WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) B/W widescreen 134m dir: Robert Aldrich

w/Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Anna Lee, Maidie Norman, Marjorie Bennett, Dave Willock, Anne Barton, Barbara D. Merrill, Julie Allred

Grand Guignol in the grand manner, with a chilling performance by Davis as a faded former child movie star who lives in seclusion and gets kicks by mentally torturing her crippled sister (Crawford).

From The Movie Guide: "Star wars, trenchantly served, with Davis as a wharf rat and Crawford a frantic parakeet. If it sometimes looks like a poisonous senior citizen show with over-the-top spoiled ham, just try to look away. Bringing the screen's queens of sadism and masochism together for this slice of Camp Hollywood gothic horror revitalized the careers of both. ...

"As in the best Hitchcock movies, suspense, rather than actual mayhem, drives the film. The screenplay, by Lukas Heller, was based on the novel by Henry Farrell (who also authored the novel HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE and scripted WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?).

"Aldrich had his hands full balancing the overblown but sensitive egos of the rival actresses. If full-scale battle never erupted, it is still correct to say that battle lines were constantly being drawn. The original choice to star with Davis was Tallulah Bankhead (a far more lethal combination than the eventual one) when the property began floating around Hollywood, but Crawford acquired rights to the property, and offered it to Davis while the latter was unhappily appearing on Broadway in Night of the Iguana. Davis commanded a greater salary, Crawford a larger percentage of the gross (Joan's years at Pepsi-Cola paid off). Davis's foot allegedly made contact with Crawford's head during a scene where Baby Jane punts her sister around the living room. Crawford supposedly retaliated by use of the old Veronica Lake trick ... by rigging weights under her robe for a scene where Davis had to drag her, and Davis hurt her back. Crawford shared a private joke on Davis by sending hairdresser Peggy Shannon to MGM to secure her old blonde wig from ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 for Davis to wear. Davis bitched to Aldrich about Crawford's drinking (both were alcoholics) and padded brassieres; Crawford insulted Davis's daughter (who appeared in the film [as the teenaged next-door neighbor] --- to put it kindly, she was not burdened by her mother's talent), and the incidents go on and on.

"In a bucket of gooey make-up, Davis cried when she saw herself in rushes (the limited budget precluded re-shooting) but her excessive performance is riveting --- capturing the malevolence Lynn Redgrave lacked in the 1991 TV remake. Crawford wisely underacts --- if her performance isn't as showy as Davis's, it's not any less accomplished."

An Oscar went to Norma Koch for Best Costume Design. The film was also nominated for Best Actress (Davis), Supporting Actor (Buono), Cinematography (Ernest Haller), and Best Sound (Joseph Kelly).

In 1962, the Best Actress winner was Anne Bancroft for THE MIRACLE WORKER. Because she was appearing on the New York stage, Bancroft could not be present at the awards show. Before the evening of the presentations, Crawford, in all slyness, cozied up to Bancroft and offered to accept the Oscar if Bancroft should win. When the award was announced, Crawford swept onstage, thereby stealing any of Davis' thunder which was associated with her because of the nomination. Joan would go to any length to upstage Davis. But Bette had the last word on Joan's padded bras: "Christ! You never know what size boobs that broad has strapped on! She must have a different set for each day of the week! She's supposed to be shriveling away, but her tits keep growing. I keep running into them like the Hollywood Hills."