REVIEW: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Film Review 40
Title: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Release Year: 1962
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Cast: Bette Davis & Joan Crawford
Plot: A former forgotten child star, Baby Jane Hudson, torments her older sister actress Blanche Hudson - who's confined to a wheelchair - because she found more success in Hollywood later in their careers
I know I say this about so many films but this too is one of my favourites! Rasha and I had watched this two years ago I think, around the time we were obsessing over Bette Davis & Joan Crawford & have watched it many times since!
The story and the cast were perfection. Well, except for Davis's daughter, as the teenager next door. She was very butch for the role and clearly didn't inherit her mother's talent. But her performance still couldn't ruin the film for me. I loved all the characters, from the rival sisters to the part time maid to the nosy neighbour to the weird musician & his mother as well as the sisters' father.
I loved that the Stars' older films (which I haven't seen) were also featured. When the production team were choosing flop films for Jane, Davis jokingly said that any of her films from the 30s would suffice.
They ended up with "Parachute Jumper", 1933 & "Ex-Lady", 1933 for Davis and "Sadie McKee", 1934 for Crawford.
When first there were plans to make this film in 1960, Hitchcock was considered to direct but he refused because he was filming "Psycho" and had also started working on "The Birds". I'm sure he would've done a great job but I'm still happy with the outcome.
When I was little, I watched a 1991 TV film version of this & had so many nightmares after. I remember it being eerie & not at all funny as this is.
Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers were considered for Baby Jane and I'm more than delighted that didn't go through because none but Davis could've pulled it off.
Bette Davis was more than exceptional in her performance as baby Jane. She was nominated for an Oscar for the role but unfortunately did not get it, which is a shame because it was, in my opinion, her best performance and she truly deserved it.
Davis had control over how her makeup should look. It was inspired by the then ageing former child actress Mary Pickford and by many of the silent film actresses whose careers had faded and thick makeup was their only way to garner attention. She really wanted a look that made you feel like Jane never washed her face but rather added another layer of makeup every morning. She reminded me of myself when I was a teenager and thought that my FULL makeup looked natural...until I saw my pictures! I looked like a geisha 😭
Tallulah Bankhead, Olivia de Havilland and Marlene Dietrich were considered to play Blanche. Even though Bankhead & Dietrich are great actresses I just cannot imagine them as sweet & frail Blanche. I could imagine De Havilland doing it but unlike her, Joan was an actress equal to Bette's stature so their being part of the film played a substantial role in its success.
I loved Joan as Blanche, she was perfectly self-absorbed and annoying but still sweet. You could feel the fear when she was tormented and you could really feel that she was starving. Unfortunately though, when she did have a chance to munch on those delicious-looking chocolates, Joan didn't satisfy. I don't understand when actresses don't just eat the food if they're supposed to for the part, it really ruins the whole act scene. Plus those chocolates were huge and she didn't even try to open her mouth wider, instead she nibbled on them like a mouse...and not even a starving one.
Peter Lawford was first cast to play Victor Buono's part but after accepting, he immediately withdrew for personal reasons. I would've loved seeing him play that part but Buono did a great job - which he got nominated for - so I'm not complaining.
Of course, like with every film, there are minor disturbances like Jane's singing voice as a child. It was an attempt to sound more like Davis's old hag voice. It ruined the scene when Jane sang the same song as an adult because even though it still looked creepy, I feel it would've sounded creepier yet and more shocking to see the transition if her child voice was soft to begin with. After all, her real voice in her twenties sounded nothing like her voice in her fifties so why does her child voice have to sound like her old voice!
Another bad bit was when Blanche was spinning around in circles. It took away from the shock and horror of what she had seen, instead she could've pushed herself as far from the tray as possible.
Jane: "You mean all this time we could have been friends?"
Finally, I can sum up the story by using the Cheshire Cat's line "We're all mad here". You'll understand when you watch it. Highly recommended!