What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

132 mins | Drama | 1962

Director:

Robert Aldrich

Writer:

Lukas Heller

Producer:

Robert Aldrich

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Editor:

Michael Luciano

Production Designer:

William Glasgow

Production Company:

Associates & Aldrich Co., Inc.
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HISTORY

On 3 Mar 1960, NYT announced the publication of Henry Farrell’s novel, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Three weeks later, the 25 Mar 1960 LAT reported that producer Richard Rush was negotiating for motion picture rights, with plans to star Hugh O’Brian, Agnes Moorehead, and Jennifer West. The project remained in limbo until 6 Sep 1961, when Var stated that Robert Aldrich would direct the film for producer Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures. The 4 Oct 1961 Var reported that actress Joan Crawford was meeting with Aldrich that day to discuss her role. The film would mark her first screen appearance in several years, the last of which was Autumn Leaves (1956, see entry), also directed by Aldrich. In the 15 Jan 1962 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper announced that Crawford would co-star with Bette Davis, marking the first screen collaboration between the two veteran actresses. The 14 Mar 1962 NYT reported that Davis was leaving the Broadway cast of Night of the Iguana, and would begin rehearsals for the film in Los Angeles, CA, after a brief hiatus. The 19 May 1962 NYT revealed that Crawford approached Aldrich several years earlier, suggesting he make a film starring her and Davis. Although the director rejected the story Crawford proposed, he was intrigued by the idea of co-starring the two actresses. Aldrich told the 29 Jul 1962 NYT that he and Crawford continued the search for a suitable property over the previous three years until both agreed on ... More Less

