Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Vote Now: Jameson Empire Awards 2015
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Bette Davis
Joan Crawford
Victor Buono.
Running Time
128 minutes

100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, The
3 Star Empire Rating
5 Star Empire Rating
Exorcist, The
4 Star Empire Rating
3 Star Empire Rating
Green Mile, The
4 Star Empire Rating

5 Star Empire Rating
5 Star Empire Rating
Spirited Away
5 Star Empire Rating
Thief Of Bagdad, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Killing Fields, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

submit to reddit

Famed rivals Davis and Crawford get the knives out in a darkly comic psychodrama.


While making Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock mischievously announced that sundry grande dames of the screen were competing to land the role of the “axe-murderess Norma Bates”. Two years later, with the release of Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, the notion didn’t seem quite so far-fetched — for here were Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, former queens of Hollywood, locked into a horror-melodrama with a Hitchcockian streak of sick humour. Gloria Swanson had set a precedent in Sunset Boulevard, but Baby Jane led to an entire cycle of ‘horror hag’ movies — Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Strait-Jacket, The Nanny, What’s The Matter With Helen?, Fanatic…
The film has two long prologues in which we learn about Baby Jane Hudson, monstrous child star of 1917, and her sister Blanche, a Hollywood glamour sensation of the 1930s, etching in the venomous resentments, jealousies and scandals that bubble and boil throughout the film. Aldrich uses clips of Crawford and Davis from the ’30s — one of Davis’ early programmers is excerpted to establish that Jane Hudson was a wash-out as a grown-up actress — before, a full 20 minutes in, introducing the 1962-vintage actresses in shocking, merciless close-ups. 
Crawford’s Blanche, trapped in a wheelchair since a 1935 ‘accident’ everyone blames on Jane, has jet-black eyebrows and a hairstyle as tightly-stretched as her face — she seems overly perfect as she adores herself in a rerun of one of her old movies, a victim who perhaps relishes her martyrdom. Davis’ Jane is a shocker — an aged frump who looks decades older than the 54 year-old actress, slobbing around in a dressing-gown with an inch-thick kabuki mask of make-up and a Shirley Temple wig, drunkenly abusing the invalid Blanche and dreaming of a comeback in her old act.
The plot stretches to Misery-like captivity, torture and murder but Aldrich, strong enough to cope with menopausal monsters on this set and the raging macho of The Dirty Dozen, gets his chilliest chills from the ghosts of Hollywood. Davis and Crawford, enormously game, attack these great roles with everything they’ve got — Davis is the better actress in the better role, but Crawford knows she has a poise her co-star envies and makes it work for her. In the most horrifying scene, Jane does her pitiful little-girl recital in front of a mirror — then has a lucid moment, sees what she really looks like, covers her face and screams. For the viewer, too, this creepy mood-piece is far from a comfortable watch.


Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
Released: 17 July 2006
Drag performers Charles Busch (Psycho Beach Party) and John Epperson (Lypsinka) skew to a camp reading of the film but have many interesting observations.
Documentaries and interview:
Biographical documentaries about Davis solo and Davis/Crawford in parallel, and a vintage BBC-TV interview in which a regal Crawford is tactfully grilled by the terrified Philip Jenkinson.
Clips and Trailer:
There’s a bizarre clip of Davis croaking out a tie-in song (which isn’t in the film) on The Andy Williams Show, and  the ‘broken doll’ trailer.

Any good?! It's a classic, dammit!

Reviewed by Kim Newman

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
Empire Star Rating

Dramatic, Bleak Thriller

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, a dark, uncompromising thriller is a well realized attempt to conquer the nature of fame through the nasty peephole of mental disturbance. There is the characterisation and performances, which are both superb. Bette Davis has never been better, and the story is woefully dark and suitably foreboding. The taut and sometimes chillingly tense atmosphere produced by the two leads is oftentimes electrifying, and the use of music is most commendable. The film does feel r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 05:40, 21 December 2011 | Report This Post

12A? Man, this film should be rated X!

This film is really fucking extreme. Altough is Davis' best performance to date along with All About Eve. Great Movie. A really dark psycho drama. Also Joan Crawford is extremely good. Sexy and captivating. Really fucking great. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 01:21, 11 April 2008 | Report This Post


6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!
Get 6 months of Empire for just £20 and not only receive the world's greatest movie magazine and exclusive subscriber covers but you'll also receive up to 50% off restaurants nationwide and more with a free Gourmet Society Membership worth £64.99!Click here to find the perfect offer for you

Empire's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Spoiler Podcast
Featuring the director, Francis Lawrence

Empire's Jurassic World Trailer Tour
Updated: Director Colin Trevorrow guides us through the first trailer

Vote Now: The Jameson Empire Awards 2015
Tell us your favourite films and stars of the year

The Gift Guide 2014: 50 Must-Have Items This Christmas
Box sets, hardware, clothing, books and stocking fillers to buy

Empire's Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies Covers
Five armies. Five covers. The eagles, dwarves, elves, men and orcs prepare for battle in our Peter Jackon guest-edited issue

Josh Hutcherson On The Hunger Games Phenomenon
'I've done my fair share of young adult material now'

What Is A Squidward? A Beginner's Guide To SpongeBob SquarePants
If you aren’t already a massive fan, prepare to become one

Subscribe to Empire magazine
6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)