Filmsite Movie Review
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Day Two (Friday)

The next morning in the kitchen, the deranged and alcoholic Jane dutifully prepared breakfast on an elegant silver tray for her sister - with juice, toast, etc.. She was interrupted by the back doorbell and a visit from next-door neighbor Mrs. Bates, who graciously brought over cut flowers for Blanche:

Mrs. Bates: l just couldn't resist cutting these flowers for your sister after seeing her show yesterday. You must be very proud of her new success on television, l mean....l can't tell you how nice it is to be seeing all of her old pictures like this...You know, my daughter and l would just love to meet her one day.
Jane: Mrs. Bates, my sister doesn't ever go out. She's not fit to receive visitors.

Enmity between the two sisters was bound to intensify. As Jane resumed her breakfast preparations, she heard an annoying wall buzzer signaling Blanche's call from upstairs. Jane mumbled under her breath: "You miserable...!" and shortly later shuffled upstairs in her slippers with the tray. When Jane appeared in the room, Blanche apologized: "l didn't mean to ring for my breakfast. l was just wondering who all those people were at the back door." Jane curtly answered: "Wasn't anything. Just that nosy Mrs. Bates going on about your picture last night." When Blanche asked: "Oh really? Did she like it?" - Jane cruelly mimicked her back, and then flatly spit out: "She liked it."

Jane remained jealous, spiteful and envious about how she had to compete in the early 1930s against Blanche's more popular pictures:

They didn't want to show my films. They were too busy giving a 'big build-up' to that crap you were turning out.

Jane announced she would take the parakeet cage and clean it, as the black cleaning lady Elvira Stitt (Maidie Norman) arrived on her regular cleaning day of Friday. Jane brushed by Elvira at the foot of the stairs without speaking a word. Upstairs, Elvira prompted Blanche once again to sell their house and seek medical attention for an increasingly-deranged Jane, but Blanche remained reluctant and very forgiving of Jane's crazy and tormenting treatment of her, although she was becoming increasingly despairing:

Elvira: Did you speak to that Dr. Shelby about Miss Jane like you said?
Blanche: No, l haven't yet. lt's rather difficult. l don't want to upset her again if l can help it.
Elvira: But she'll be upset anyway, Miss Blanche. And the longer you leave it, the worse it's gonna be.
Blanche: l know. But l was just hoping it wouldn't be necessary. l think she seems much better lately.
Elvira: lt's none of my business, but she's been drinkin' again. You know that, don't ya?
Blanche: No, l hadn't noticed. l don't think it does her any real harm. l think l understand her.

To prove otherwise, Elvira removed a large special delivery package from her purse, with a bundle of fan letters inside - envelopes addressed to Blanche (in response to the TV tribute). All of them had been opened and read by Jane, and then discarded in the trash barrel. Elvira also showed Blanche the back of the big envelope/package with Jane's swear words scrawled over it. Elvira explained Jane's increasing jealousy, hostility and sickness:

You know what makes her do things like this! She's sick, and she's not getting any better. ln fact, the last month she's been getting a lot worse.

Elvira knew that Blanche was secretly planning to sell their home and put Jane in a sanitarium: "lf you don't believe me, then why are you selling this house and planning to move out?...l just think she's jealous because of those old movies of yours they're showing on television this week. Anyway, in six weeks you'll have to hand over the house and then she'll have to know." Elvira stressed that Dr. Shelby could possibly explain the move out and treatment plan to Jane, but Blanche disagreed: "No, it ought to be me."

The ever-forgiving, graceful and tolerant Blanche took a moment to reminisce about their childhood: "Elvira, you didn't know her when she was a child. When she was young.... lt wasn't that she was just pretty. She was different. She was so alive." Blanche turned - and at the door, Jane had been standing there with the empty bird cage, claiming without emotion that the parakeet had escaped and flown out the window during cleaning. Elvira was in disbelief: "You let that bird out on purpose, Miss Jane!" But Blanche was more ready to defuse the situation: "Never mind. Maybe he'll come back."

