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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
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Index 204 reviews in total 

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Good

7/10
Author: Cosmoeticadotcom (cosmoetica@gmail.com) from United States
1 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film has some surprisingly good camera work by Ernest Haller, who often makes the most out of scenes that could have been workaday, some exceptional scenes of dialogue between the two screen titans, and some well and judiciously placed scoring, by Frank DeVol. There are some trite scenes and moments, as well as some repetitive scenes. For the former, see the murder of Elvira, where the viewer just knows that when she lays down the hammer she has doomed herself to a braining by Jane. For the latter, see the scenes showing Jane taking Blanche out of their home in a wheelchair- just as she had with Elvira's corpse. Also, the scenes with the sisters' neighbor, played by Anna Lee, add nothing. Another annoyance are several scenes where Blanche and Elvira are 'racing against time' to do things before Jane returns in her car, but are things which would take only a few seconds to accomplish versus the reality that Jane's errands would take her far longer to accomplish. This missynchronicity rents the 'realism' that the film, by and large, hues to.

But, other than that, this film largely succeeds, and rises well above the claims of campiness that have dogged it. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? is not great filmmaking, but it is not a B film, nor schlock. From the obsquiouusness of Buono's Flagg to the taut fear and control neediness of Crawford's Blanche to unexpected shots that subvert expectations, the film has simply terrific moments that derivative films that followed it, like Aldrich's later Davis vehicle, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte or Rob Reiner's Stephen King penned ripoff, Misery, cannot touch. My recommendation is that anyone coming to the film, for the first time, avoid reading too much about it, as well as any of the volumes written about Crawford's and Davis's egoistic battles, and just let What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? wash over them. Yes, many people will, like critics and fans, imbue their own misinterpretations into the film. But, for that small group of people with a clear mind and an appreciation for great things, even if sandwiched between mediocre moments, the film will be a revelation whose joys reach into not only one's heart and wit, but also into one's mind, that place where humanity begins and ends. Just ask Blanche Hudson. Da Lady done knows!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Never tire of watching it

9/10
Author: billpappas-1 from United States
25 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of my all time favorites. Each scene is so well crafted that I enjoy watching how well it is filmed and acted. I like the scenes showing different time periods, 1917 when Baby Jane is a child star. Then, on to 1935 when Blanche is the big star and we see scenes from Bette Davis' old movies as a lousy actress. Then, to the present 1960s Los Angeles. The contrast between what's going on in the house of these two aging has-beens and the outside world, ordinary next door neighbors, Bette's trips to the bank or the newspaper office dressed up in old, dated clothes driving a 1940 Lincoln convertible. Just fun to watch.

Then, there are those priceless moments as when Jane is being viewed from outside Blanche's bedroom window with a sad look on her grotesque face and then she brightens up as she turns and says "But ya are in that chair, Blanche. Ya are". Another scene has Jane picking up the silver lunch tray as she leaves the bedroom and the camera goes down to show her kicking the door closed with her high-heel shoe. How many times did Jane climb up those stairs carrying that heavy lunch tray and make it fun to watch each time?

When the maid, Elvira, shows Blanche the discarded fan letters and suggests that Jane might know that Blanche is planning to sell the house, Blanche says "We're sisters Elvira. We know each other very well". Joan Crawford was excellent with a more subtle role and she delivered. For those who say Bette overacted, she was perfect as an aging former child star, who failed as an adult actress, thought she crippled her sister in a car accident and had to spend the next 30 years taking care of her, and was a alcoholic to boot. The part did not call for subtlety or to be underplayed. Bette ranged from childlike to mean and abusive to flirtatious to hysterically funny. I loved when she impersonated Blanche's voice on the phone.

The only odd thing was why would Blanche live in a 2 story house when she had to use a wheelchair and did she ever leave the house before all the trouble started?

