Category Archives: bette davis
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ~ This 1962 campy horror classic from director Robert Aldrich is immortal in the annals of Hollywood. It’s been quoted, parodied (my fave a bit for the MTV Video Awards with Madonna and Courtney Love), remade (one with the Redgrave sisters in 1991, best avoided), shown in revival houses for decades, re-enacted on stage, and is the only pairing of two of the greatest and most infamous Oscar-winning actresses of all time. This film is legend.
Rumors of a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis feud had been fueled for decades by publicists and tabloid journalists so this feature with both of them, in antagonistic roles made for lots of press, even with both actresses in the twilight of their careers. Both had been making B-grade horror flicks of a fashion so a teaming in this manner seemed right. And additionally, both women had a reputation for sometimes taking roles over the top, so a story in which over the top was the rule was indeed perfect.
In the film, alcoholic former child actress Jane Hudson takes care of her paraplegic celebrated actress sister Blanche Hudson. Jane does so because she believes she’s the one who crippled her sister in a long ago accident that ended both their careers. Now years later with the advent of television, Blanche’s movies are getting a bit of a revival, causing jealousy and insanity in Jane. The fun and campy horror only begins there.
Despite the over the top acting of both ladies, it is Bette that rises to the top as the superior actress. While Joan just does a parody of her best melodramatic roles, Bette rocks the screen with what could be camp, but more often than not shows as true performance as a woman snapping from a psychotic break.
Of course, despite the two women involved, the point is not the acting, but the fun of these two trapped on the same screen. This is almost as good as Dracula vs. Frankenstein or King Kong vs. Godzilla. Sometimes Joan’s passive/aggressive technique is every bit as nasty as Bette’s straight out hostility. Truly a battle of giants, this is a fight that must be seen.
Victor Buono stands out from the rest of the small cast, spotlighting his mild-mannered persona as opposed to his frequently seen villainous side. Director Robert Aldritch wisely chose, at Bette Davis’ insistence, that the film be shot in black and white, adding to the horrific atmosphere.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, for both good and bad, is one of my favorite movies. I love it as the quirky horror it was meant to be, and I also love it as the camp comedy it has become over the years. It is my second favorite to MST3K to after The Rocky Horror Picture Show and before the also Joan Crawford themed Mommy Dearest. I love it, and watch it whenever I see that it’s on. Recommended.
A Video Review of Satan Met a Lady also known as The Man in the Black Hat
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
This was the second try at making a film version of Dashiell Hammett’s classic The Maltese Falcon. The first attempt was the wonderful Dangerous Female from 1931. This 1936 version features a young Bette Davis in a story where the names and plot devices have been changed to prevent any confusion with a really good film.
At first glance Satan Met a Lady is a lark. It’s almost a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre. It is a lot of fun, yes, but more than meets the eye in some places. Perhaps the best way to describe this one is The Maltese Falcon meets Bringing Up Baby. And if that sounds good to you, you’re expecting too much.
The story, which might sound slightly familiar, has private investigator Ted Shayne hired by a Valerie Purvis to follow a Madam Barabbas who in turn hires him to locate a jeweled ram’s horn. Substitute some names and stuff and you got The Maltese Falcon. Hammett even got a credit as in ‘based on a book by.’
William Warren as Shayne is no Humphrey Bogart and he definitely ain’t no Sam Spade. He is highly entertaining however with an almost Clark Gable-esque slickness. Warren was renowned as one of the best villain actors of the 1930s. Bette Davis is adequate but not doing her Bette Davis best. Blink and you’ll miss Arthur Treacher also collecting a check just like Miss Davis.
The highlight of Satan is Marie Wilson as Shayne’s secretary Miss Murgatroyd. She is an absolute delight. Marie is such the perfect ditsy blonde that she puts rank amateurs like Marilyn Monroe and Suzanne Somers to shame.
Satan Met a Lady lives up to its literary origins in a few places but not many. This is only worth watching for its novelty value and of course Marie Wilson.