The next image was a row of empty bottles of alcohol, seen from the POV inside a built-in kitchen cupboard that Baby Jane opened - proving that she was a heavy drinker.

Back in the upstairs bedroom, Blanche suddenly asked Elvira: "You won't change your mind, will you? I mean about coming to live with me?" Elvira was more concerned about the higher priority of getting Baby Jane settled: "You've got to make up your mind about finding somewhere for Miss Jane where they can look after her properly." Blanche promised to call Dr. Shelby later that day, but then expressed uncertainty and less resolve: "t's just that l have to be sure l'm doing the right thing for her."

Shortly later, Jane phoned Mr. Carlston at Johnson's to order some liquor, but was refused until the order could be approved by Blanche. Deceptively, Jane imitated or impersonated Blanche's voice to restore her credit at the store: ("I certainly didn't mean to suggest that you shouldn't fill any orders for her"), and then ordered six bottles of Scotch and three bottles of gin, all the same brands - with delivery as soon as possible. As the self-satisfied Jane turned around, Elvira was standing at the foot of the stairs with Blanche's breakfast tray - and had presumably overheard the conversation. Elvira told Jane she was going downtown to see a man about jury duty, and would be back the following day. Jane removed the receiver from the phone cradle so that no calls could be received or made. Upstairs, Blanche attempted to make a call, but couldn't make the phone connect.

Later that day in the Hudson house, Jane was in the shadows of the rehearsal room with a drink in her left hand, as she sat at the keyboard of a grand piano. She played a few keys and recalled her childhood signature tune (heard as an echo): "I've Written a Letter to Daddy." She glanced over at a chair where one of the Baby Jane dolls was seated, walked over, removed the hair-bow, and put it on her head as she sang falteringly:

The postman says that's best to do. (Blanche became distressed as she listened to the sweetly nostalgic faint sounds of singing she heard downstairs) l've Written a Letter to Daddy, saying, 'l love you.' Now when l'm very good, And do as l am told, l'm Mama 's little angel And Papa says l'm good as gold. But when l'm very bad And answer back and sass, Then l'm Mama's little devil, And Papa says l've got the brass. Now l wish that you would tell me, 'Cause l'm much too young to know.

She moved under a light that accentuated her grotesque features, and looked at her ghastly reflection in a mirror - seeing herself as a decrepit old hag rather than as her younger self. Distressed by how she looked, she covered her face with her hands and bellowed out a hoarse cry before bending forward and weeping. The incessant and insistent ringing of Blanche's buzzer interrupted Jane - she slowly straightened up and composed herself, and then coarsely yelled back with sarcastic servitude:

All right, Blanche Hudson! Miss Big Fat Movie Star. Miss Rotten Stinking Actress. Press a button, ring a bell, and you think the whole damn world comes running, don't you? Lunch, Miss Hudson? Why, certainly, Miss Hudson! l'm sure we can find something appropriate for you, Miss Hudson!

She stalked over to the piano and slammed the giant lid down with a deliberate crash. Discordant sounds from the piano resounded throughout the house. Jane marched into the kitchen to prepare Blanche's lunch on the silver tray. As she waltzed into Blanche's bedroom with the tray, Blanche wondered why the meal was early, and said she was only ringing the buzzer to report something wrong with the telephone ("Maybe it's been left off the hook downstairs?"). Blanche claimed she was only trying to call Bert Hanley, their business manager.

Blanche tried to break the news gently to Jane, noting her dwindling fortune: "I'm afraid I have bad news about money. You see, the point is Bert thinks we'll probably have to sell the house....Our financial position is such that we just, uh, we can't afford to..." Jane interrupted and reminded Blanche of their financial investments, but Blanche explained how the dividends were insufficient (mostly due to Jane's profligate spending). Jane, who had been monitoring Blanche's calls and postal mail, knew that Blanche was lying about receiving a letter from Bert. Jane knew that Blanche had called Bert four weeks earlier and instructed him to sell their 'dream house.' Blanche then accused Jane of spying on her and interfering with her mail: "You've been spying on me...You are disgusting! After all l've done for you, you spy on me, when all l'm trying to do is help." Self-absorbed and desperate, Jane refused to let Blanche decide their future, mostly because she feared being abandoned (and institutionalized) if their house was sold. She cruelly berated her:

Who are you trying to help, Blanche? What are you planning to do with me when you've sold the house? What'd you have in mind? Some nice little place where they could look after me?