On 3 Mar 1960, NYT announced the publication of Henry Farrell’s novel, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Three weeks later, the 25 Mar 1960 LAT reported that producer Richard Rush was negotiating for motion picture rights, with plans to star Hugh O’Brian, Agnes Moorehead, and Jennifer West. The project remained in limbo until 6 Sep 1961, when Var stated that Robert Aldrich would direct the film for producer Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures. The 4 Oct 1961 Var reported that actress Joan Crawford was meeting with Aldrich that day to discuss her role. The film would mark her first screen appearance in several years, the last of which was Autumn Leaves (1956, see entry), also directed by Aldrich. In the 15 Jan 1962 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper announced that Crawford would co-star with Bette Davis, marking the first screen collaboration between the two veteran actresses. The 14 Mar 1962 NYT reported that Davis was leaving the Broadway cast of Night of the Iguana, and would begin rehearsals for the film in Los Angeles, CA, after a brief hiatus. The 19 May 1962 NYT revealed that Crawford approached Aldrich several years earlier, suggesting he make a film starring her and Davis. Although the director rejected the story Crawford proposed, he was intrigued by the idea of co-starring the two actresses. Aldrich told the 29 Jul 1962 NYT that he and Crawford continued the search for a suitable property over the previous three years until both agreed on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? The director then commissioned Lukas Heller to write the screenplay, which Davis later approved. Financing was arranged through Seven Arts Productions, with distribution by Warner Bros. Pictures. Filming took place at the Producers Studio, later known as Raleigh Studios, in Los Angeles. The $600,000 production was to be finished in thirty days. Following completion, the 29 May 1963 Var estimated the budget at $800,000.
       According to the 14 Jul 1962 NYT, principal photography was scheduled to begin 23 Jul 1962. Aldrich stated in the 23 Jan 1963 Var that both actresses were offered handsome salaries, although neither was paid her standard rate. The studio compensated by giving Davis ten percent of net profits and Crawford fifteen percent, resulting in salaries exceeding $500,000 after successful box-office returns. Although Davis had faith in the picture, she compared being paid in net profits to gambling. On 21 Jul 1962, LAT reported that studio chief Jack Warner held a press luncheon honoring Davis and Crawford, as well as to publicize the start of production.
       The 2 Jan 1963 Var revealed that Warner executive vice-president Benjamin Kalmenson recommended releasing the picture after several other studios rejected it. Ken Hyman of Seven Arts also claimed credit in the 15 May 1963 Var, saying he threatened to quit unless his company financed the project.
       In the 16 Sep 1962 LAT, Hedda Hopper wrote about her invitation of Crawford and Davis to her home for “an interview dinner” while filming was in progress. Crawford dispelled rumors of a feud between herself and Davis, explaining that she had wanted to collaborate with her co-star since 1944, when they were both under contract to Warner Bros. Producer William Frye recommended the source novel to Davis two years earlier, but was unable to secure motion picture rights. Davis then offered the story to director Alfred Hitchcock, but he had other commitments. The 24 Oct 1962 Var later quoted Davis from a television interview, saying the two women had “too much pride to quarrel.” The 22 Aug 1962 Var confirmed the friendly on-set atmosphere. As a board member of the Pepsi-Cola Company, Crawford provided cold bottles of the soft drink for cast and crew throughout the shoot, although Aldrich occasionally introduced bottles of Coca-Cola into the cooler as a prank. Filming fell behind schedule, with completion expected during the first week of Sep 1962. Regardless, Warner Bros. moved the release date from Dec to Nov 1962.
       The 15 Sep 1962 LAT revealed that actor Victor Buono obtained the role of “Edwin Flagg” through a “connection” he made at the Golden Door spa in San Marcos, CA. His brief appearance in the film effectively launched his career as a character actor, as noted in the 1 Jul 1963 LAT.
       The 21 Aug 1962 NYT reported that the Theatre Owners of America (TOA), concerned by the dearth of Hollywood films during non-holiday seasons, formed a committee to “arrange guaranteed bookings” and preview screenings. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was the first release to benefit from this program. Roughly one month later, the 3 Oct 1962 Var noted that National Screen Service was distributing “special theatre accessories” to accompany the preview screenings. The 31 Oct 1962 Var commented on one such preview in New York City, which was reportedly attended by an “annoying claque of Bette Davis fans,” as was the cast at West Coast screenings. Joan Crawford made a guest appearance.
       The 17 Oct 1962 Var reported that writer Harry Essex requested credit for the screenplay from the Writers Guild of America (WGA), claiming his stage play, also based on the source novel, influenced Lukas Heller’s script. The WGA denied Essex’s request.
       What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? opened to mostly positive notices, although the 8 Nov 1962 LAT lamented the “grotesque” characters portrayed by Davis and Crawford, and the film’s relentless attempts to shock the audience. In the 11 Nov 1962 NYT, critic Bosley Crowther opined that the picture demonstrated the awful consequences of forcing children into the entertainment business.
       According to the 14 Nov 1962 Var, Bette Davis made a three-day tour of New York City theaters the previous week, appearing at seventeen screenings to enthusiastic crowds. One such appearance featured a children’s marching band, which heralded Davis’s arrival with “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The actress told reporters that she preferred film work to live theater, and ran a mock advertisement in trade publications announcing her availability to Hollywood studios. Davis was gratified by the public response to her latest film, as many in the movie industry could not appreciate the “electricity of putting those ‘two old broads’ in the same picture.” She also recorded the novelty song “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” with singer Debbie Burton, listed among the week’s top singles in Var. Davis later told the 19 Dec 1962 LAT that the film “completely resuscitated” her film career.
       The 21 Nov 1962 Var reported that the picture was currently playing in nineteen “key cities,” and was the second highest-earning release in the country. On 13 Feb 1963, Var estimated gross receipts of $4 million. A news item in the 28 Aug 1963 Var noted that Seven Arts recovered production costs within the first eleven days of the film’s initial New York City opening. Aldrich planned another vehicle for Crawford and Davis, What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? later retitled Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, see entry).
       What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? received Academy Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actress (Bette Davis); Best Achievement in Cinematography, Black-and-White (Ernest Haller); Best Achievement in Sound (Glen Glenn, G. Carleton Hunt); and Best Achievement in Costume Design, Black-and-White (Norma Koch). Only Koch won the award. The picture was also an invitational entry to the 1963 Cannes Film Festival. As noted in the 1 May 1963 Var, Davis and Aldrich attended the Cannes screening during a promotional tour of Europe. According to the 15 May 1963 Var, audience reaction to the film was extremely positive at Cannes and Davis was nominated as Best Actress. The 5 Jun 1963 Var reported that Joan Crawford sent “short, charming, shrewd letters” to European critics for their positive reviews.
       Included are film clips from Parachute Jumper (1933, see entry) and Sadie McKee (1934, see entry). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1960
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
25 Mar 1960
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
31 Aug 1961
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jan 1962
p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jun 1962
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jul 1962
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
15 Sep 1962
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
16 Sep 1962
Section A, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1962
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1962
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jul 1963
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
3 Mar 1960
p. 26.
New York Times
14 Mar 1962
p. 42.
New York Times
19 May 1962
p. 18.
New York Times
14 Jul 1962
p. 11.
New York Times
29 Jul 1962
p. 69.
New York Times
21 Aug 1962
p. 37.
New York Times
6 Nov 1962
p. 38.
New York Times
7 Nov 1962
p. 47.
New York Times
8 Nov 1962
p. 48.
New York Times
11 Nov 1962
p. 145.
Variety
6 Sep 1961
p. 4.
Variety
13 Sep 1961
p. 30.
Variety
22 Aug 1962
p. 2, 63.
Variety
26 Sep 1962
p. 7.
Variety
3 Oct 1962
p. 77.
Variety
4 Oct 1962
p. 15.
Variety
17 Oct 1962
p. 4.
Variety
24 Oct 1962
p. 4.
Variety
31 Oct 1962
p. 6, 21.
Variety
14 Nov 1962
p. 4, 52.
Variety
21 Nov 1962
p. 11, 14.
Variety
2 Jan 1963
p. 7.
Variety
23 Jan 1963
p. 5.
Variety
13 Feb 1963
p. 3.
Variety
27 Feb 1963
p. 5, 17.
Variety
27 Mar 1963
p. 70.
Variety
16 Apr 1963
p. 4.
Variety
1 May 1963
p. 4.
Variety
15 May 1963
p. 1, 20.
Variety
22 May 1963
p. 21.
Variety
29 May 1963
p. 5.
Variety
5 Jun 1963
p. 15.
Variety
7 Aug 1963
p. 25.
Variety
28 Aug 1963
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
1st & 2nd asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Dial coach
Stills
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? by Henry Farrell (New York, 1960).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"I've Written a Letter to Daddy," words and music by Frank DeVol.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
1962
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 6 November 1962
Cincinnati, Ohio, opening: 31 October 1962
Los Angeles opening: 7 November 1962
Production Date:
23 July--early September 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Associates & Aldrich Co.
Copyright Date:
3 November 1962
Copyright Number:
LP29392
Duration(in mins):
132
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the 1920's, 6-year-old Baby Jane Hudson becomes an enormously successful child star in vaudeville while her older sister, Blanche, is forced to remain quietly in the background. As the two reach maturity, however, Jane loses both her appeal and her talent, and Blanche develops into a beautiful and renowned film actress. Then, at the height of her career, Blanche is crippled in an automobile accident for which the alcoholic Jane is held responsible. As the years pass, the two sisters become virtual recluses in an old mansion, where the slatternly and guilt-ridden Jane cares for the helpless Blanche. When she learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and perhaps place her in a home, Jane plots a diabolical revenge. She serves her sister trays of dead rats and parakeets, tears out her phone, and keeps her a prisoner in her bedroom. She even resorts to killing their black maid, Elvira, with a hammer when the woman becomes suspicious and threatens to go to the police. Jane is also planning to make a comeback and has hired the obese pianist Edwin Flagg to accompany her. But when Edwin discovers Blanche gagged and bound to her bed, he runs hysterically from the house. Realizing he will go to the police, Jane drags Blanche into a car and drives to a nearby beach. There Blanche confesses that she had arranged the automobile accident and had intended to kill her sister to avenge herself for the years of humiliation she had spent in the shadow of Baby Jane. As the police arrive upon the scene, the now totally deranged Jane goes into her song-and-dance routine of long ... +


