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"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is one of "those" movies that I never saw because I'm the youngest child - I've seen small clips of the film, and heard it mentioned enough when I was young, to the point where I honestly thought that I had seen it, but I hadn't, and I had, and I hadn't.

"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" received five Academy Award nominations, with Norma Koch winning the award for "Best Costume Design - Black and White." 

This was Produced and Directed by Robert Aldrich, and is a classic tale of sibling rivalry (that's something of an understatement) between Jane and Blanche Hudson (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively). This movie is made more diabolically delicious by the fact that Joan Crawford and Bette Davis actually hated each other in real life.

And isn't it ironic that this most legendary of cat fights was caused by a dog?

Of note is an important role played by Maidie Norman as the family's maid, Elvira. Norman, a woman of color, was often reduced to playing roles as domestic servants, but she refused to play them subserviently: "In the beginning, I made a pledge that I would play no role that deprived black women of their dignity," she said. About the role of Elvira, on Wikipedia: "Norman recalled that the character was originally written as a 'doltish, yessum character.' She rewrote the dialogue which she called 'old slavery-time talk' in an effort to dignify the character."


Compare the role of Elvira to that of Mammy played by Hattie McDaniel in "Gone with the Wind" - as lovable and funny as Mammy was, she was only one small step away from being a House Slave (in fact, she *was* a House Slave), and the dialog - and the attitude - in these two roles, written only 23-years apart, could not be more different. If you're going to remember a third person from "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" why not make it Maidie Norman? (It's easy to remember "Maidie," since she always portrayed maids - and then there was the Norman conquest.)

In one very subtle, inconspicuous scene, Jane (Bette Davis) - who had previously shown abusive behavior towards Elvira - was in the early stages of keeping people out of the house at all costs. Jane gave Elvira "the day off with pay," to which Elvira replied: "See you next Tuesday ..." - think about that one for a moment ... #CUNx

Look at these two screen-shots, captured less than 1/2 second apart from each other:Screenshot 2016-10-29 at 12.56.06.pngScreenshot 2016-10-29 at 12.56.07.png

Remember Denzel Washington's "Ultimate Eat Shit and Die Glare," while he was being whipped, in "Glory?" Screenshot 2016-10-29 at 13.30.21.png

Or Sidney Poitier's "Slap Heard 'Round the World" during "In the Heat of the Night?"

Neither of these scenes exist without Maidie Norman.

Sidney Poitier was born in 1927, and I fervently hope this somehow reaches him - I believe Poitier would be the first to agree, and that he could add many more examples: The importance of his wisdom and experience cannot be measured. My only regret is that Maidie Norman will never have a chance to see this.

Incidentally, the actor receiving third billing, Victor Buono, made his debut in this film, and went on to play the villain King Tut on "Batman."
Great, ingenious film  - every bit as Hitchcockian as "Charade," with twice the horror: I thought I had it all figured out ... just like they wanted me to think, but I hadn't, and I had, and I hadn't ....

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22 hours ago, DonRocks said:

"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is one of "those" movies that I never saw because I'm the youngest child - I've seen small clips of the film, and heard it mentioned enough when I was young, to the point where I honestly thought that I had seen it, but I hadn't, and I had, and I hadn't.

I thought the same thing! I almost didn't watch it because I was sure I had already seen it. Two minutes into it, however, I was sure that I hadn't. 

I really enjoyed this film, and I liked Maidie Norman's performance so much I paused the movie to Google her, as I was sure I had recently watched her play Olivia de Haviland's maid in the dreadful Airport 77. (She did). She was a talented actress who brought a great deal of dignity to the role of Elvira.

This is a very enjoyable, psychological thriller. It was the perfect pre-Halloween movie for me, as I am not a fan of the true horror genre. Even though I had seen clips and heard a great deal about this film growing up, I am glad I watched it in its entirety.

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This has long been one of my favorite movies, and I've probably watched it at least ten times. That it derives in large part from Sunset Boulevard, with which it shares the terrain of High Camp, should be obvious, but that in no way diminishes it as a work of film art. Baby Jane is a great film; Sunset Boulevard is not, despite its larger reputation. I've always loved Bette Davis, and rather disliked Joan Crawford, so this film (the only one they made together) may have a special resonance for me.

Dazzling fun facts: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane has been remade twice. In a made-for-TV movie in 1991 under the same title, with Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave in the roles of Blanche and Jane, respectively. And as a feature film called Baby Jane? in 2010, with the principal characters played by female impersonators in drag. I've never seen either of them, but it seems to me that camping up the already campy is a dicey undertaking. IMDb also shows a Baby Jane in development for 2017 but with no indication of a connection with any of the earlier films or of the 1960 novel.

ETA: If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can stream the drag Baby Jane movie at no charge.

Edited by The Hersch
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