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YMMV / What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Henry Farrell's original novel is all but forgotten today.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • It's unknown if Blanche plotted revenge straight from the "you bet I won't forget" moment up until she tried to run over her sister. One has to wonder what her attitude towards Jane was afterwards. Did she withhold the truth just to torture Jane even further (forcing her to act as her caretaker)? Did she keep the lie out of fear of what Jane might do for revenge if she found out? Or was she genuinely sorry and just didn't know how to come out with it?
      • Note that the book leans more towards the former interpretation, revealing that Blanche deliberately kept Jane from seeking psychiatric help because she was afraid that, as part of the therapy, Jane might remember that she was the miraculously escaped victim of Blanche's hit-and-run attack, rather than the assailant who crippled Blanche like she believes herself to be.
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    • Jane with regards to how much she cares for Blanche. In the opening, although Jane is bratty, she still wants Blanche to be included (insisting her father get some ice cream for her too). Blanche describes Jane fondly in her youth, implying the sisters were close once upon a time. The fact that Jane is still caring for her decades later implies that there could be lingering affection that's getting squashed by her own bitterness and jealousy. When Elvira is killed and Edwin discovers the secret, Jane's first instinct is to run to Blanche like a frightened child. And when she discovers the truth, her first thought is not anger but sadness.
    • The remake implies the latter, with the sisters being cordial and even affectionate at times - before Jane goes off the rails.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The film was expected to flop, particularly after the stories leaked to the press about the quarreling between the stars, but the film turned out to be a critical and commercial hit, even earning an Oscar nomination for Bette Davis.
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  • Cult Classic: It was hugely controversial (it even received an X rating in the UK!) so of course it became a midnight movie - which it still is today.
  • Dancing Bear: A large amount of the film's publicity stemmed from the heated rivalry between the two leads.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Mrs Bates says "that Jane Hudson makes me so mad I could kill her", and her daughter jokes "what'll we use?" - said daughter is played by the daughter of Bette Davis, BD Merrill. She would later publish a scathing Mommie Dearest-style book about her mother (My Mother's Keeper) while Davis was still alive and in failing health.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Jane Hudson is known as a drunken mess on set when she tries to be an actress, while Blanche is a perfect lady. The reverse happened to the two actresses that played them; Bette Davis was known for being a consummate professional who kept working for nearly twenty years after this film. Joan Crawford was known for being drunk and full of Narm, and would have retired from films before the decade was over.
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  • Memetic Mutation: "Butcha are, Blanche! Ya are in that chair!"
  • Moral Event Horizon: Jane appears to have crossed this with her attempted murder and systematic abuse of Blanche. The twist ending reveals all this to be a subversion.
    • Jane's murder of Elvira would seem to remove all doubt, though it is debatable whether or not she is guilty by reason of insanity.
  • Narm: Lynn Redgrave's makeup in the remake. It's essentially the same as Bette Davis's— but the difference is that the remake is in colour. Davis's worked in black and white, and helped make Jane look creepy. Redgrave's, on the other hand, looks incredibly goofy. That's not to mention the Girlish Pigtails.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A small moment when after Jane escapes with Blanche to the beach, it shows Jane happily building a sandcastle with Blanche nowhere in sight, giving the implication that Jane might have buried her. Eventually, the camera does pan to show that Blanche is still present and alive (barely).
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" in its original incarnation. However, when Jane sings it years later, it becomes Nightmare Fuel.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked with the Baby Jane doll, especially since it's implied that Jane is doing her make-up to resemble it.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • When Edwin's mother is telling him about the night Jane supposedly tried to kill Blanche, she describes the worst part—read: worse than trying to murder her own sister—as being found in a hotel room with a man she didn't know. Sort-of lampshaded by Edwin in his retort:
    • At the beginning of the film, they sell dolls based on Baby Jane and stress that they are "exact replicas." A doll modeled on a real life little girl would have been innocent enough at the time — dolls and toys based on child and adult actresses were completely normal and Effanbee made "Look-A-Like" portrait dolls based on real childrennote  — but takes on far more sinister and creepy overtones today. (This is a big YMMV, as many children still love dolls that look like celebrity children — or like themselves. Today, American Girl makes "Truly Me" dolls. My Twinn was developed by an emergency room doctor to help young patients regain confidence. Portrait dolls are a cottage industry on Etsy.)
  • The Woobie:
    • Jane. Poor, poor Jane. Wracked by guilt over something she never did.
    • Jane as a child qualifies too. It's strongly implied that their father pushed her into show business and allowed her to become the arrogant brat she was. He never disciplined her and made Blanche think she was The Un-Favourite.
    • Blanche, over the course of the movie, culminating in her supposed death at the end.
    • There's more than an element of Jerkass Woobie in both cases, however. Blanche because she tried to kill Jane and then framed Jane for trying to kill her, and Jane because whether she was guilty or not, she still spent a significant amount of time psychologically tormenting and abusing her disabled sister.


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