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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Beaverhausen Book Nook: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Recently, I saw a woman on the subway reading this book. It seems Grand Central Publishing sneaked it into bookstores last Halloween.

I bought the book earlier in the week at a local Barnes & Noble (available also at Amazon.com).

I had a paperback edition of this in the '90s, lent it to someone and never had it returned. As I recalled, it's a well-written book though no literary classic by any means. It serves as a good blueprint for the iconic 1962 movie starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

The film, though, was certainly not slavishly adopted from the book though it  respectfully was faithful to it. The Elvira character is named Mrs Stitt, for one thing. but most events occur pretty much in keeping with Farrell's novel. Jane is a brunette but I think director Henry Aldrich wanted the character to suggest Shirley Temple.

The most fabulous things about this new edition of the book, which is a handsome trade paperback, are the revealing foreword and the six previously unpublished Farrell short stories included. One of them is "What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?" The basis for Hush, Hush....

Mitch Douglas wrote the intro. He was Farrell's literary agent (as well as one for Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and many other prominent authors). As Douglas explains, the movie idea was first endorsed by Joan Crawford who saw the commercial potential, especially if pitted against Hollywood rival Bette Davis, whom she recommended. Crawford saw herself as the less talented/ more beautiful Blanche against the more-talented but less comely Jane, which is interesting.

The "Divine Feud," of course, spilled on to the set with many examples described, entertainingly, in the foreword.

Favorite story from Douglas, who, right after Crawford's death, met Davis with a reporter from The National Enquirer. He asked Davis how she felt about Crawford's death.

Davis shot from the hip: "She was a cunt!"

Douglas explained the man with him was from the Enquirer.

"But she was always on time," Davis added.

And so is this book for the still-growing legion of fans for this film.

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