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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1960)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 2

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92

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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 32,648

My Rating

Movie Info

As a child, Baby Jane Hudson was the toast of vaudeville. As an adult, however, Baby Jane was overshadowed by her more talented sister, Blanche, who became a top movie star. Then, one night in the early '30s, came the accident, which crippled Blanche for life and which was blamed on a drunken, jealous Jane. Flash-forward to 1962: Jane (Bette Davis), decked out in garish chalk-white makeup, still lives with the invalid Blanche (Joan Crawford) in their decaying L.A. mansion. When Jane isn't

Sep 25, 1997

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (46) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (4) | DVD (10)

Aldrich's direction and dynamite performances from the two old troupers make this film an experience.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The chain of circumstances grows, violence creating violence. Once the inept, draggy start is passed, the film's pace builds with ever-growing force.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Grand Guignol elements themselves are relatively forced and unconvincing.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comment (1)
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There is nothing particularly moving or significant about these two.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] frightening, darkly comic picture ...

December 16, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The on-screen fireworks were reportedly fuelled by off-screen hatred, but the chemistry between the stars is unquestionably hair-raising and upped the Gothic stakes to camp shock levels.

December 14, 2012 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

There are plenty of thrills and no shortage of suspense in this darkly comic horror film.

December 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Remains fascinatingly warped: an extended study in decaying flesh, set to a score mordantly trying to break into Hooray for Hollywood.

December 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

The ultimate camp-Gothic bitchfight. Vastly entertaining.

December 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Remains a masterclass in 'uglying up' and a relevant comment on the destructive nature of celebrity.

December 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

[VIDEO] "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" is a legendary thriller worthy of its two great stars.

January 20, 2011 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Depending on your sensibilities, the film is either a black camp comedy or psychological horror %u2013 either way, it's hugely entertaining

February 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The 1930s Lugosi/Karloff match-ups at Universal Studios only suggested the potential of what a decades-long feud like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford could produce.

June 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

It's still vivid, barnstorming stuff.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

For the viewer, too, this creepy mood-piece is far from a comfortable watch.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Creepy, freaky and memorably histrionic.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

Crawford wisely underacts -- if her performance isn't as showy as Davis's, it's not any less accomplished.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Sick! Sick! Sick!

September 24, 2006
ColeSmithey.com

While Crawford is rather subdued throughout the film, Davis chews up the scenery as one of the most bizarre, depraved villainesses you'll ever encounter.

May 26, 2006
Movie Metropolis

the grandious acting makes up for every flaw

April 3, 2006

as close to genre perfection as one is likely to come

November 16, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Audience Reviews for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Spurred by jealousy and guilt, a former child star tortures her wheelchair-bound sister as she tries to make a comeback.
Torture-porn and the obvious precursor to Misery, this film features fantastic performances by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, each screen legends in her own right. Davis gets the meatier of the two parts, and her performance is courageous and ugly, showing Davis's talent as an actress, not just a movie star.
There's something sickening about this film. The plot requires sympathy for the tortured Blanche, but in order for the story to advance, we also need to see the extremity of her situation increase. Putting us in this strange position, the film also tries to get us inside Jane's self-delusions. The sum result is a plotline that's both complex and difficult to stomach.
Overall, this is a fine thriller, propelled by two great leading actresses.
September 23, 2013
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

I just saw this again and zowie, is Bette Davis hot! Very nearly a companion piece to Sunset Boulevard and another sizzling commentary on the price of fame. The seconds in the cast do as well as the primaries, too, altho the twist at the finale is weak.
April 14, 2013
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

Love is a many splendored-thing. Or so the cinema would lead us to believe. Over the years we as a people have been subjected to countless tales of loins-churning romance. In fact, it is well known that one could fill the Grand Canyon with the countless reels of film that have captured chiseled jaw lines colliding with pouty lips and still have plenty to boot.

The same could be said for unrequited love as well. Take a handful of your Fatal Attractions, some of your 500 Days of Summers, and throw in a dash of Casablancas, and you have the recipe for a rich history of films regarding forlorn love.

Yet, while passion has for so many years consumed celluloid, often the sultry reality behind the camera can be just as entertaining as what takes place on screen.

