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Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

September 9, 2010

393. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Directed by Robert Aldrich
USA, 1962
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
Umpteenth viewing


Baby Jane Hudson is a child star of vaudeville — and her family’s main source of income — as her sister Blanche watches from the wings. However, things change as they grow up. Blanche (Joan Crawford) becomes a movie star while Jane (Bette Davis) battles with alcoholism and a string of film flops. After Blanche is crippled in a car accident, Jane is forced to become her carer. After decades of the sisters being shut in the house, an unbalanced Jane becomes cruel and sadistic.

Essential Scene:

Blanche relies on Jane to bring her regular meals, but Jane has started to put horrible surprises in them. One of Blanche’s past meal offerings was her beloved pet budgie, and she has avoided further meals as a result. But now she is painfully hungry, and awaits Jane’s arrival with the food tray.

Jane plods up the stairs with the new tray. After she has placed it on the table, she starts to leave but turns back to face Blanche.

Jane: Oh Blanche. You know we got rats in the cellar?

Jane leaves the room and stands by a wall nearby. Blanche looks at the tray. She shakes her head. She couldn’t have… right?

She lifts up the lid.

There, for her pleasure, is a huge dead rat.

Blanche screams and shoves the food tray onto the floor. Jane stifles her hysterical laughter as she walks back to her room, then cackles loudly when she’s inside. Blanche hears Jane’s laughter and starts to panic. She turns her wheelchair around in circles, moaning and sobbing.


Hollywood has always had trouble with dealing with older actresses. Once they’ve stopped being a sex symbol then what are they good for? Maybe they could play somebody’s mother. Or somebody’s kindly neighbour.

Well nuts to that.

In Baby Jane two female giants of the industry show that they have not lost one ounce of what made them great in their younger years. In fact, I think they both give what could arguably be one of the best performances of their careers.

The reason Baby Jane makes such an impact is that the abuse that Blanche suffers is entirely believable. Speaking as someone who relies on others, the thought of a disabled person’s main carer being their tormentor is a terrifying one.

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