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An absolute dramatic & gripping classic

9/10
Author: jonosnogits from United Kingdom
27 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An incredible adaptation of Henry Farell's novel in which two sisters, now in their latter years, live together in the same house. The house paid for by their years of work in stage & film.

Most of the film is spent within the house and revolves around the sisters relationship, with brief interruptions by a neighbour, a cleaning lady and a songwriter. Great material for a stage play, the basic grounding for this story enables vivid exploration into the womens characters, and opens the opportunity for some outstanding cinematography & music.

Remarkably a cross section of movie genres are covered here and at points has a "Hitchcock" feel to it. Combining theatrical suspense with hysterical intensity, both actresses dominate with absolute clarity and individuality.

Bette Davis plays the reminiscent title role with a mesmerising performance, apparently taking care of her sister Blanch (Joan Crawford) who is now wheel chair bound due to a car accident. Crawford suffers through most of the film in her bedroom while Davis displays a fascinating set of split personalities. The two are brought together every meal time with drastically varying results.

Though there are few other characters in the film, they are absolutely crucial to the movement of this story and all parts are played extremely well, especially Victor Buono who plays songwriter Edwin Flagg, who through we briefly glimpse another story.

What this film achieves where others fail is an instant understanding and clarity to emotions and reactions. Instances of loving & caring with glimpses of comedy are also there, as well as fear, loathing, manipulation and jealousy.

The closing beach scene gives Davis the opportunity to show a final depth to her character and makes this quite an extra-ordinary film.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The winner by a knockout......The viewers!

8/10
Author: tonyjackie from United Kingdom
24 March 2007

I hadn't seen this film in ages,so it was with some trepidation that I watched it with my better half recently.Would it be dated?Would it seem boring?No,it is a cracking film and holds up very well today.

We all know that there was this intense rivalry between Bette and Joan,but this just makes the film more compelling.You are constantly trying to find signs,little details really,about their apparent loathing for each other.So who comes out tops?An honourable draw I'd say.

Bette Davis has by far the more showy part and boy does she relish it.She may chew on a pretty thick slice of ham at times,but her performance glues you to the screen.By contrast,Joan Crawford underplays her role as the wheelchair bound Blanche and this makes for a well balanced film with many terrific scenes.I won't give anything away here,but though the film may seem a little twisted,there are still parts of the film that may shock.It Isn't all about the two stars as Victor Buono scores as a slightly camp piano player and he reminded me a lot of Oliver Hardy in his build and mannerisms.

This film should really be in the top 250 and it amazes me that it Isn't.Two Hollywood greats in fierce competition makes this a gem of a movie.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Whatever Did Happen to Baby Jane Hudson? ***

7/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
5 February 2006

As in anything she did, the late Bette Davis proved herself to be adept to horror.

As the long-washed up child actress, Baby Jane Hudson, Davis pulled no punches in creating a memorable brilliant characterization which led to still another Oscar nomination. It is said that Davis was extremely disappointed when she lost the award.

She does so well in terrorizing her invalid sister played with an anguish by Joan Crawford. What the made the movie so good was that in real life, Davis and Crawford loathed each other and they took this hatred out on the silver screen as well.

Throwing her sister down and serving her a rat is all in Davis's master plan to do evil. Her rendition of "I've Written A Letter to Daddy" is memorable.

Gothic horror beautifully realized by an ever effective Davis with remarkable support by Crawford.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Mesmerizing!

Author: brockrwhite from Atlanta, GA
13 July 2004

Bette and Joan, Joan and Bette - this movie is a classic! Every part of the picture works in concert with the others - the actors are truly fascinating, the set is perfect, the theme of neglect - all are portrayed with finesse.

So many great things come from this film - the trudging up the stairs of Jane three times a day, every day of the year carrying heavy silver service meals - the fact that Blanche's movies are shown on TV and are hailed while Jane's movies languish in the dust bins - well, it goes on and on.

There is not a moment that isn't fascinating in this film. The public feud between Davis and Crawford just adds to the portrayal of two women who are thrown together day after day after day.

