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Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Year: 1962
Production Co: The Aldrich & Associates Company
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Robert Aldrich
Producer: Robert Aldrich
Writer: Henry Farrell/Lukas Heller
Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford

One of Hollywood's great stories behind the story, fading stars Davis and Crawford playing veiled versions of themselves and being extraordinarily brave in doing so as they apparently hated each other in real life. It's a tale of jealousy and women scorned that looks like Old Hollywood but was from a period when everything was changing in the business.

Jane Hudson (Davis) is a former child star and sister of Blanche (Crawford), who was a movie star later in life before an accident confined her to a wheelchair. Jane was a spoilt brat who resented losing her fame and resented Blanche ever more when the latter became famous herself.

After years of seclusion from the world they live together in a crumbling LA mansion with only their suspicious cleaner for company, Jane doomed to nursemaid Blanche for the rest of her days and Blanche at the mercy of Jane's vicious pranks and psychological warfare.

Blanche just wants them to do the best thing for their future now that the money is running out, but Jane seems determined not only to keep Blanche a prisoner but torture her as well, making Blanche wait hours for food and drink, feeding her favourite pet bird as dinner and finally dragging her almost lifeless body down onto Santa Monica beach where she seems to lose her marbles completely.

A lot of the proceedings seem allegorical rather than realistic, so a lot of it was profoundly frustrating. Like I thought while reading Flowers in the Attic, I could never understand why Blanche didn't throw a vase at Janes' head and scream bloody murder for help from the window. Maybe you have to have had a sister for 50 years to understand.

It's slow and the resolution is confusing - I suppose in the early sixties the appeal would have been to see these former titans of the industry face off together, particular former beauty queen Davis as a cackling, aged harridan not unlike a witch.

It seemed in the end that Jane had spent her life borderline insane, labouring under the illusion that she could return to the vaudeville that made her a star to the extent that she engages a rotund pianist (all she can afford) to get her act back on track.

I also thought it was going to be a lot more violent than it turned out to be, thanks in large part to a Mad magazine parody from years ago.

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