Robert Aldrich – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono…
Two aging sisters live together in an old, dilapidated, Hollywood mansion. Davis’ character Jane was once a child star, but always second best to her sister Blanche, a former Hollywood actress who enjoyed a glittering career until an accident left her in a wheelchair. Jane must care for her sister, but her benevolent actions in fact disguise an uncontrollable feeling of jealousy and revenge at her sister’s success, which is slowly turning Jane mad.
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As a child, “Baby Jane” Hudson was the toast of vaudeville. As an adult, however, Baby Jane was overshadowed by her more talented sister, Blanche, who became a top movie star. Then, one night in the early ’30s, came the accident, which crippled Blanche for life and which was blamed on a drunken, jealous Jane. Flash-forward to 1962: Jane (Bette Davis), decked out in garish chalk-white makeup, still lives with the invalid Blanche (Joan Crawford) in their decaying L.A. mansion. When Jane isn’t tormenting the helpless Blanche by serving her dead rats for breakfast, she is plotting and planning her showbiz comeback. Convinced that her days are numbered if she remains in the house with her addlepated sister, Blanche desperately tries to get away, but all avenues of escape are cut off by the deranged Jane. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? sparked a trend toward casting venerable Hollywood female stars in such grotesque Grand Guignol melodramas as Lady in a Cage (1964) and Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965). In addition to revitalizing the careers of Davis and Crawford, whose real-life mutual animosity came through loud and clear, the film made a star of sorts of 24-year-old character actor Victor Buono, cast as a porcine mama’s-boy musical composer. Lukas Heller’s screenplay was based on the novel by Henry Farrell. by Hal Erickson (allmovie.com)
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