What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
No one ever talks about how crazy "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is. This is the kind of movie that helped birth the thriller, though it also proves that thrillers got a lot better over the years. As edgy as possible without insulting the censors, the film tells the story of two women, two sisters, two rivals.
The movie begins with a quick prologue as we are introduced to the character of Baby Jane. She's a young star, a Shirley Temple-like character of the stage. She sings and daces and wins everyone's hearts and then drops her on-stage persona.
A group of audience members witness a tantrum as Baby Jane is exiting the theater. She screams and cries just because she wants an ice cream. The crowd starts murmuring to themselves that this wonder of the stage may just be another brat.
Fast-forward almost twenty years and Baby Jane has fallen into the background. Her sister Blanche is now the actress who everyone wants to see yet Jane is still a baby. She throws fits, doesn't seem to get along with anyone...Hollywood would like to ostracize her, but her contract is intertwined with her sister's.
Then, an accident cripples Blanche and the main titles are cued.
We are thrown forward even farther in time and shown Blanche and Jane as aging has-beens. Blanche (Joan Crawford) has a legacy that is left behind. She was a respectable actress, one whom everyone admired and Jane (Bette Davis) wasn't.
Jane has returned to the bottle as a source of entertainment and as the movie caries on, the audience wishes that we brought a flask too. Drunken, cruel, and insane—Jane makes us wonder what the title of the film has to do with anything.
No body thought that Baby Jane Hudson was a sweet girl, she was a complete brat. No body thinks that the sweet little girl has vanished...so why the title? It could be referring to the career of the girl; but even that makes no sense.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" seems much like a warning against the gluttony of the lime light; but it's hard to take seriously when all things are considered.
There is a not so clever last minute reveal, one that was totally unnecessary, that I suppose makes us review everything we have just seen...but it didn't work. The ending implies that violence is justifiable if we have a good enough reason for it.
For a movie that's wound as tightly as this one is, "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is remarkably slow and low on plot movements. Not much happens in a day.
Jane now cares for her sister who lives on the second floor in a wheelchair, which just seems like a bad idea to me. Everything starts to pick up momentum when a television channel starts airing all of Blanche's hit movies during one week. Jane's resentment grows and she starts to act out. Elvira (Maidie Norman), the maid, is suspicious of Jane's doings and finds a pile of fan letters to Blanche in the trash can, opened.
Cleverly censoring Jane's mouth with the intercom system, the movie tries its very, very best to be as nervy as possible. What results is an overly-long, not-so-scary freak show.
There is no describing how insane all of the characters get.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" has two very pivotal performances given by Davis and Crawford. These are landmark roles and remind us that Stephen King might have seen this movie.
At the end of it all, when the last shot has faded, what good did it do? It wasn't that entertaining and it certainly presented no moral argument.
This is a film that loves hyperbole which is fine because so do I. It's the most catastrophic idea ever conceived.
Posted by Micah Jones