Watched: January 7 2019
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Anna Lee, Maidie Norman
Runtime: 2h 14min
Oh, God, we love this movie! We’ve been looking forward to rewatching it ever since we first decided to let the list control the next ten years of our lives, and it was worth the wait.
Jane (Davies) and Blanche (Crawford) are sisters, and as children Jane was a vaudeville star while Blanche lived in her sister’s shadow. Twenty years later, their roles have reversed, and Blanche has become a successful movie star while Jane has turned into an alcoholic, washed-up has-been.
Then, one fateful night, Blanche is paralyzed in an accident blamed on Jane, and the two start a reclusive life by themselves in a mansion where Jane takes care of the increasingly isolated Blanche.
Jane, resentful of her more successful sister, becomes obsessed with recapturing her glory days as a child star, and hires pianist Edwin Flagg (Buono) to help her revive her act. She cuts her sister completely off from the outside world by removing her telephone, and starves her by feeding her rats and dead pets.
Both main performances in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? are spectacular, and that’s probably the main reason this film is so incredibly engaging. Bette Davies as Jane is deliciously deranged and demented, and is just a joy to watch.
Joan Crawford is (almost) equally engaging as the victimized Blanche, a more toned down and possibly more challenging role. However, we grew increasingly frustrated by her uselessness. Seriously, woman! You know your sister has completely lost it! And that is as hard as you’re prepared to fight???
Blanche is not the only frustratingly incompetent character in the movie – pretty much everyone, from neighbour Mrs Bates (Lee) who’s too polite to interfere, to maid Elvira Stitt (Norman) who underestimates Jane’s madness despite her knowledge of both sisters, fail to help Blanche and stop Jane due to being basically completely fucking useless.
Watch it for the performances, the characters, the costumes, the hair and make-up, the story, the music and the tension. And to have a really good (if frustrated) time!
What we learned: It’s a good thing none of us are super successful…
Next time: 8 1/2 (1963)