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Interesting, to see comments dismissing WEHTBJ? as a "gay" film, or
As a writer/producer who lived and worked in Hollywood for 30 years, I submit that those comments represent a "denial syndrome" of people who are ignorant of the facts of Hollywood.
What is so "horrifying" about WEHTBJ? is that the film is an utterly realistic psychodrama about two specific sisters of that era.
It's easy to say that Bette Davis' performance/makeup was "over the top," except that they weren't. In fact, I thought her look was taken from a sad "street person" in Hollywood who, in her seventies, walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard in a pink ball-gown and dead blonde wig and thick makeup, speaking into a transistor radio she held to her ear -- in the 60s, long before cell phones -- "talking" to the FBI about people chasing her.
Perhaps those who've spent their lives elsewhere, other than in Hollywood, feel that the characters in WEHTBJ? are "over the top." But they're not.
That's what makes them so heartbreaking. And the incredibly brave performances by Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Victor Bono and the rest -- not to mention the script and Robert Aldrich's direction -- make this simply the most definitive "Hollywood" psycho-thriller since "Sunset Boulevard."
There's "A Star Is Born," in any of its incarnations. Which is also "true" in its (their) way.
And there is "Sunset Boulevard" and "Baby Jane," which are even more true, and more brilliantly made.
These are not "horror films." They are riveting psychological studies, cast with astonishing actors, and magnificently directed and photographed.
They are the equivalent of Hitchcock's "Psycho," IMHO, which was preceeded by "Sunset Boulevard" and followed by "Baby Jane."
Each different, each brilliant, each marked by some of the most indelible performances ever captured on film.
It's typical of adolescents to make a "joke" about things that make them uncomfortable.
But when experience and age acquaint one with people like Baby Jane and Norma Desmond and, yes, Norman Bates, what's the point of joking?
These three films will tell those characters' stories forever, and better than 99% of films ever made.
That's why they're classics.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? might seem dated, but it is still an
extremely riveting watch. I literally could not look away, as soon as
the movie started, I couldn't stop until it had finished. Not a lot of
movies can do that to me. The acting is extremely good, Bette Davis and
Joan Crawford are just so good as the main focus of the movie. The
chilling score is suits the movie and the camera-work reminds me a lot
The story focuses on two sisters, Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) who was crippled in an accident awhile ago and "Baby" Jane Hudson (Bette Davis). Jane used to be a big child star, she even had a doll brand after her. Now, though, she is no longer recognised while her sister has recently become very famous. They live in an old mansion, with Blanche confined to her room upstairs while Jane gets madder and more cruel by the day.
Bette Davis gives the star performance here, some may call it over-acting but it is far from. She really makes Jane as mad, cruel and sad as possible. Joan Crawford is equally good in a very different role. She is much more timid then Jane and quite scared. The supporting cast are all good as well, especially Victor Buono as Victor Flagg, an odd pianist that befriends Jane. The black and white really are used to full effect, they make the mansion look extra creepy. Robert Aldrich's direction is fine.
To today's modern audience, this may seem boring as it does not have any action. Most of the movie is dialogue, but I do urge those who haven't seen it to do so, as it is a truly excellent movie.
A solid 5/5!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"What Ever Happened To Baby Jane" is a tense horror film, yet it seems
almost comical at the same time. The story is about Baby Jane Hudson, a
former child Vaudeville star who has now grown older and been shyed
away from the spotlight and attention that she so dearly loved. Baby
Jane has a sister, Blanche, who is now crippled and restrained to a
wheelchair. But before becoming immobile, Blanche was once a movie
queen herself, and she incidentally pushed her sister out of the
spotlight, which ignited extreme jealousy from Baby Jane.
Now, Baby Jane spends most of her time in a crumbling Hollywood mansion, taking care of her sister. She plays mean and dirty tricks on her, even going as far as to preparing Blanche a dead rat on her lunch platter and brutally beating her when she tries to phone for help, keeping Blanche contained within the walls of their home. Baby Jane lives in a world of false hope, thinking that she may be able to reprise her childhood career, putting on makeup and keeping her curly hair intact. But Baby Jane's continued jealousy burns on as Blanche's popular films are re-run on television, and her violent, twisted, and abusive side begins to come forth.
