WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
ROBERT ALDRICH | USA | 1962 | 134 MIN
In this showbiz-satire-meets-gothic-melodrama, Bette Davis plays “Baby” Jane Hudson, a former child star still bitter that her career was eventually overshadowed by her more talented sister Blanche (Joan Crawford). Now confined to a wheelchair after a mysterious car accident, Blanche is a veritable prisoner to her unhinged sister, whose bitterness begins taking on increasingly sadistic forms. As FX’s hit series Feud has shown, there’s a definite campy, metatextual thrill to seeing these famous rivals performing a grotesque travesty of their own contentious relationship and downward career trajectories. But WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is also genuinely disturbing stuff, owing largely to the committed performances of its leads and the expert work of veteran director Robert Aldrich. Davis, her hair in girlish ringlets and her face caked in ghoulish makeup, singing “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” is as tragic and unsettling an image as anything Hollywood has ever produced.
“Baby Jane isn’t a camp classic or a cult classic so much as it’s a straight-up classic.” -The A.V. Club