What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1960)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.


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 … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Cult Movies
Directed By:
Written By: Lukas Heller, Henry Farrell
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 25, 1997
Runtime:
Warner Bros. Pictures

Cast


as Baby Jane Hudson

as Blanche Hudson

as Edwin Flagg

as Director

as Young Jane

as Mrs. Bates

as Elvira Stitt

as Mrs. Della Flagg

as Ray Hudson

as Liza Bates

as Cora Hudson

as Blanche as a Child

as Producer

as [singing]

as Lunch Counter Assist...

as Ice Cream Vendor

as Police Officer

as Police Officer

as Bank Teller

as Dr. Shelby

as Beach Motorcycle Cop

as Newspaper Clerk
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (4)

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

Full Review… | September 24, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top 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.

Full Review… | September 24, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

The Grand Guignol elements themselves are relatively forced and unconvincing.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Gorgeously atmospheric in both the visuals and the soundtrack, and it's a marathon of high-impact Grand Dame acting.

Full Review… | August 2, 2014
Antagony & Ecstasy

[A] frightening, darkly comic picture ...

Full Review… | December 16, 2012
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.

Full Review… | December 14, 2012
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

½

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.

hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

½

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.

ApeneckFletcher
Apeneck Fletcher

Super Reviewer

½

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.

axadntpron
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Quotes

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