What Ever Happened To Baby Jane ?i is at the very least notable because it is such a grave of vanity. What has an actress more dear, and more dearly hers, than her youthful good looks ? This film disposes with the notion, not just barely, not just merely, but wrathfully trampling it. Bette Davis, at the time an aging actress with another two decades of acting career left in her appears grotesquely age-ugly, deliberately, through methodical misapplication and anti-application of makeup for the purpose. It isn't such a small matter -- you may think it is, but try and cast the part, then talk.
It is perhaps more notable still for the deliberate deconstruction of the tedium of respectable Hollywood and respectable Americana. Of the two sisters, the one conformant to the puritan ideal, the one properly attired, properly behaved, properly spoken, that misery of an insufferable woman is shown for exactly what she is : yes, the icon of middle class UStardian ideal, and yes an intolerable, miserable little clot, a cockroach that one stomps out of civic duty while holding his nose. At the same time, intolerable, and for that reason intolerable. The message is plain, loudly broadcast and entirely correct : fitting to the expectations of old women is dehumanizing in general, and the best way for any girl to grow up to be a stinkbug instead of herself. Smoosh!
Outside of these, there isn't very much there. Davis is an excellent actress, and she plays well. There's worse things.———
- 1962, by Robert Aldrich, with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford. [↩]