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Review: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Director: | 134 minutes | drama, , thriller | Actors: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, , Wesley Addy, Julie Allred, Anne Barton, , , Anna Lee, , , , Russ Conway, Maxine Cooper, Robert Cornthwaite, , Gina Gillespie, , Don Ross, James Seay, John Shay, , , , , Ernest Anderson

“I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.” It may be clear; Bette Davis hated her colleague Joan Crawford. Both actresses reigned supreme in the 1930s and made a remarkable comeback in the following decades. Crawford, who was three years older than her rival, won an Oscar for the title role in “Mildred Pierce” (1945) and Davis made a stunning return with “All about ” (1950). In all those years, the ladies quietly continued to throw mud at each other. From 1953 onwards, every film that both Davis and Crawford made was far from profitable, and their main feat was their constant feud that was widely reported in the press. As two elderly divas, they had to do something to attract attention. Davis went so far as to place an ad in a newspaper in 1961, in which she indicated that she was looking for work. Because they were so desperate, they even proved willing to make a film together for director Robert Aldrich (“Kiss Me Deadly,” 1955). “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) turned out to be a bull’s eye, not only because both ladies acted at their best, but also because the film was so close to reality.

The film begins in 1917, when child star “Baby Jane” Hudson is the biggest singing and dancing sensation in American theaters. But no matter how lovely she appears on stage, as soon as she steps off she is a spoiled brat who makes the lives of her parents and sister Blanche miserable. Later, in the early 1930s, the tables turned. Now that both girls have grown up, it turns out that Blanche (Joan Crawford) is the more talented of the two. She has built a successful film career and even ensures that Jane (Bette Davis) can continue to make films by forcing the studios to involve her as well. But nobody cares about Jane anymore and her movies are never released. A puzzling car accident involving both women turns things around. Blanche is paralyzed and forced to say goodbye to her film career. Jane is blamed for the accident but is not punished. There is no other option for her than to take care of her disabled sister. Years later they live a hermit life in their old house. When a retrospective about Blanche is broadcast on TV, the stops at Jane – who has lived all this time in the past – completely go through. Torn by jealousy and convinced that her own career cannot be revived while her sister is still around, she takes drastic measures that will turn Blanche’s life into hell.

You have to dare to make a movie with not one but two of the most insufferable divas of classic Hollywood. Robert Aldrich was so convinced of Lukas Heller’s script from Henry Farrell’s thriller novel that he took the risk. His guts paid off. The film was a resounding success. But he also had his doubts beforehand. Judging by the initial press reaction. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to produce and direct a motion picture or referee a fight. ” Before and after the shoot, he probably felt more like a police officer who had to intervene now and then, because the mud throwing at each other just continued. For example, Davis had a Coca Cola vending machine installed on the set to harass her opponent. Crawford’s husband, who recently died, was a director of Pepsi Cola and she herself was also on the board of that company. Crawford, in turn, stopped before the scene in which Davis had to drag her near-lifeless body out of the house, weights in her pockets, resulting in a very painful back for Davis. But the rivalry the women felt for each other in real life had a positive effect on their acting. Since both did not want to be inferior to the other, they splashed off the canvas. Aldrich: “Now Davis is a tough old broad and you fight. But when you see what she puts on the screen you know it was worth taking all the bull. ”

Davis received her eleventh and final Oscar nomination for her role. Smeared in a thick layer of make-up – making her look much older than the 54 years old she actually was – and dressed in an innocent white baby doll, she is completely absorbed in the role of the grotesque child star who has been her best days. behind him. Because you know that Davis could also be a gigantic bitch in real life, it is completely credible that she is envious of her sister Blanche, who has managed to preserve her beauty a lot better and – unlike herself – is still being taken by the public recognized and appreciated. Convinced that she can make a comeback, the completely crazy Baby Jane hires the opportunistic pianist Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono, who also received an Oscar nomination). Since Flagg himself is eager to get out of the yoke of his meddlesome mother and also likes the hefty bag of money he is promised, he participates in Jane’s laughable theater. Until he finds out what horrific practices are taking place upstairs, in Blanche’s room. That the ridiculous character of Davis comes into its own is partly due to Joan Crawford who takes a very modest attitude in her role and thus balances the case. The fact that Crawford was overlooked by the Electors of the Academy Awards will undoubtedly hurt her. Especially because she plays at least as strong as Davis. The black and white cinematography full of ominous shadows completely exudes the lurid atmosphere of the script. Ernest Haller was rightly awarded with an Oscar nomination.

“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Is the mother of all psychological thrillers and was the first in a row of films starring terrifying older ladies. Unsurprisingly, Bette Davis starred in a number of them, including “Hush Hush … Sweet Charlotte” (1964). After all, she was a master at playing nasty, hateful monsters, which she managed to impart something tragic at the same time. Besides, she wasn’t afraid of being ugly and unkind, unlike many other Hollywood divas. Davis in particular benefited from the success of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane”, probably because her role stands out far more than that of Joan Crawford. But both women are top performers and show just why they are considered among the greatest actresses of all time. Be warned, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Is not going to bother you. The film is at times very gloomy and the roles are played very convincingly. Do you like (psychological) thrillers or are you a fan of Davis or Crawford? Then take a seat for this brilliant 134 minutes long terrifying classic! Definitely a memorable and unparalleled piece of cinema!

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