BETTE DAVIS (28) IN "PETRIFIED FOREST." I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED BUT THOSE WERE THE ONLY BETTE DAVIS EYES I REALLY LIKED.
A true legend of cinema, Bette Davis' prolonged fame came from starring as tougher, less romantic women. By the time she was in her fifties, her super-star status had long been on the down-swing.
JUST THREE YEARS LATER, IN "DARK VICTORY" HER STUNNING PRETTINESS HAD ALL BUT VANISHED.
Undaunted, Davis took a high risk (by Hollywood standards) by taking on roles of shrewish, unglamorous or elderly women. Two of my favorites of that period were both from 1965, "THE NANNY" and "HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE." But her creepiest, most chilling portrayal was "Baby"Jane Hudson, in 1962's "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE."
I REMEMBER SEEING "BABY JANE" IN THE THEATER. IT SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME. EVEN WORSE, MY POOR SISTER SUFFERED ACUTE PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA FROM IT WHICH DESPITE DECADES OF THERAPY, IS STILL EVIDENT TODAY.
CLICK HERE FOR A MODERNIZED MOVIE TRAILER
Around ten years ago my son Andrew came into the room while "Baby Jane" was on TV. He was always mature for his age so after ten minutes, it wasn't strange that he didn't freak-out. Instead, my five year-old scion simply said, "Is it okay if we watch something else." The effect on him had to be intense, he'd never been exposed to "old women" being cruel.
HARD TO BELIEVE THOSE ARE THE SAME EYES. THE REDGRAVE SISTERS (VANESSA AND LYNN) DID A WORTHY "BABY JANE" RE-MAKE IN 1993...BUT WHEN IT COMES TO BEING DEMENTED...BETTE DAVIS AS JANE HUDSON WAS THE "QUEEN OF MEAN."
The story centers around two senior sisters who once had theatrical careers. Bette Davis' Baby Jane was a vaudevillian child-star whose popularity ended forty years earlier with the onset of puberty. In the trailer above, there is a MUST SEE snippet, (from her comeback audition), singing, "I'M WRITING A LETTER TO DADDY."
Her sister, played by another mega-star Joan Crawford, was a movie starlet whose skyrocketing career was cut short by a crippling car accident. Crawford, confined to a wheelchair lives alone with Davis (her primary care giver), in a dilapidated mansion. Davis is losing her mental stability and her invalid sister thinks it best to have Baby Jane institutionalized. When Bette Davis' character realized this, her sanity crumples and she becomes psychotic.
I think its only fair to warn younger viewers that like many of the thrillers of that era (like Hitchcock films) there is a lot more talk than action. Nevertheless this is a 3.5 star movie. It's effectiveness is highlighted by a disturbing Davis and the brave prisoner Crawford. This highly plausible screenplay is crammed with great lines, clever plot twists and frightening images while still leaving plenty to the imagination.
Ms. Davis' Baby Jane not only earned her an Oscar nomination...but the American Film Institute rated her as #44 on their, "TOP 50 AMERICAN MOVIE VILLAINS LIST." So drop everything you're doing...find, "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE," either on "TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES" (TCM), Netflix or from a video store that specializes in vintage movies.
Bette Davis' tremendous 67 film career spanned 58 years. But to most people, she'll be remembered more for playing flawed and difficult women. Even at age 81, in her last movie appearance, "WICKED STEPMOTHER," she was still doing what she did best...evil !
When you look back at the final lyrics of "BETTE DAVIS EYES" its hard to imagine that Kim Carnes' song is referring to anyone but Baby Jane Hudson.
She'll tease you,
she'll unease you
just to please you.
She'll expose you
when she snows you,
She's got Bette Davis eyes.