Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? has become a cult classic for its epic pairing of two of cinema’s most enduring divas; Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Having carved similar paths over their careers with very different approaches, this film was the equivalent of Godzilla vs. King Kong and Director Robert Aldrich pulled out all the stops.
As a child, Baby Jane Hudson was a vaudeville sensation, but as an adult, Jane (Bette Davis) was eclipsed by her more talented sister Blanche (Joan Crawford). A tragedy would cripple Blanche and she and Jane would live together in near seclusion while the world forgot about them. Unable for either Jane or Blanche to let go of the past, their relationship becomes a battle of power and wills, leading them both down a path of despair and madness.
The film is over the top and Bette David chews the scenery, but it somehow works. Plus there are a number of memorable lines as it revels in its melodrama.
But the movie is not perfect. There are a number of plot contrivances that mar the narrative and make the plotting somewhat frustrating at times. Blanche has a number of opportunities to save herself, but somehow manages to botch it every time. The ultimate reveal of the mystery surrounding Blanche’s crippling is an interesting twist, but the film ends rather abruptly and I could have done with a little more of a catharsis that never seemed to manifest.
I enjoyed WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? but it didn’t exactly live up to the hype that surrounds it. It’s camp fun, but it works better as a platform for the actresses to work out their personal gripes with the studio system and each other than a tightly crafted film.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)