Retro Review: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 8 out of 10

Good question, and the answer is… she got old, creepy, and insane. This weeks Retro Review focuses on the suspenseful classic, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Starring two of the golden eras greatest and most prolific actresses Betty Davis, and Joan Crawford, the film follows the path of a child star, after adulthood hits, and the adoring public is no longer clammering for autographs. Directed by Robert Aldritch in 1962 this chilling thriller has won over audiences and critics alike with its stunning performances, lavish sets and riveting story.

Baby Jane Hudson and Her sister Blanche Hudson are no strangers to show business. As a little girl Baby Jane was the toast of the Vaudeville circut, making tons of money and just as many fans. When her fame and popularity were extingusihed by the onset of age and the film industry Jane turned to alcohol and erratic behavior. Meanwhile sister Blanche became one of the biggest stars Hollywood had ever seen. Despite the way her sister treats her, including running her over in their own drive way crippling her for life, Blanche had vowed to always treat Jane better than how Jane had treated her during the Vaudeville years. Now in their golden years Jane does nothing but make Blanche’s life miserable. Slowly turning into a monster Jane’s sanity slips away leaving Blanche fighting for her life.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a movie that rides amost solely on the incredible performances of its leading ladies, Joan Crawford and Betty Davis. Both women were known for their strength and conviction, always delivering in every role, and this film was no different. Davis makes the hair on the back of your neck rise as the demented Baby Jane Hudson. Her grotesque appearance of a little girl who never grew up lives in stark contrast to the exsessive drinking and mentally deranged attitude towards not only her sister, but to the world. She flawlessly plays a woman who can so easily slip between understanding her reality and hiding in a world where she is again nothing but an innocent young girl. Crawford on the other hand is magnificent as Blanche Hudson, Hollywoods golden lady until she was crippled in the mysterious car accident involving her sister. Known in her later years for being both emotionally and physically abusive to those around her, Crawford shows no signs of such traits but disappears completely into the optimistic demenor of a much tortured soul.

What made the film just that much better was the theme of entrapment that was enforced through the exceptional camera angles, setting and story. With a majority of the film occuring within the walls of the sister’s home, the audience feels just as sufficated and helpless as Blanche does. The use of wrought iron in Blanche’s window as she looks out for help, as well as, the iron gate at the front door where Jane hides behind keeps the theme fresh and only heightens the sense of claustrophobia and fear.

What Happened to Baby Jane? is a great classic scary movie that plays on the audiences fears of entrapment with no visible way out. Combining the immense talents of Joan Crawford and Betty Davis with great film making, an intriguing story line, and a willing audience, its no wonder the film was a smash. Just as frightening and spine tingling as it was in 1962 this black and white classic is perfect for one of those summer nights where the moon is full, and your feeling brave. With that I challenge you to watch the fantastic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and believe that all old women are nice knitting grannies.

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