I really don’t need an excuse to watch the creepy, macabre “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) but on Friday the 13th it just seems apropos.
This film showcases not only the destructive rival between two sisters Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) and Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) but also the real life, career-long rival between the actresses. That’s at the center of what makes this such a fabulous movie. I can just see Bette’s wheels turning as she relishes her slow, ongoing torture of Joan, her on-screen nemesis.
Directed by Robert Aldrich from the novel by Henry Farrell, the story revolves around former child star – Baby Jane Hudson who can’t make the successful transition to film unlike her sister Blanche who spent her childhood in Baby Jane’s shadow. But, because of a car accident, Blanche is left crippled and Jane is begrudgingly forced to take care of her. Emphasis on the begrudging! – The result? – 133 minutes of pure on the edge of your seat, I can’t believe she just did that, sadomasochist Baby Jane Hudson.
For full disclosure, I’ve always loved Bette Davis! Check out my previous post, If it’s Sunday, break out the hankies! Bette always sought out challenging roles and wasn’t afraid to “go there.” As a matter of fact, in her first acclaimed film, “Of Human Bondage” she both emotionally and physically portrayed the grotesque nature of her character. She made her appearance “haggish” wanting to express the true physical appearance of someone with tuberculosis.
The success of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” re-energized both actresses careers in the 60’s as the “psycho-biddy” subgenre of horror/thriller films featuring psychotic older women came into vogue. Two other movies that followed the trend were Aldrich’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?.
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, winning one for Best Costume Design.
- Academy Award for Best Actress (Bette Davis, nominee)
- Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Victor Buono, nominee)
- Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black and White (Norma Koch, winner)
- Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black and White (nominee)
- Academy Award for Best Sound (Joseph D. Kelly, nominee)
So, on this Friday the 13th if you’re looking for a treat – I recommended spending a little time with the Hudson sisters and find out – “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”