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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Buddy B and Baby J

I recently purchased the deluxe edition of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on video. Movie on one disc, extras on the other. The extras include "Bette & Joan: Blind Ambition", "All About Bette" and "Film Profie: Joan Crawford." Best, however, are videos of Bette singing the rarely heard "twisting" song to promo the film on the Andy Williams Show and the Behind the Scenes making of the movie (though not too revealing).

I've seen this film a million times. it seems, by now and know every line by heart. "I was cleanin' out the bird cage and he just... flew out the winda!" And "But ya are, Blanche! Ya are in that chair!"

When I was a kid, I made a super-8 short with my brother, Bobby, and cousin, Patrick, that I entitled
"Whatever Happened to Bobby Jane."  I was nuts about this film since I first saw it at the US movie theater on Main Street in Paterson, NJ. My grandmother, a big Bette and Joan fan, took me. After the film, I remember her sighing, "Oh, they used to be so glamorous!" But she did enjoy the storyline. She covered my eyes (too late) during the rat on a tray scene.

Baby Jane is the ultimate sibling rivalry film that everyone (except, maybe sibling-free "only" children) can relate to. Did you know it was loosely based on the true-life story of Gypsy Rose Lee and Baby June? If you watch Gypsy, you'll see the similarity in a vague way.

Jane, a child star, fades as her sister, Blanche, becomes a movie star. There is an accident in which Blanche is crippled for life and an increasingly crazy and alcoholic Jane becomes her abusive "care-giver"

Much drama ensues from this premise and there's lots of suspense. Most of it over-the-top! I saw Baby Jane once at the free outdoor summer screenings in Bryant Park. It was so much fun to see it with a packed park, on the lawn with a picnic basket and wine. There were obviously a number of newbies in the crowd who gasped and groaned at every twist and turn. Big applause for Elvira when she decides not to get on the bus and heads back to the house. Big gasp when she comes to a bad end.

This film cannot be remade because it's perfect already, as demonstrated by the mediocre tv-movie with the Redgrave sisters. A recent rumor on Facebook stated that Jerry Seinfeld would produce a musical spoof of Baby Jane on Broadway to star Bette Midler as Baby Jane and Barbra Streisand as Blanche. Unfortunately, it was all a lie. What a shame.


  1. One of my all-time favorites too, Buddy B. I never knew the part about the "Gypsy connection", but it would make perfect sense. BTW, I too first saw it in Paterson at the Fabian Theater. Is that where you saw it?

  2. Ron, pretty sure we saw it at the U.S. on Main Street. :)

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