Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)
Two aging film actresses live as virtual recluses in an old Hollywood mansion. Jane Hudson, a successful child star, cares for her crippled sister Blanche, who's career in later years eclipsed that of Jane. Now the two live together, their relationship affected by simmering subconscious thoughts of mutual envy, hate and revenge.
Bette Davis ... Baby Jane Hudson
Joan Crawford ... Blanche Hudson
Victor Buono ... Edwin Flagg
Wesley Addy ... Marty Mc Donald
Julie Allred ... Baby Jane Hudson, in 1917
Anne Barton ... Cora Hudson
Marjorie Bennett ... Dehlia Flagg
Bert Freed ... Ben Golden (as Robert Freed)
Anna Lee ... Mrs. Bates
XVid / MP3
This is one of the great legendary comeback stories in movie history. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two of Hollywood's reigning screen queens of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s, appear in one of the great commercially influential pictures of the 1960s. The movie made a bundle, renewed both actresses' careers and provided audiences with a humdinger of a chill fest that is seen today as a true Hollywood classic.
This wildly successful movie is the story of the relationship between two show biz sisters: Blanche (Miss Crawford), who was the top film actress of the 1930s; and Jane (Miss Davis), a child star who never quite made it as an adult star but who is now planning an ill-advised comeback as a musical performer.
Time and alcohol and a festering guilt over an auto accident that left Blanche a helpless cripple have taken their toll on Jane's sanity as the movie becomes a story of mental and physical cruelty.
BABY JANE plays with our memories of the past, our love of old movies and our love for these great actresses. It establishes a claustrophobic sense of terror with Joan Crawford confined for the most part to her wheel chair, unable to defend herself against Miss Davis' cruelties. The suspense is overwhelming, and even after you've seen the movie many times, there are so many irresistible pleasures to be extracted from it that it always earns another watching.
Bette Davis has the juicier part and brings to it all of her famous quirks and mannerisms. Her Jane is evil, pathetic, grotesque, and at the same time one of the funniest portraits ever seen on the screen. Whether she's drinking her liquor from a measuring cup in the kitchen, impersonating Blanche's voice on the telephone or delivering a Bette Davis zinger like, "You aren't ever gonna sell this house, Blanche, and you aren't ever gonna leave it. . . EITHER!," she is unforgettable.
With these two fine actresses we are prepared for something very special, and they don't disappoint us. The notorious "rat-on-the-silver-platter" scene with Miss Davis hysterical with laughter and Miss Crawford just plainly hysterical is so horrible and yet so hilarious that you can't help laughing.
The film was such a hit that it inspired an entire genre and sent an immense number of movie agents scurrying around trying to find similar roles for their middle-aged female clients. Some of the films that followed weren't bad, such as HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE; DEAD RINGER and DIE! DIE! MY DARLING!, but none of them has the classic aura of BABY JANE.
There were obviously fireworks on the screen between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but what about off? From all indications they got along well and worked admirably together. (The scene where Jane kicks Blanche across the floor was obviously simulated--we never see Miss Davis' foot touch Miss Crawford's body.) However, the trouble may have begun after the film's release as the world opined who was really more responsible for the film's phenomenal success.
When Oscar nominations were announced, Bette Davis, not Joan Crawford, was nominated as Best Actress. Both actresses attended the ceremony, along with Lee Remick (DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES) and Geraldine Page (SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH). Joan Crawford had agreed to accept for either winning actress not in attendance--i.e., Katharine Hepburn (LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT) or Anne Bancroft (THE MIRACLE WORKER). When Miss Bancroft was proclaimed the winner, suddenly the spotlight was on Joan Crawford. Bette Davis was not exactly particularly quite happy, and thus the legendary feud was born.
* The curious teenager who lives next door to the Hudson sisters is none other than Barbara Merrill, Bette Davis's real-life daughter.
* The wig Bette Davis wears throughout the film had, unbeknownst to both leads, been worn by Joan Crawford in an earlier MGM movie. Because it had been re-groomed, Crawford didn't recognize it.
* During production, Bette Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set to anger Joan Crawford, whose late husband had been CEO of rival Pepsi-Cola and who herself was on the board of directors of that company.
* During the kicking scene, Bette Davis kicked Joan Crawford in the head, and the resulting wound required stitches. In retaliation, Crawford put weights in her pockets so that when Davis had to drag Crawford's near-lifeless body, she strained her back.
* While touring the talk show circuit to promote the movie, Bette Davis told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads in this film, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner replied: "I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads." Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she reportedly received a telegram from Crawford: "In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!"
* The final scene at the beach was filmed in Malibu, California at the same spot where director Robert Aldrich filmed the final scene of Kiss Me Deadly (1955). When Blanche confesses the truth to "Baby Jane", you can see in the background that same house that was "blown up" by a mysterious box containing radioactive material in "Kiss Me Deadly".
* The producers originally wanted Peter Lawford to play Edwin Flagg. Bette Davis also originally objected to Victor Buono's casting but eventually came around.
* Because she was then a member of the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, Joan Crawford managed to see that product placement shots of the soft drinks appeared in all of her later films. Although nearly imperceptible, Pepsi does show up in this one. During the last sequence, a guy runs up to the refreshment stand on the beach and tries to collect the deposit on some empty Pepsi bottles--a transaction that actually only happened in stores.
* Cracked head of Baby Jane doll featured prominently in ad campaign was a completely different doll than that used in movie--probably because movie was filmed and released so quickly that ad staff had to devise campaign while film was still in production.
* In addition to her trademark number "I've Written a Letter to Daddy", the young Baby Jane apparently had other hit songs in her act. When Edwin prepares to play the piano for their rehearsal, we see Jane's picture featured on old sheet music for songs entitled "Fly the Flag of Freedom", "She's Somebody's Little Girl", and "I Wouldn't Trade My Daddy".
* The scenes from Jane's early films that show her to be a flop as an actress are scenes from Parachute Jumper (1933) and Ex-Lady (1933). When Bette Davis heard that the crew was looking for poor footage of her from that time, she (half-jokingly) suggested that any of her films from the period would do.