A former child star torments her paraplegic sister in their decaying Hollywood mansion.A former child star torments her paraplegic sister in their decaying Hollywood mansion.A former child star torments her paraplegic sister in their decaying Hollywood mansion.
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.
- Dec 23, 2003