From the HFA’s website: “At the height of his directorial powers, Robert Aldrich risked his career by taking a strange, savage bite of the hand of Hollywood with his now-legendary Grand Guignol melodrama about two aging movie star sisters sequestered in an old Hancock Park mansion, haunted by sinister family secrets and delusions that their long-faded careers might one day be resuscitated. Bette Davis exorcised her darkest histrionic demons into Baby Jane Hudson, a demented, gin-soaked former child actress still gripped by rabid jealousy for her sister Blanche’s past glory as a rising star; a stardom cut short, tragically, by the mysterious accident… Costars Davis and Joan Crawford famously despised one another, working hard to sabotage each other’s performance and vowing bitterly to never work together again. The vitriol palpable in the sisters’ every scene boils over into a frightening climax that silences the film’s dark comedic undertones and one ups Nathaniel West and Sunset Boulevard. With his brilliant transformation of the then 54-year-old Davis and 58-year-old Crawford into Gothic waxworks trapped in the amber of regret and bitter recrimination, Aldrich held up What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? as a cracked mirror to Hollywood, a powerful, whispering nightmare of Tinseltown’s darkest fear: obsolescence.”
One of the most recognizable and iconic camp classics of all time outside of Mommie Dearest, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? still has the power to shock audiences everywhere with its gruesome storytelling and, at times, unintentionally hilarious performances. The film’s themes of Hollywood obsolescence and jealousy can still be felt in media today, including Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are not to be missed.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
dir. Robert Aldrich
Part of the ongoing series: …All the Marbles (The Complete Robert Aldrich)
Screens at 7:00
Plays 8/13 at Harvard Film Archive