Jane marched over to Blanche's phone, disconnected it from the wall and confiscated it - to shut her off even further from the outside world. She added a dire warning offered with a sneer: "Better not tire yourself out using the phone anymore. lf there are any calls, l'll take them downstairs." As she left, she urged: "Eat your lunch! It'll get cold." It was a stunning moment when Blanche removed the lid of the main dish and saw her dead pet parakeet with a broken neck on the platter, surrounded by a ring of tomatoes and with a thick dab of mayonnaise next to it. She screamed in horror at another example of Jane's relentless torment and abuse.

In the next scene, in Jane's bedroom where Mrs. Bates' flowers (brought for Blanche) were seen in a vase, Jane selected a coat with a fur collar from her closet to wear over her dowdy dress. She applied lipstick in a mirror, looking like an old hag. As Jane went down the stairs, Blanche frantically called for her to wait ("Jane, l want to talk to you. Please"), but Jane ignored her and proceeded out the front door. At the top of the vertiginous stairs, as Blanche viewed the inviting phone sitting in the downstairs hallway at the foot of the stairway, Blanche had an idea - she would attempt to make her way down the staircase to the phone to call for help. But she hesitated and realized how impossible it would be with her crippled legs, and returned to her room.

Blanche noticed that her next-door neighbor Mrs. Bates was out in her side garden cutting more flowers. She attempted to hoist herself up to her second-floor bedroom window, to signal to Mrs. Bates for help, but then had another idea. She began to type a letter to her neighbor - it read: "Please call Dr. Shelby at OL-61656 and ask him to come here to the house immediately." She also wrote under the typing:

Under no circumstances let my sister see the contents of this note. Blanche Hudson.

Meanwhile, Jane drove away in a 1947 Lincoln Continental Convertible Cabriolet, and parked in front of the Citizen News Building on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood. She entered the Advertising Department and at the counter inquired about an ad she had wanted placed in the Personal Column of the paper for the next day's (Saturday) edition - an 8-line ad for $6.30. She also wanted recognition from the young handsome sales clerk (Bobs Watson): "My name is Jane Hudson. Maybe you remember me. l'm Baby Jane Hudson." He perfunctorially replied: "Oh, um, sure," but after Jane had left, the clerk's colleague muttered: "Who the hell was Baby Jane Hudson?"

As Jane's car made its way back to the house, Blanche attempted to deliver the note to the Bates family next-door. She crumpled the paper note into a ball, threw it out the window onto the driveway, and shouted beseechingly: "PLEASE!!" The sound of Jane's approaching car in the adjacent driveway drowned out Jane's plea. As Mrs. Bates greeted Jane and offered to bring over more flowers, she almost stepped on the paper ball, but didn't notice it. However, Jane saw Blanche's open window, snatched the paper wad when she guessed at its origin, and then turned rudely belligerent: "l guess if my sister needed flowers, we could afford to buy them." Blanche realized to her horror that the note had ended up in Jane's clutches. Inside the kitchen, Jane straightened out the crumpled up note and read it with disgust.

When Jane brought a dinner tray up to her sister and placed it next to the neglected lunch tray, Blanche realized she must initiate a decent conversation - about their proposed sale of the house and move: "It's been ever so long since we had a talk. You know, a real talk about the future and everything. Jane, l didn't want you to be worried about the house. Even if l do have to sell it, we'll still be together." Jane refused to assent: "Blanche, you're not going to sell this house. Daddy bought this house. And he bought it for me." But Blanche corrected Jane: "You're wrong, Jane. You've just forgotten. l bought this house for the two of us when l signed my first contract." Jane was defensive and adamant:

  • You don't think l remember anything, do you? There're a whole lot of things l remember.
  • And you never paid for this house. Baby Jane Hudson made the money that paid for this house, that's who.
  • (pointing) You aren't ever gonna sell this house. And you aren't ever gonna leave it, either.

