Two Sisters: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Revisited (for Parterre Box)

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David Fox: With What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?—which is surely among my top ten favorite movies ever, and my admiration only grows with the years—I will out myself. Not as a gay man (I think that’s a given), but for my small personal connection. My father, Michael Fox (without the J.) has a very brief appearance in it; at 15:40, he’s the announcer seen on the TV, advertising “Iliad, the classic dog food.” He did a similar gig in two other Robert Aldrich movies: The Longest Yard, and (crossing myself and spitting three times) The Legend of Lylah Clare. I think of this as my little toe-hold on camp immortality. And certainly, Baby Jane the film has indisputably attained that status, further confirmed and launched for a whole new generation through Ryan Murphy’s television series, Feud. But to view the movie as camp is in some sense shortchanging it. I think it’s an absolutely brilliant film by any measure, and that belief is a hill I’m willing to die on.

Cameron Kelsall: Although Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte contains more than a few interesting performances and some particular, peculiar insights—as we discussed last week—the balance largely lands in the camp column. But I agree that Baby Jane (as we’ll call it for brevity’s sake) is much smarter, and more sly, in nearly every respect. It’s interesting that both films are almost exactly the same length, two hours and 13 minutes, yet Baby Jane almost never drags, whereas Charlotte could easily lose up to an hour without any depreciation. The film keeps the viewer engaged, enraged, enthralled, embarrassed and titillated at every turn. A good deal of that is due to the stars—Bette Davis, our current idée fixe, and Joan Crawford, who needs no introduction—who translated their chilly personal relationship into one of the most captivating and terrifying sibling dynamics ever put on screen. But the movie itself excels in so many areas that I hope we can consider, from performance to aesthetics, and on its strength alone, I would rank Aldrich as an unjustly overlooked auteurist…

Click here to read the full review at Parterre Box.

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