The famously confrontational Joan Crawford and Bette Davis duo finally shared the screen in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, a 1962 horror thriller directed by Robert Aldrich. The making of the film is the subject of new FX series Feud starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
Like a cross between Sunset Boulevard and Psycho, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? explores themes like madness, jealousy and guilt in a Hollywood setting as Bette Davis' ex child star "Baby" Jane Hudson keeps her disabled sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) imprisoned in their house feeding her rats and scaring the crap out of her. The film first gives us some background on the sisters as we see Baby Jane singing to a crowd of fans very much in her element: she is talented but also a spoiled brat. Blanche, on the other hand, is cast aside by her father who is too busy pushing Jane down the path of stardom. Skip to a few years later and the tables have turned with Blanche being a respected Hollywood star and Jane struggling to find roles due to her alcoholism and bad attitude. This culminates in an unfortunate event that denies Blanche the use of her legs and we finally flash forward to present day.
Blanche is stuck in her bedroom on the first floor of a big, fancy house where she watches her own movies, missing the old days. Meanwhile, a visibly bitter and unhinged Jane occasionally brings her food but eavesdrops on her constantly and doesn't let her leave the house. It's a crazy set-up but it's realistic enough that you instantly feel bad for Blanche and try to figure out ways that she could escape. Bette Davis gives her most stand-out performance as "Baby" Jane, a moody has-been with the worst case of denial you've ever seen: she is tragic yet chilling and very manipulative so you never know which Jane you'll get from one scene to the next. Both actresses deliver powerful performances playing two characters who are broken and, as you later find out, beyond saving. Packed with memorably creepy and bizarre scenes, the film is hypnotic and tense throughout. Add a Davis and Crawford at their best and most daring and you've got yourself a must-see.
Like Psycho, this is a psychological thriller that was way ahead of its time, boldly turning two ex-starlets into morally questionable biddies playing out a thoroughly sinister scenario that will make neither of them look all that good.