After a suspicious car accident in which actress Blanche Hudson is crippled for life, the popular star becomes a recluse, cared for by her sister, former child star Jane Hudson. In the ensuing years, the two sisters live an isolated existence in a sprawling house on the outskirts of Hollywood. Blanche becomes a virtual prisoner in the house, completely dependent on her bitter alcoholic sister who takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting her on a daily basis. When Jane finds out that Blanche plans to sell the house out from under her, her behavior becomes increasingly erratic and dangerous. Jane subsequently devises a plan to resurrect her ancient childhood vaudeville act with the help of opportunistic mama's boy Edwin Flagg while Blanche slowly wastes away in the upstairs bedroom. With both sisters increasingly desperate and Jane slipping rapidly into full-blown madness, events take a macabre turn for the murderous.
Director: Robert Aldrich
Writer: Lukas Heller
Based on the Novel By: Henry Farrell
Producers: Kenneth Hyman, Robert Aldrich
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Art Direction: William Glasgow
Editing: Michael Luciano
Music Composer: Frank DeVol
Costumes: Norma Koch
Sound: Jack Solomon
Special Effects: Donald Steward
Choreographer: Alex Romero
Make Up: Jack Obringer, Monty Westmore
Cast: Bette Davis (Jane Hudson), Joan Crawford (Blanche Hudson), Victor Buono (Edwin Flagg), Anna Lee (Mrs. Bates), Maidie Norman (Elvira), Marjorie Bennett (Mrs. Flagg), Dave Willock (Ray Hudson), Anne Barton (Cora Hudson), B. D. Merrill (Liza Bates), Julie Allred (Young Jane), Gina Gillespie (Young Blanche).
Why WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is Essential
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
was a smash hit when it was released in 1962. It earned five Academy Award nominations and was responsible for revitalizing the careers of two of Hollywood's most famous and accomplished actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both Academy Award winners, the movie work for Davis and Crawford had dried up since they had reached a certain age. The success of the film led each to a busy second phase of their careers in mostly B movies which kept them working and in the public eye until their deaths.
With her go-for-broke and completely vanity free performance as the grotesque, unstable Jane, Bette Davis created one of the most famous and iconic characterizations of her career. She earned her eleventh Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for it, and embraced the character throughout the remainder of her life, often referring to Jane as one of her all-time favorite roles.
Part macabre psychological thriller, part black comedy and part camp, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
quickly entered into the American pop cultural lexicon. It became an instant classic that has been imitated and parodied ad infinitum over the years.
The pairing of legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford captured the public's imagination before the film was even released. Rumor had it that they had always been bitter competitive rivals, much like the Hudson sisters in the story, and everyone wanted to see how much fur would fly in the completed film. Davis and Crawford had both been top actresses of their day in the 1930s and 40s and had even shared adjoining dressing rooms in former days on the Warner Brothers lot. However, the two barely knew each other and had never appeared in the same film together.
From the beginning, everyone wanted to believe that there was a terrible feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. While they weren't friends, the perceived rivalry became so exaggerated that it has gone down in the annals of legendary Hollywood lore. Most of the outrageous tall tales are unsubstantiated, but they have nevertheless become part of Baby Jane
's cachet, which makes for a better story that most people would rather believe. Even though this was the only film that Davis and Crawford ever made together, the two actresses were forever linked in the public's mind, and each was asked about the other until their dying days.
The success of the film inspired a new sub-genre of horror some have referred to as the grand dame horror film. Titles that followed in the footsteps of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
, include Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
(1964), Lady in a Cage
(1964), Die! Die! My Darling!
(1965), and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?
by Andrea Passafiume