© 1962 The Associates & Aldrich Company

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Bette Davis
Joan Crawford
Victor Buono
Cinematographer: Ernest Haller
Composer: Frank De Vol
Year: 1962

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a modern classic. While didn’t exactly start the psychological horror genre, it definitely pushed it in a new direction, creating suspense and claustrophobia by setting the story almost entirely in a single location, a technique Roman Polanski would adopt shortly after in Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. Another subtext with which to appreciate the film is how the two leads, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play off each other. Director Robert Aldrich took two actresses who had gained reputations for playing strong-willed nasty characters, and throw them together in the snake pit of a decaying mansion. In real life, the two actresses had a long standing feud which probably stemmed from the fact that Bette Davis dated the actor Franchot Tone, became one of Crawford’s many husbands. If the legends are to be believed, the two fought constantly on the set. Crawford was on the Pepsi board of directors, and Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set before the first day of filming. In the scene where Jane has to kick Blanche, who is sprawled out on the floor, Davis reportedly actually kicked her, leaving a wound that required stitches. Crawford retaliated by hiding heavy weights in her custom before a scene in which Davis had to drag her across a floor. The nastiness continued even after filming wrapped. Bette Davis was nominated by best actress and deserved it – even the way she slouches across the room and kicks the door shut behind her is wonderfully evocative of her character. Crawford was furious that she was not nominated and offered to pick up the award for shoo-in Anne Bancroft if she won and was unable to attend, so she could at least show up Davis on the big night. Whether these stories are completely true or not, the strong undertones of resentment in there hate/dislike relationship seethe on the screen.

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