The entire film surrounds the two sisters as they fight back and forth, doing horrible things to each other. It's like a grown-up case of sibling rivalry between two of Hollywood's leading women, that turns out to be very well crafted and interesting to watch. Both Davis and Crawford, Hollywood legends, give top quality performances and bring depth and dimension to the characters of Baby Jane and Blanche. Granted, there is no shock value in this film anymore because it has become so dated, but it is still worth the while to watch because of how interesting it is to watch both actresses interact with one another. Davis plays the mad Jane with perfect mannerisms and eerie hysterical expressions as she torments her sister, costumed in ghostly white, caked makeup and golden curls in her hair.
It is kind of ironic because it has been speculated that Davis and Crawford really despised each other behind camera, they were both major award winners with legendary status in cinema, practically rivals themselves, which could have played into the way they treated each other in the film... or maybe not? I'd say it was very likely though. To sum it up this review, "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane" is a dated but exceptionally-crafted thriller. Modern day audiences will not be frightened, but the film itself was very, very well done. 9/10.
I'm so engrossed in the Ryan Murphy's series "Feud" that watching again "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane" was unavoidable. "Feud" works on so many levels and the performances are so spot on that I suspect What Ever Happened To Baby Jane will have another life and in this new reincarnation it will teach us something important about Hollywood, about acting, about fame and about the fragility of the human mind. All this in great part due to "Feud" Jessica Lange's performance as Joan Crawford is already, for me, in a pantheon of its own. There is not a moment in which the illusion falters and this is more true episode after episode. Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis is also superb but her character is the more educated, stronger. A Yankee. So she provokes a very different kind of emotion. To all fans of the actresses and of Baby Jane you can't afford to miss "Feud" and, please, give it a couple of episodes to adjust but once you get to the third episode "Mommie Dearest" you'll be hooked in the greatest possible way. Enjoy.
I have seen this movie at least two dozen times, and I will see it at least that many times again. It's such a Bette Davis feast. Of course, she was nominated for an Oscar. And she should have won it! There was a lot of 'history' between Miss Davis and Miss Crawford going way back to the 1940s, when Crawford was let go from M-G-M and went to work at WB where Bette Davis was Queen of the lot. The stories behind the making of the film are as interesting as the movie, with Miss Crawford demanding the set be kept at a breezy 55 (but preservative) degrees causing all kinds of problems with Miss Davis's bronchitis. One only wonders how much 'acting' was involved as Miss Davis tortures Miss Crawford emotionally and, later, physically. Miss Crawford suffers grandly and has her mandatory telephone scene, big eyes tremulous with fear. She is great, but it is a Bette Davis tour-de-force and she wipes every other actor off the screen. Full 10 of 10 for this one, and recommended to everyone who wants to see what the great actresses of the 1930s and 1940s could and would still do, albeit in minor-A productions, as the requests for their services dwindled, but wanted to keep on working.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie was suspenseful to the end and the musical score was awesome. I only disagreed with Henry Flagg's role, and he was such a wimp! It was great to see two '30- '50s Divas in one film, especially Joan Crawford's duplicitous role as a wronged sister. Bette Davis was truly deranged by the alcohol and the light switch personality changes was a joy to see. I especially loved the facial changes between the regression to the childlike Baby Jane and the hatred-driven character who was destined to take care of a sister more successful than her in adulthood. It may be a slow development of a story by today's standards, but the pace was good for me. I was intrigued to the end and suspected nothing like the final outcome.
Ryan Murphy's series "Feud" in which Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon play Joan Crawford and Bette Davis at the time of Baby Jane and beyond. I got so engrossed the series that I had to see What Ever Happened To Baby Jane again. Wow! Now, it all feels slightly different, less campy more poignant. Joan Crawford as played by Jessica Lange - the best performance by an actress in many, many years - is a totally recognizable person, crazy or not. When George Cukor tries to convince Joan not to be so vindictive "you're better than this Joan" to what Crawford/Lange replies: "No George, I'm not" Fantastic! Like another user already mention, I agree What Ever Happened To Baby Jane and Feud will be feeding each other keeping each other alive for generations to come.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were the biggest rivals during the golden age of Hollywood.This is their only collaboration.In the beginning of the movie we're at 1917, where the six-year old Baby Jane Hudson (Davis) is a successful Vaudeville performer.Then we move to 1935 where her sister Blanche (Crawford) becomes paralyzed in an automobile accident for which Jane is held responsible.In the present-day of the film we see Blanche being kept as a prisoner upstairs of their mansion by the sadistic Jane.Robert Aldrich' What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) is a terrific psychological thriller with some black comedy.The leading ladies are truly magnificent.Bette Davis was born a hundred years ago in 1908 and died in 1989.She could play all kind of roles and make the characters memorable.Baby Jane Hudson is that kind of a role.Joan Crawford lived from 1905 to 1977 and started making pictures during the silent era.Her Blanche Hudson is vulnerable and that's why we like her that much.A fine performance is given by Victor Buono who plays the shiftless musician Victor Flagg.Maidie Norman plays Elvira Stitt.Michael Fox, who the soap opera fans remember from The Bold and the Beautiful plays Motorcycle cop.This movie is a classic.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is a most unusual and impressive
thriller. Director Robert Aldrich achieves a fantastic sordid and dark
atmosphere at the Huadson sisters mansion -where most of the action
takes place- with an unusual black and white shooting for the early
60's. An interesting story, a well delivered screenplay and an accurate
musical score also rise the film high.
