A quick read on “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) and FX’s “Feud: Bette & Joan” (2017)
I have to admit, Feud: Bette & Joan (2017) is pretty interesting TV. The feud between those two was biblical, the show is stylish in a Mad Men (2007) way, and the acting (as is always the case with the exquisite Jessica Lange) is amazing. Whatever happened to Baby Jane? (1962) is an essential watch because the filming of it really ramped up the feud, and it’s a great horror piece.
Whatever happened to Baby Jane? is considered by film historians to be the picture that founded the “hag horror” or “hagxploitation” genre (think of a psychologically disturbed woman, past her prime, who terrorizes a victim). I think you could argue though, that Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), which is also about a faded starlet who psychotically yearns for her former glory, was really the first. Sunset Boulevard was really more of a drama / thriller (and a noir) though.
Still, there can be no doubt that Bette Davis’s Oscar nominated performance as Baby Jane definitely owes something to Gloria Swanson’s performance as Norma Desmond twelve years earlier. Bette is amazingly over the top as the psychotic faded starlet sister of the more famous and crippled Joan Crawford.
Baby Jane’s makeup really stands out too. Bette Davis was basically given creative control over it: the way she imagined Baby Jane was as a woman who never washed her face but merely put on a new layer of make-up everyday for twenty some years. The look, along with Bette’s acting, is scary good.
This film is a must watch for any and every horror fan and even more essential for fans of FX’s Feud.