Baby Jane Hudson is a fictional character and the antagonist of Henry Farrell's 1960 novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? She was portrayed by Bette Davis in the 1962 film adaptation and by Lynn Redgrave in the 1991 made for TV remake. The 1962 production is the better-known, with Bette Davis earning an Oscar nomination for her performance.

At the chronological beginning of the story, "Baby" Jane Hudson is a child star in vaudeville, billed as the "The Diminutive Dancing Duse From Duluth." In the film version, a prologue set in 1917 shows her performing with her father, while her mother and sister Blanche watch from backstage. She is evidently favored and spoiled by her father, while her mother attempts to soften Blanche's anger and envy.

By the mid-1930s, Blanche and Jane are in Hollywood. Blanche is a successful actress; Jane gets film work only because her sister's contract demands it. The novel reveals that the sisters move to Hollywood to live with an aunt who favors Blanche the way their father had preferred Jane; the film leaps from the 1917 prologue to an exposition of the sisters' careers revealed through dialogue between their agent and a film producer. (Only then do the film credits roll. A woman in party clothes gets out of a car and approaches a gate. The driver's high-heeled foot steps on the clutch of her car, shifts, and accelerates.)

Blanche is paralyzed in the accident, thus ending both her career and Jane's. Jane spends the next three decades tending to her sister. With no money or career of her own, she sinks into alcoholism and mental illness. A TV retrospective honoring Blanche's old films sends Jane into a panic; she cultivates the false hope that she can revive her child act, even though she is now approaching old age.

In the 1962 film version Director Robert Aldrich exploited the reputations of his two stars, (Joan Crawford as Blanche and Bette Davis as Baby Jane), by using their 1930s film clips when the story called for examples of their characters' work. The legendary enmity of the two actresses was also used to fuel the energy of their performances and to gain publicity. [1]

Jane is driven to desperation by the combination of the increased attention towards Blanche, her discovery that Blanche plans to sell the house and have her committed, and her urgent attempts to revive her long-dead career. She kills her sister's pet parakeet and serves it to her for dinner. She steals Blanche's money to pay for an accompanist and for adult-sized versions of her little-girl costumes.

When Blanche's cleaning woman, Elvira Stitt, threatens to report Jane's abuses, Jane murders her and disposes of the body. After a call from the police asking about Elvira, whose family has reported her missing, Jane worries that she will be caught. When the accompanist she's hired, Edwin Flagg, discovers Blanche bound and gagged in the bedroom, Jane flees to the seashore with Blanche.

On the beach, Blanche reveals that it was she who was driving the night of the accident. When her plan to kill Jane went awry, she blamed the accident on Jane, who had been too drunk to remember. This revelation sends Jane over the edge. "You mean, all this time, we could have been friends?" she says. Jane goes off to buy ice cream, at which point the police identify her.

In a reprise of the prologue, where a bratty Jane had demanded ice cream for the two sisters while an audience looked on, Jane becomes "Baby Jane" again and dances for the crowd that has gathered to watch the spectacle. She has completely lost her mind.

Among the film's most recognized images is Bette Davis as the aged Jane in blond Shirley Temple-like curls performing the syrupy, "I've Written a Letter to Daddy."

Jane's final scene in the film is patterned on the final scene of Sunset Boulevard, where Gloria Swanson's character descends the stairs for an imagined film scene after killing her lover. The success of the movie led to the director's undertaking a film using similar themes and characters, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, also starring Bette Davis as a mentally unstable recluse lost in her delusions.

References Edit

  1. :: :: Great Movies :: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (xhtml)

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