Spoiler-Free Review: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

“What have you done?”

Author: Henry Farrell

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Hudson? You remember her? That child actress who took vaudeville by storm. What happened to her? Wasn’t her younger sister Blanche Hudson, the movie star during the golden age of Hollywood? I saw one of her old movies on TV last night. Whatever happened to them?

Baby Jane Hudson is now a late-middle-aged alcoholic. She lives alone with her sister, Blanche, who was crippled in a car accident. Sadly, money is getting tight and the sisters are going to have to move to a smaller place. As they fix up their home to sell, will they also fix themselves, and their bond as sisters?. . . or will Jane try to kill Blanche?

While I do recommend the Bettie Davis / Joan Crawford movie adaptation, don’t buy into the hype about the Davis/Crawford feud. The reason that this was their only film together was not because of any feud. They didn’t work at the same studio and played very different roles. They weren’t friends, but there was no real clash between them.

I saw the film first, and I am really glad I decided to read the book. I feel I understood Book Blanche better than I did Film Blanche. Book Blanche is not the damsel in distress she is in the film. There’s a passive-aggressiveness to Blanche that Crawford just didn’t bring into her performance.

While it does make the twist more surprising, it ruins the story’s poetic justice. The novel makes it clear Blanche knew Jane was not mentally stable WAY back when Blanche was a movie star. Despite knowing this, Blanche didn’t get Jane the help she needed for fear of scandal. In a sick way, Blanche liked the co-dependence the sisters developed over years isolated in the same house. While Blanche does not deserve Jane’s abuse, the fact remains that Jane was on a downward spiral for decades and Blanche, preoccupied with feeling sorry for herself, ignored the problem.

Both the film and the novel are well worth a watch and a read.

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