but you are blanche you are

I can’t believe I’ve waited 40 years to see “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”.

It’s such a bizarre film – the film that launch a thousand grand (dame) guignols – and yet it’s powerful.

Feuding sisters. Hollywood fame. Childhood jealousy. Psychological cruelty.

But the thing that shines out for me is the last scene. All the torture in the house has finished. Baby Jane has killed once – now she takes her emaciated, tortured, half-dead sister to the beach.

What a stroke of genius. There among the pretty young things of the 1960s surf set eating icecream, drinking pepsis – a Greek tragedy plays out its end game. I’m not sure which Greek tragedy but Joan Crawford certainly looks the part as she lies there all-but-dead on the sand.

It’s the images that stay with me rather than the plot denouement. The ash-grey face of Crawford on the beach – dehydrated, starved, black-eyed in the dawn. Like a corpse already.

And, of course, Davis running in the spray playing ball with startled children while handsome surf dudes run past. Snatching icecreams from a black icecream seller. Splashing in the sea.

And then that last image which reminds me of the end of La Dolce Vita (another bizarre gathering on the beach). The youth dance round the mad woman all in white while the two police man tend to her sister in black. It’s such pleasingly assymetric image.

4 Comments

  1. ST

    September 30, 2009 at 2:39 am

    It is funny that it took you 40 years to see this movie.
    It took me 20 years to even watch another Bette Davis
    moive after seeing this one. I was probably 8 or 9 years
    old when I saw this movie.
    I laugh today and tell friends that she scared me so bad it
    took 20 years to build up my courage to see her in another
    movie. I finally watched her in ‘Pocket Full Of Miracles’
    and realized what a great actress she really was.
    I try and watch her movies when I see them on TV, but I
    always watch ‘Pocker Full of Miracles’ every Christmas.

  2. rick

    September 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    You may want to check out, the equally bizarre 1964 film,
    “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
    It’s similar to Baby Jane,
    but this time Bette Davis is the poor sap
    that gets tormented…

  3. Robert

    October 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Glad that you finally got round to seeing it. Robert Osborne the host of Turner Classic Movies interviewed Ms. D ,and asked her about her makeup. She was looking for some physical characteristic to play this bizarre, tortured creature -and he told her that here was a woman who used her makeup as a type of armor. At the end of the day she didn’t bother to remove it, she added a fresh coat each day. I really like this film (even though it’s over the top), because it shows just how good an actor Davis was. She takes what could easily have been a trashy horror romp, and instead gives a heart wrenching portrayal of a poor soul twisted by guilt and betrayal.

  4. Robert

    October 3, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    The he referred to above is the director Robert Aldrich. Sorry it’s 8AM,and I haven’t been to bed yet.

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