters. One, Baby Jane, (played by Bette Davis) was a child star in the early part of the century. She was hugely popular on the vaudeville circuit. Backstage she was a spoiled brat. Later on in life the other sister, Blanche (played by Joan Crawford) became a popular Hollywood movie star, overshadowing her now 'has-been' sister. A supposed car accident leaves Blanche crippled during the height of her popularity and a crazed Jane is left to care for her.
In their later life Blanche is confined to her bedroom and Jane, still donning the make up and curls from her childhood runs the house. Jane still believes she can resurect her career, but is tormented by her sisters continued popularity as her films are rerun on television.
There are some fabulous lines throughout the movie that have become legendary. Blanche says, "You couldn't do this to me if I wasn't in this wheel chair.' Jane quips "But ya are Blanche, but ya are."
Davis plays Jane to the hilt, looking hysterically eerie as she tortures Crawford's stoic Blanche. My kid sister saw this film after seeing Mommie Dearest and aptly stated that this was just dessert for a woman who beat her children so badly. I think my sister was most impressed when Davis kicks Joan in the stomach. "Take that Mommie Dearest!"
Back to my original point, I believe that in order to truly appreciate this story, one must appreciate the behind-the-scenes legend that truly is the essence of this film. Davis and Crawford were, and are, two of the most formidable actresses in Hollywood. Between them there are hundreds of films, three Oscars, and countless tidbits of gossip. Both had to claw and chew their way to the top, and had to fight harder to stay there. They both had stormy relationships, and bitter feuds with studio bosses and directors. And both have a legion of fans that have survived long after they did. And of course, lets not forget the fact that they may have despised each other.
There is a fantastic book called Bette and Joan (I can't recall the author's name) that I recommend any novice viewer read prior to viewing this film. In it, the lives of these two remarkable women are described in gossipy detail. A lot of time is spent detailing the making of this film. At the time Joan was pushing her husbands company, Pepsi. It was rumored, perhaps by Bette that her Pepsi bottles were half filled with vodka. Bette also complains vehemently about the size of Joan's fake cleavage, and how they got in the way of some of those scenes. It's even suggested that some of those beatings that Joan took from Bette were real.
With all of this background, one might soon appreciate, as I did, the importance of this film in documenting the lives of these two prominent women. I don't think we'll ever come so close to true Hollywood Babylon as we will with this brilliant work.
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