Friday, 17 May 2013

Horror Review: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

A former child star torments her crippled sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion.

When it comes to black and white Horror films there are many classics, "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? " is easily in the top ten of all time greats.

Believe it or not the film was originally going to be shot in colour. Bette Davis strongly opposed this, saying that it would just make a sad story look pretty. I have to agree that she has a great point, the black and white makes the story look more depressing and thrilling, it really catches the mood of the film.

Talking of the mood of the film, Director Robert Aldrich does a fantastic job of capturing and taking us into the dark and twisted world of Blanche and Jane Hudson, from beginning to end you find yourself transfixed to the screen and in awe of the amazing performances in the film.

Our leading ladies, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are perfect opposites on screen, yet they gel together perfectly, sort of a yin-yang situation. Their legendary Hollywood feud adds more depth to their scenes together and you can feel true tension between them both.

There has been a few rumours of a remake of this film and I personally don't understand why it should be remade, the film is near perfection and a true classic in every sense of the word. So how could you better it?!

"What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?" is an absolute gem of a film and it's a shame that these types of stories aren't made anymore.

If you want to see the "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?" trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

The wig Bette Davis wears throughout the film had, unbeknownst to both leads, been worn by Joan Crawford in an earlier MGM movie. Because it had been re-groomed, Crawford didn't recognize it.

Bette Davis said she had a lot of control over how her makeup should be done for the film. She imagined the older Jane as someone who would never wash her face, just put on another layer of makeup. When her daughter, Barbara Merrill, first saw her in full "Jane" makeup, she said, "Oh, mother, this time you've gone too far".

While touring the talk show circuit to promote the movie, Bette Davis told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads in this film, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner replied: "I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads." Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she reportedly received a telegram from Crawford: "In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!"

Peter Lawford was originally set to play the part of Edwin Flagg but two days after accepting the part he withdrew due to family concerns. Lawford felt the character might reflect badly on his real life role as brother-in-law of the current President, John F. Kennedy. Victor Buono was then cast as Edwin. Bette Davis originally objected to Buono's casting but eventually came around.

Because she was then a member of the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, Joan Crawford managed to see that product placement shots of the soft drinks appeared in all of her later films. Although nearly imperceptible, Pepsi does show up in this one. During the last sequence, a guy runs up to the refreshment stand on the beach and tries to collect the deposit on some empty Pepsi bottles - a transaction that actually only happened in stores.

Cracked head of Baby Jane doll featured prominently in ad campaign was a completely different doll than that used in movie - probably because movie was filmed and released so quickly that ad staff had to devise campaign while film was still in production.

In addition to her trademark number "I've Written a Letter to Daddy", the young Baby Jane apparently had other hit songs in her act. When Edwin prepares to play the piano for their rehearsal, we see Jane's picture featured on old sheet music for songs entitled "Fly the Flag of Freedom", "She's Somebody's Little Girl", and "I Wouldn't Trade My Daddy".

Joan Crawford was an avid collector of Margaret and Walter Keane's "sad eyes" paintings and befriended the couple and tried to incorporate their work into her films. In the film, during the interior scenes of the neighbour's (Mrs. Bates) house, several Keene paintings can be seen displayed on the walls.

Bette Davis had been nominated for Best Actress in her film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which also starring Joan Crawford. If Bette had won, it would have set a record number of wins for an actress. According to the book "Bette & Joan - The Divine Feud" by Shaun Considine, the two had a life long mutual hatred, and a jealous Joan Crawford actively campaigned against Bette Davis for winning Best Actress, and even told Anne Bancroft that if Anne won and was unable to accept the Award, Joan would be happy to accept it on her behalf. According to the book - and this may or may not be 100% true, but it makes a good anecdote - on Oscar night, Bette Davis was standing in the wings of the theatre waiting to hear the name of the winner. When it was announced that Anne Bancroft had won Best Actress for The Miracle Worker, Bette Davis felt an icy hand on her shoulder as Joan Crawford said "Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept".

In scenes where Jane imitates Blanche's voice, the voice heard is actually Joan Crawford's voice, and not Bette Davis', as Bette could not master Joan's voice properly.

This film is considered by many as Joan Crawford's last important picture. After this film, Joan was typecast in some lesser horror pictures until her last picture Trog in 1970 and some TV appearances in 1971 and 1972.

This film was a smash hit upon initial release, grossing $9 million. In todays money, this would be equivalent to over $65 million.

The Hudson sisters' car, identified by the police as a 1940 or '41 model, appears to be a 1946 Lincoln Continental.

Exterior shots of the Hudson house were filmed at 172 S. McCadden Pl. in Los Angeles. Right next door at 180 S. McCadden Pl. is the house Judy Garland lived in during production of The Wizard of Oz.

Baby Jane picks up her altered costumes from "Western Costumes" which is, in reality, one of the largest costume houses in Hollywood.

Actor Bill Walker appeared in a deleted scene delivering a package to Jane at the Hudson Mansion. It was filmed in the studio recreation of the house but never made it to the final release. He is uncredited.

Barbara Merrill, the curious teenager who lives next door to the Hudson sisters is Bette Davis' real-life daughter.

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