But the main credit of the picture is casting together to real big names in Hollywood's history, not at their peak then but always reliable and attractive to see. Bette Davis (Jane) takes the most interesting character as the former child star that couldn't make it as an adult in show business so she has gone insane and keeps behaving as the spoiled child he was. She looks grotesque and ridiculous in her child outfits, hairdo and heavy make up. Davis is outstanding in her role and looks really mean when she tortures both mentally and physically her sister Blanche, delicate and reasonable. Joan Crawford plays Blanche and very well too, a former big star whose career ended after a strange car accident that put her on a wheel chair for life.
In the end things are not completely as they seem but the final twist is not what makes this film an extremely good one; it's the strange relationship between the sisters, that requires of that final twist to understand Blanche's tolerant conduct towards her sister.
The movie is perhaps a little too long and it would probably have been even better with a 10 minutes cut. But no doubt this is a top product in its genre and a great movie indeed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not that this film isn't good, it's very good in a ghoulish sort of
way. But the miracle is that it got made at all. Was director Robert
Aldrich really a director here or more of a referee.
In any event Aldrich in directing Whatever Happened To Baby Jane took a pair of screen legends whose well known and public loathing for each other and managed without being killed to fashion a film about a pair of has been performers who live in the same house with their memories, their problems and mutual hatreds.
Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson was a child vaudeville performer who like so many child stars was a has been when she became a teen. Not to worry about income because when she became a teen, her younger sister Blanche played by Joan Crawford then became the family breadwinner. But that came to an end when she was crippled in a car crash and it was widely believed that her sister had deliberately used the car as a weapon of jealousy.
So these two with everything and yet nothing in common are bound to the family house and each other. Crawford a prisoner in her wheelchair and Davis a prisoner of her own fantasies as she retreats gradually into her childhood and glory days.
Crawford is seeing how Davis is becoming more and more unhinged and decides to sell the family estate and get Davis into the 1962 equivalent of Happydale. But Davis gets wind of the plan and she makes Crawford a prisoner in her own home and eventually Davis just loses it totally.
The wrap up of shooting must have been a day celebrated by Robert Aldrich on each anniversary the rest of his life. But he got himself a film that's as fascinating as a bloody 20 car pile up on the Interstate. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane got an Oscar for costume design for a black and white film and four other nominations.
One of those nominations was for Best Actress, a then record 10 of them for Bette Davis in the title role. Bette Davis was an actress who could make some mediocre films entertaining when she took the brakes off. Here the role called for the most outrageous kind of overacting and Bette made the most of it. Joan's more subdued role of the victim in this film, good as she was didn't have a chance next to Bette's for recognition. Of course Crawford legendarily took a perverse pleasure in being the honorary acceptor for Anne Bancroft when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for The Miracle Worker in 1962. Truth be told Anne was the Best Actress that year.
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane is such a two woman film that the rest of the cast is just left in the dust. Another miracle occurred when Victor Buono received some recognition with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor as the mother fixated pianist who plays along with Bette Davis when she decides to revive her career. Of course the strange noises and doings in that house eventually creep him out. Buono's scenes are all with Davis and with the scene stealing Marjorie Bennett who's kind of a mirror image of Baby Jane Hudson as Buono's inebriated mother. Just holding his own with these two I'm figuring the Academy figured Buono deserved some recognition.
Bette and Joan, both were destined to be trapped in mediocrity for the most part in roles well beneath their talents. Bette to her credit did escape with such things as an Agatha Christie mystery occasionally and The Whales Of August. But mostly she and Joan did horror flicks because of the impression that Whatever Happened To Baby Jane left on the minds of the movie-going public. Both also got unceremoniously dissed by their daughters in memoirs, Bette not having the decency to die before B.D. Hyman's book came out.
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane as repulsively fascinating as it is is a testament to two screen legends and the stamina of director Robert Aldrich who got them to share the screen.
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