The examples of this are myriad: Brad & Jennifer, Ben & Jennifer, Whitney & Bobby (& Jennifer). These stars and their sordid love affairs have been splashed all over the tabloids, assuring readers of all kinds that just because celebrity closets may be filled with diamond encrusted footwear, their lives are just as empty as ours.

But there are still some stories so batty that no matter how starving the artist, one could never come close to concocting a story as satisfying as the twisted decadence of reality. One such example is the story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

While both would share the distinct honor of being belles of the silver screen during their time, these women would detest each other for the better part of thirty years. The source of this scorn? Well it has recently come to light that Crawford, a rather licentious bisexual, was at one time spurned by Davis. To make matters undoubtedly worse, the love of Davis' life was snatched up by Crawford in her second stroll down the aisle. Even ten years after Crawford's death, still reeling from a recent stroke, Davis showed her capacity for grace when she stated, "She (Crawford) did it coldly, deliberately, and with complete ruthlessness. I have never forgiven her for that and never will." Only barely upstaging her previous comment, "I wouldn't piss on Joan Crawford if she was on fire."

Although both would fight tooth and nail to be the ruling queen of Hollywood, subsequent decades would see these women fighting to merely stay afloat. Box-office disasters such as 1955's Storm Center, 1956's Autumn Leaves, & The Catered Affair, all left stains on their careers and psyches so large that no amount of bleach could wash them out. Both were in need of redemption. In need of roles that would finally show the world that in fact they were destined to reign supreme. What they got (and the world gratefully received) was the emotionally brutish fever dream Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Depicting the mental meltdown of former child star Baby Jane Hudson (Crawford) and the emotional and physical torture she inflicts on her invalid sister Blanche (Davis), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is the comeback film that nobody wanted. Director Robert Aldrich shopped this project around to various studios but was met with virulent opposition. Pitting these sour relics against each other seemed like a double dosage of box-office poison. Triggering studio head Jack Warner to retort, "I wouldn't give you one dime for those two washed-up old bitches."

Thankfully, somebody eventually relented and the results are nothing short of astounding. Like the congealed masses of makeup slathered on Crawford's face, the film is heavy-handed, excessive, & to borrow a phrase from Robert Palmer, simply irresistible.

It opens in the early 1900's as our future miscarriage of a human being Jane is at the peak of her fame. Following a polite curtsey, Baby Jane unleashes her brilliant smile before launching into her famous jingle "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" to rapturous applause. The audience shuffles out shortly after and in a shrewd bit of foreshadowing, aides are seen removing the sign with her name emblazoned on it; replacing it with the name of the next big thing. Her sister Blanche waits patiently behind the scenes for someone to kill the spotlight so they can finally go home.

Fast-forward roughly fifty years. Blanche has since drastically eclipsed Jane in the fame department, but was sadly the victim of a tragic automobile accident in which an "unknown" assailant left her confined to a wheelchair. Jane and Blanche spend their days decaying as rapidly as the gothic mansion in which they have sequestered themselves. Blanche watching reruns of her films on television, Jane drowning her sorrows in cheap gin. Nursing her handicapped sister, her own deteriorating mental state, long history of jealous rage, & daddy issues. (Possibly some childhood "consensual sex issues" as well.)

The situation worsens when Jane catches wind that Blanche has plans to sell their tomb of a house and live elsewhere. What ensues is a nightmare on par with the likes of anything Cronenberg or Tarantino could produce. Blanche tries desperately to call for help as her sister starves her, cooks up and serves their pet parakeet for lunch, delivers blow after blow to her cranium, and even drags her limp body to the beach to watch Jane play in the waves.

Mirroring reality, tensions were hot on set as the women did their best to outsmart each other. In one particularly infamous scene that has Jane delivering a rather devastating kick to her sister's scalp, Davis's foot actually made rather forceful contact with Crawford's head. In a rather clever act of retaliation, Davis donned a lead weightlifter's belt under her clothes for a scene in which Crawford would be forcefully pulling her out of the one place that she had been trying to get Davis for years: the bed. When she endeavored to try to lift Davis, Crawford shrieked "My back! Oh, God! My back" before hobbling off to her dressing room.

