Thursday, June 03, 2010

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

So I wanted to make myself write more, no matter really what it was, so I thought I would start attempting to blog about every film I saw. So that starts here:

Title: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Year: 1962
Genres: Thriller, Horror
Director: Robert Aldrich
Cast: Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson, Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson, Victor Buono as Edwin Flagg, Maidie Norman as Elvira Stitt

For those who love horror but are a tad jaded by the current trends of lots of gore and torture porn, this movie will rekindle your love for horror and your admiration for directors who can really create suspense. Yes, I even talked to the screen, I was so invested in what was happening with these characters.

Alright, let's get the plot out of the way. There are a pair of sisters, blonde "Baby" Jane and brunette Blanche. Baby Jane has fame as a vaudeville performer in 1917, but is a mean little brat. Later, in the mid-1930s, as young women, Blanche gains sucess as a film actress, forcing the studio she works for to also hire her sister who is already a washed-up boozer who's day has passed. But then there's a horrible accident that leaves Blanche paralyzed from the waist down and in the care of her sister. There seems to have been a stasis for 20+ years, until Blanche decides they might be better apart.

Of course, what is a great movie without a great backstory, right? Basically, Davis and Crawford hated each other, so much so that there's a whole book about it. Crawford even campaigned against Davis winning the Best Actress Oscar for Baby Jane. But to me, I wonder if either of these actresses found anything striking about playing past their prime stars still deluding themselves, to one extent or another, that they are significant. It's also sad that they have to play down their looks and/or play up how badly they were aging (especially in Bette Davis' case) to play significant roles. Davis' Baby Jane character wants to attempt a comeback, having adult-sized versions of her childhood costumes made, and hiring a piano accompanyist, but the audience can see how grotesque and desperate this performance really is. I wonder if Davis felt like she was in on the joke, or if she was oblivious to the fact that part of how grotesque Baby Jane is to the audience is wrapped up in how ugly Davis is able to make herself. On the other hand, I get a certain pleasure from the knowledge that Joan Crawford, who would later become almost as famous as "Mommie Dearest" as she ever was as an actress, played the role of the tortured and terrified Blanche. There are several scenes that I know couldn't have been comfortable to film. Hehehe. Yes, I'm a mean person. So was she.

I definately recommend this movie for any lover of suspenseful movies. I'd warn contemporary audiences that the pacing of any film from earlier decades will not be what they are used to, but give it some time. If you find yourself bored, examine Baby Jane's face and think about what boozing and smoking and harsh chemicals are doing to your own body, how they will affect how you age. Also, there are some gaping plot holes, but please just suspend your disbelief. It was the 60s and you don't know what it was like back then, whippersnapper. But enjoy.

1 comment:

Cassie said...

Sounds like a good classic to see. I will have to check it out.