This is surely one of the Top 10 movies of all time - a classic!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Well-Done Suspense

Author: laffinsal from California
8 April 2004

Not quite as campy as one might think, despite the presence of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, as aging drama queens. In fact, Joan is remarkably restrained in her role in this movie. If you're expecting her to jump around and scream (a la "Mommie Dearest"), forget it. That aside, she is very good in her acting here, probably one of her best roles.

Miss Davis, on the other hand, is totally out of control, and that's what makes this movie so fun. Her 'imitations' of Joan are total camp, and very funny. Her character's downward spiral is really effective, and fascinating to watch. She really goes through a range of emotions, and tops herself in scene after scene. Her kicking Joan around the floor, is rather uncomfortable to watch. Makes one wonder how much of that was real acting.

The storyline with Victor Buono is kind of a bore. He's great as usual, that part just goes on a little too long. Though, despite it's over-two hour length, this film moves along at a rather brisk pace. If you're a lover of 'cult' films and horror/suspense, then yes, you should seek this one out. There's a reason why it's generally considered the 'grand dame' of camp films.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Flawed but riveting!

Author: ivan-22 from Los Angeles
21 July 2000

One of my favorite movies, a camp classic. On the surface it's a thriller, but deep down it's a homage to failure, a poignant ode to all the forgotten and washed up people that litter our big cities. Baby Jane is a rotten cookie, a faded star. She has no friends, no future, and is full of bitterness and envy. This film is much more effective than "Sunset Boulevard". I like its everyday atmosphere, its trivial aspects: a trip to the bank, the maid getting a day off, the fat piano teacher, icecream at the beach. The nightmare and the beautiful dream mingle. The writing is very fine, unpretentious and unobtrusive. There is no standard theatricality. Money figures prominently. In today's world, it is the life-blood without which nothing can be accomplished. Everything and everybody must be purchased. Smiles and compliments require hard cash. There are no loyalties, no affections. Pure alienation. Yet we don't get sociology, we get art. What makes the film beautiful is its freedom from agenda or comment. It just invites you to stare at life's gargoyles, and challenges you to find the beauty in it. Yes, there is beauty even here. This is one of the most beautiful films ever made, visually ravishing. The black and white is very effective. The film's surprise ending reverses the moral situation. Thus moral parity is achieved, and a beautiful transcendence. I have no idea how far writer and director intended this deeper meaning, but intentions don't matter.

The film is far from flawless. It has plenty of scenes one is tempted to cut, particularly the first half hour showing baby Jane as a child and young woman. I would also cut the scene in which the pathetic pianist talks with his mother. It is irrelevant to the plot, though highly comical. And the violence could also be removed as gratuitous. But if one starts tampering with this crooked film, it falls apart. Enjoy it's weirdness.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"Who's happy?"

9/10
Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
6 June 2010

Hollywood has a habit of treating worst those who love it best. And this is part of the reason that since the collapse of the studio system American movie production has been locked in cycles of irony and self-parody. Motion pictures tended to imitate the life around them, and in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? you have, played out on screen for your enjoyment, the sorry states of two grandes dames of cinema - Bette Davis and Joan Crawford - and the much-maligned producer-director Robert Aldrich.

The two leading ladies famously had a longstanding rivalry, and it's often commented on how this fuelled their performances. Maybe this is the case, but it's interesting how their portrayals here relate to their offscreen personae. This is among Miss Crawford's finest turns, and in fact one rough way to guage the strength of her acting is in how amiable she comes across, since it's fairly well-documented that in real life she was conniving, selfish and abusive to her children. Funnily enough though I don't think Crawford realised the irony of her warm screen image - she probably believed she was a nice person. Compare this to Davis, who was wryly aware of her reputation for bitchiness both on screen and off, and very knowingly pushes that image to its credible limits as Baby Jane. It is perhaps her most exaggerated role, but also appears to be one of her most effortless as she hams beautifully on the cusp between realism and caricature, in a performance that matches that garish crust of makeup.