In the 1920's, 6-year-old Baby Jane Hudson becomes an enormously successful child star in vaudeville while her older sister, Blanche, is forced to remain quietly in the background. As the two reach maturity, however, Jane loses both her appeal and her talent, and Blanche develops into a beautiful and renowned film actress. Then, at the height of her career, Blanche is crippled in an automobile accident for which the alcoholic Jane is held responsible. As the years pass, the two sisters become virtual recluses in an old mansion, where the slatternly and guilt-ridden Jane cares for the helpless Blanche. When she learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and perhaps place her in a home, Jane plots a diabolical revenge. She serves her sister trays of dead rats and parakeets, tears out her phone, and keeps her a prisoner in her bedroom. She even resorts to killing their black maid, Elvira, with a hammer when the woman becomes suspicious and threatens to go to the police. Jane is also planning to make a comeback and has hired the obese pianist Edwin Flagg to accompany her. But when Edwin discovers Blanche gagged and bound to her bed, he runs hysterically from the house. Realizing he will go to the police, Jane drags Blanche into a car and drives to a nearby beach. There Blanche confesses that she had arranged the automobile accident and had intended to kill her sister to avenge herself for the years of humiliation she had spent in the shadow of Baby Jane. As the police arrive upon the scene, the now totally deranged Jane goes into her song-and-dance routine of long ago. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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