Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
We had just seen the FX Channel’s eight-episode anthology series Feud, detailing the rivalry and bad blood between those two Hollywood divas, Joan Crawford, played well by Jessica Lange (though she looks sort of weird), and Bette Davis, played wonderfully by Susan Sarandon. She even manages to look like Bette sometimes. The making of this movie was the centerpiece of the series.
I can’t say that the extraordinary tension on the shoot was visible in the end result though, of course, the ugliness of the relationship between horrible Baby Jane and her long-suffering wheelchair-bound sister Blanche was the subject of the movie. Blanche is held captive on the second floor of their house by an increasingly insane Jane.
This was an iffy project for both women. Each had seen her career slow down as she aged, and each was desperate for a comeback. This film seemed an unlikely vehicle for that, but it turned out to be a smash hit thriller. Davis had uglied herself up to an astonishing degree, and then was nominated for an Oscar. Crawford wasn’t. The story of how all that went down … is far too complicated to relate here. Suffice it to say that the claws were out, and both women came out of it bleeding badly.
After this picture Davis’ career slowed more, but she was still able to work. Crawford’s career was basically over. She made five increasingly bad thrillers, trying to capitalize on the success of Baby Jane, capping it all off with a totally dreadful stinker, Trog, where her co-star was a man in a gorilla suit. A sad end for the woman who was once the Queen of Hollywood, and reckoned by many to be the most beautiful woman in the world. (Not by me. I never saw it. Just not my type, I guess.)