And makeup is really integral to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, in an era where such things were not highly considered (for example we only have only had an Academy Award for it since 1981). Bette Davis is a startling sight, with cheeks like chalk and enough mascara to sink a battleship, inadvertently accentuating her age rather than concealing it. It might seem a step too far outside of a comedy, but it's worth bearing in mind that makeup is for women a primary means of expression and even a form of defence and self-denial, and there are plenty of women in real life who look just as ghastly as Davis does here. And for proof of that one need look no further than co-star Crawford, who since the early 40s had perpetually sported her trademark pencil-eyebrowed, thin-lipped, ghost-faced visage, an unintentionally macabre look if ever there was one. Appropriately however, Crawford's slap has been toned down for this picture, and in one or two of the later scenes we see her looking very natural, and incidentally the most beautiful she has appeared since the 1930s.

As far as I know producer-director Robert Alrich never wore makeup, but he is an intriguing figure behind this little drama nonetheless. He had been on the scene since the early-40s, directed several pictures of varying quality in the mid-50s, and became a Hollywood exile after helming the controversial drama The Big Knife. After shooting a couple of flicks abroad, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was his comeback. Rather than going wild in the more liberal post-studio system industry, he shows his technique to have matured and refined in his years away. There is a bit less of the shameless attention-grabbing of his earlier pictures, but still that deliberately odd and slightly detached look to each shot - god-shots, low angles, foreground clutter - which is simply ideal for this intense (but not totally mindless) melodrama.

To be honest though Aldrich was always a better producer than a director. Although he rarely took a writing credit he appears to have taken a hand in post-production structuring, and one of his neatest touches was to always have the opening credits several minutes into the picture, creating a prologue and leaving the grand opening to announce the real beginning of the story. He was also great when it came to assembling production teams. Here the crowded art set decoration of George Sawley is complemented by the grimy cinematography of Ernest Haller to create a musty, decaying look to the Hudson's mansion. It's also worth remembering that while Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is adapted from a novel, it was Aldrich that made its commentary on Hollywood politics far closer to the bone by deciding to cast Davis and Crawford.

Is this picture then a vicious attack on the fallout from the star system, as was The Big Knife? If it was, it was a bit late, since Hollywood no longer worked in quite the same way. Besides, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is far more affectionate, almost nostalgic in tone. Davis in particular probably regarded it as rather fun - after all she had been playing washed-up, ageing actresses since Dangerous in 1935; at least this time round she had the chance to inject a bit of over-the-top of absurdism. And Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is after all verging on comedy. True, the only aspect which is truly funny is the supporting part brilliantly played by Victor Buono, but the overall feel is one that suggests that joking could occur at any moment, and in fact it is this slightly bizarre tone that keeps this unusually lengthy suspense thriller as spellbinding entertainment.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Did daddy ever get her letter, I wonder

6/10
Author: Arlis (mellow@tricomcorp.net) from KY- United States
27 September 2006

This movie is a classic and will forever stick with anyone who watches it. Disturbing in many ways, especially for an early 60's flick.

Bettie Davis was to me better in her later movies than she was in her "glory days". She seemed to be the best person on earth to play Baby Jane cause she has a very evil look to her. I think the casting was perfect in ever way, one of the best scripted movies ever in my opinion. The acting was superb.

I always felt a great director could've added so much to this film, but the story and acting makes up for it. Its good, but it lacked so much also. It should've focused more on how evil Jane was, it could've made me as a viewer feel more sorry for Blanche (sp).

It was 1962 and it was nice to see the occasional gem such as this come around. I will recommend you watch it if you like the lifetime movie of the week style of thriller, I say stay away from it if you are wanting some psycho deranged mad woman, because Baby Jane doesn't pull that off well....There's a thin line between psycho and crazy. Norman Bates is Psycho, Baby Jane was the latter.

6 out of 10

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