Tuesday, 14 March 2017

What ever happened to Baby Jane?

"What ever happened to Baby Jane?" (1962, Robert Aldrich, Seven Arts Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a psychological horror film about two ageing actress sisters. The film is based on a 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell and stars the famously feuding Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

To be honest my sudden compulsion to re-watch this famous flick was inspired by the first part of the episodic docudrama "Feud: Bette and Joan" (2017) starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, which is very entertaining and definitely worth watching!

"Baby" Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) is an ex-child star who, after casting a shadow over her sister's childhood due to her booming stage career, later found that her own adult acting career was then overshadowed by her elder sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). Having turned to drink to drown her sorrows, Jane is suspected to have caused the car accident which paralysed Blanche.

Years later, it is evident that Jane's mental state is not good, and as sole carer for Blanche she has the power to hold her captive, away from the world. All attempts from outsiders to intervene are halted by an angry and devious Jane and eventually drive her to becoming more and more erratic and dangerous in her attempts to live out her delusional plan of becoming America's sweetheart once again.

A fascinating study on the feelings that lost popularity and fame can have, and on the breakdown in the mind of someone who cannot move on with their lives. Jane's father drove her to stardom, but didn't provide her with any sense of longevity; her career would always end when she grew older. Her jealousy of Blanche is the exact reflection of Blanche's own feelings of jealousy and resentment which she had as the 'unfamous' child.

Both sisters are fabulously portrayed with relish by Davis and Crawford, helped along by their own off-screen dislike for one another. Jane's spiralling mental state and heart-breaking delusion are almost difficult to watch. A particularly chilling scene where she is singing in the mirror and then catches a glimpse of her aged face is really aweing. Blanche's quiet desperation and helplessness builds the sense of dread to match the madness of her sister.

The film enjoys a tense and exciting ending with some revelations and last pieces of both character puzzles falling into place. A genuine classic that will continue to be discovered by new audiences as time goes on.

[Image: Warner Bros. Pictures]