That the final product was so berserk should not have been a total surprise as Aldrich was also no stranger to crazy. His iconic 1957 noir Kiss Me Deadly was so nihilistically nutty that shooting these two women starve and claw at each other must have been akin to filming two kittens lightly bat around a ball of yarn for a couple of weeks.

Word of mouth spread like a virus and for the first time in a long time people came out in droves to see Crawford and Davis on the big screen. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was a monster hit and garnered massive amounts of praise and money for the duo.

Although the hatchet may have temporarily been buried in a heap of greenbacks, it would quickly be unearthed when the Oscar nominations were released. Davis would recieve a Best Actress nod while Crawford would only walk away with more fuel for the inferno that blazed deep inside. Yet in a strange twist of fate, Crawford would be the only one clutching a statue at the end of the evening, accepting the award on behalf of Anne Bancroft.

Aldrich would later attempt to reteam the women for another film, but alas succumbed to their toxicity, eventually shutting production down. Both spent their remaining days on earth sucking down drinks & using their precious remaining interviews to further drag each other's names through the muck. Death would prove the only way to truly cease the slander; at least for the slanderer. As stated before, Davis would continue to commit every last breathe to defaming the deceased. When one director begged her to stop since Crawford was no longer able to hear her remarks, Davis replied, "Just because a person is dead, doesn't mean they've changed."

So while love may be a many splendored-thing on screen, in the real world it is also vindictive, enduring, & yields strange fruit.
March 11, 2013
axadntpron
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

A thriller that is so chillingly terrifying, not solely because of the amazing and out of this world performance from Bette Davis, but because of the relationship between these two women, two actresses giving the performances of their lives. I should point out that this isn't complete hyperbole. The tension and utter bitterness between these two sisters comes in part through the real life relationship between rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. At the time these actresses were in decline from their former star studded endeavors. Still, the two actresses set aside their differences in order to become friends for a short time and make this film. The story revolves around two sisters, one a spoiled former vaudeville star (Baby Jane) and the other a former film star of the thirties. Thirty years ago, when her starlet sister couldn't keep her in her contract any longer, Baby Jane paralyzed her sister, and eventually traps her in their large home, taking care of her yet hiding her from the world. Once Baby Jane snaps at the suggestion of the house being sold, her sister becomes the victim of a lunatic, watching as she murders those that get in the way of her trying to reclaim her former youth. The narcissism, obsession, and madness in Davis' performance are poignant and yet you feel very little empathy for someone who would tie their sister to a bed frame. Crawford in turn acts like the perfect victim, high mannered and poised, not visibly showing that she feels a great deal of anger towards her sister. Instead she's a fragmented and fragile creature who has quiet sensibilities and little power. She plays a victim so well to Davis' madwoman, but gives a performance as blithe and impersonal as the silent roles she took on so long ago. The plotting, climactic peaks of Baby Jane's terror spree, and a gracious and uneven performance from Victor Buono in a side story, make this a genuinely devious and different kind of thriller. You will love to see two women who obviously hate each other...hate each other, but in a loving way.
March 5, 2013
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

Movies Like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

    1. Jane Hudson: You don't think I remember anything, do you? There are a whole lot of things I remember. And you never paid for this house. Baby Jane Hudson made the money that paid for this house, that's who!
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
    1. Blanche Hudson: Yes, she's emotionally disturbed. She's unbalanced!
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
    1. Edwin Flagg: [shocked at some obscenities Jane has scrawled] I can't remember the last time I saw words like that written down!
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
    1. Jane Hudson: I don't want to talk about it! Everytime I think about something nice, you remind me of bad things. I only want to talk about the nice things.
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
    1. Jane Hudson: Blanche, you aren't ever gonna sell this house... and you aren't ever gonna leave it... either.
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
    1. Jane Hudson: It's just that nosy Mrs. Bates going on about your picture last night.
    2. Blanche Hudson: Oh, really, did she like it?
    3. Jane Hudson: [imitating Blanche's voice] Oh, really, did she like it?... She liked it!
    – Submitted by Kelly E (14 months ago)
View all quotes (9)

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Foreign Titles

  • Was geschah wirklich mit Baby Jane? (DE)
  • Qu'est-il arrivé à Baby Jane ? (FR)
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