A Memorable Scene…What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

A desire to be admired…

As part of “Turner Classic Movies: 31 Days of Oscar,” when I sat down to watch What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect. I knew from the comments of family members, who had seen it years ago, that the film was a real acting tour-de-force, with Bette Davis portraying Jane Hudson, an unstable middle-aged woman (who was a mildly famous child performer, and ultimately unsuccessful actor in her later years), and Joan Crawford playing her sister Blanche, a crippled woman who was once a talented, popular actor, but became paralyzed after an ambiguous car accident.

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Well, the film did not disappoint. As it ended, I was overcome by what I had seen. The physical and mental brutality, the entrapment, the murder…within one household shared between two sisters.

There is so much to say about this powerful film, whether it be the seething jealousy of Jane towards her sister Blanche and her fury at Blanche’s attainment of a sustaining fame that lives on in the minds of those old and young; whether it be the frailness of Blanche, her physical inability to escape the clutches of her sister’s inner turmoil; whether it be the captivating dynamic between Davis and Crawford, as actors, overall—a relationship on screen (and supposedly off) that delves into envy and hatred.

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Because there is just so much to explore with this film, I decided to pick one scene that stood out to me in particular…And that is the final moment in the film in which Jane Hudson is dancing on the beach.

Jane, with two strawberry ice creams in hand, walks on the beach to her sister, Blanche, who is lying on the sand, near death (Blanche was trapped in her bed throughout the last moments of the film, arms tied up in rope, mouth taped shut, slowly wasting away, until Edwin Flagg, a piano player in need of some money, (played by the actor Victor Buono) finds her and runs out of the house in an intoxicated, active state of bewilderment). Jane, inebriated and overwhelmed, grabs the semi-unconscious Blanche and puts her in the car, driving them both to the beach—a place where they used to go when they were younger, when Jane was beloved. When Jane is walking to her sister, two policemen approach her, knowing who she is, knowing what she has done, and wanting to know where her sister is. Jane, instead of properly answering their questions, however, dances for the newly formed crowd of beachgoers that surround her.

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This scene, for me, is very saddening and really encompasses some of the overarching ideas evoked in the film—the desire for fame, for recognition, for a semblance of a past that can never be reclaimed. As Jane Hudson innocently twirls round and round, and as those around her snicker and look on confusingly, she performs as if she were the child performer of years ago. With a smile on her painted face, she looks upward with joy and happiness, with an internal glow, as if she were on the stage once again being admired. Different from the mental and physical cruelties of some of the earlier scenes of the film, this moment really stood out to me with its outer image of lightheartedness and deeper image of emotional suffering. In this scene on the beach, within her false daze of renown, Jane Hudson is in another world, another time of years past, a place where she was “Baby Jane Hudson” and was a star. Temporality has vanished in her mind. For her, the past is the present and the future.

I commend Bette Davis and Joan Crawford for their remarkable performances in this film. I recommend those who have not yet seen it to watch the film and enjoy the sheer talent of these actors on the screen.

Find out more about “Turner Classic Movies: 31 Days of Oscar” here.

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The Power, Beauty, and Luxury of Silence

An old, worn out strip of film rolls across the screen…

The viewer captures a scene of honest emotion, whimsical serenity, and loving delight. A stoic man in a sharp three piece suit walks at a unchanging pace. The suit is elegant; the outfit is classically alluring. As the film continues, a young, carefree flapper runs into the scene. Her drop waist chiffon gown glitters in warmth, delicacy, and thrill. Her t-strap heels tap with a lively energy of delight. The young girl shines in the scene with pure, bewitching qualities. The two accidentally bump into one another, gaze thoughtfully into each others eyes, and smile in joy.

There are no words spoken aloud. There are no tacky, over-edited sound effects. There are no noises.

There is only an old film.

There is only silence.

Silent films are naturally astonishing. They are cinematic delights full of subtly, brilliancy, and radiancy. They contain qualities of marvelous emotion, magical ability, and artistic creativity. The actors come to life on the screen. The screen awakens from its slumber. These films charm the viewer and allow the viewer to witness something that is purely elegant and enchanting– an unforgettable excellency. The black and white aspect only empowers the scenes and actions more. The silence overpowers the spoken word in its majestic grace and enticing pleasure. The words are heard through emotions. The words are understood through a myriad of expressions. Imaginative, harmonious, and picturesque, silent cinema is stunning.

These silent films brought about great talents. Whether it were the directors or the actors/ actresses, new, daring individualities were recognized. What I find most captivating about these silent films are the exceptional flapper actresses that graced the screens. And more specifically, the grand fashions that graced their bodies with an everlasting enamour…

The fashions in a silent film are aesthetically bold, culturally tasteful, and stylistically exceptional. These outfits are ornamented in sequins, chiffon, lace, sparkle, and flare. They sparkle in their dramatic glamour and glitzy personality. They add to the shimmering qualities of the flapper actresses who wore the designs. The advanced fashions are brought to life beneath the black and white screen. They gleam with a vivacity and spirit that is seductive, glorious, and entertaining. The sumptuous fashions of the time were unlimited, no longer constrained by past moral judgements. The pieces blossomed into awe-inspiring creations of design, animation, and worthwhile enthusiasm.

Whether it was a pair of shiny mary janes, or a dark colored cloche hat, or a silk, velvet kimono, or a tailored suit, or a robe de style gown, all of the silent film fashions soared off of the cinematic scene. They sung their own unique song. They danced their own, brave dance. They laughed in their own joy and happiness. They lived in a jazzy, liberating world.

As the black and white film goes on, as the roll of film begins to approach its end, the now blissful man and playful woman grasp one another in their undying passion and adoration. And they continue glistening in the bright, breathtaking light…