Then, Blanche broached a subject that was normally not discussed between them - the half-remembered car "accident" that had forever crippled Blanche, left her defenseless, and had put her in a wheelchair: "After all those years, l'm still in this chair. Doesn't that give you some kind of responsibility? Jane, l'm just trying to explain to you how things really are. You wouldn't be able to do these awful things to me if l weren't still in this chair." With a devilish smile, Jane taunted back and ended the dialogue exchange with a statement of fact:

But ya AAH Blanche, ya AAH in that chair!

Blanche proposed some of the benefits of selling and moving to persuade Jane to agree:

  • Jane wouldn't have to work so hard and get so tired
  • Elvira could come more often or maybe live with them
  • Jane could see a doctor to keep up her health - possibly Dr. Shelby

Jane decided to reveal that she had retrieved Blanche's rescue note about contacting Dr. Shelby. She reached for it tucked inside her dress, dropped it into Blanche's lap, and recited the final hand-written command: "And under no circumstances tell my sister the contents of this note.'' She added: "lt's not me that needs a doctor, Blanche." She left the room with the lunch tray, and closed the door with a kick of her foot.

Despairing, helpless, vulnerable and despondent, Blanche glanced at the new dinner tray, fearing the worst as she wheeled herself over to it, and hesitated to lift the metal lid from the main course. She started sobbing.

Day Three (Saturday)

The next scene was set in the cheap apartment living room of sweaty, smarmy and obese Edwin Flagg (Oscar-nominated Victor Buono in his film debut), a British piano player who was seated at an upright piano (with his glass of milk and a sandwich), appearing to be writing a musical score. However, due to being unemployed, he was actually perusing the 'Want Ads' in the newspaper with a pen in hand - and the eight-line ad from Baby Jane caught his eye:

quires accompanist to work
on songs and dance numbers
for night clubs, personal ap-
pearances, etc. Must be
experienced and versatile
musician. Call Miss Jane
Hudson, HO 5-6259.

He circled the phone number and drew a jagged boxy line around the want ad. His rotund mother Dehlia Flagg (Marjorie Bennett) interrupted his train of thought by noisily entering the apartment doorway with a shopping cart - and greeted him with a distinct Cockney accent: "Hello, lovey." She had just visited the doctor who prescribed that she not work until her arthritis subsided. She was optimistic about her son's chances of acquiring employment as an "accompanist" -- "There aren't that many jobs that'd be suitable, I mean, for someone with your qualifications...serious music and that. Oh, this sounds like just the ticket, doesn't it?" An inveterate mama's boy, he suggested that she pretend to be his secretary and call for him -- she reached Jane by phone and requested an appointment for Edwin: "l think you'll find he's very well-qualified." An appointment was set for 4:00 pm that afternoon.

Blanche rang the loud and harsh buzzer to alert Jane that she was hungry - she hadn't eaten her lunch earlier, had avoided touching her dinner, and Jane had deliberately skipped serving her breakfast (Jane explained: "because you didn't eat your din-din"). Jane tortured Blanche by reminding her how they were back at square one in their lives:

We're right back where we started. When l was on the stage, you had to depend on me for everything. Even the food you ate came from me. Now you have to depend on me for your food again. So, you see, we're right back where we started.

Almost hysterical, Blanche accused her sister of making her afraid to eat, and of literally starving her. Jane responded matter-of-factly: "Don't be silly. If you starve, you die." Blanche attempted to remind Jane that her fortune was dwindling away:

Did you ever stop to think that if anything happened to me, l mean, anything bad, there wouldn't be any money for you? l wouldn't be here to sign the checks. You wouldn't even have pocket money. Did you ever think of that?

Jane changed the subject and accused Blanche of being a neurotic for not eating her meals - and took a bite of a pork chop ("There's nothing wrong with this, Blanche!"). She then removed the tray without letting the desperately-hungry Blanche eat a bite, and warned: "You didn't eat your din-din, so you'll have to wait till lunchtime." As Jane returned to the kitchen, Elvira had just arrived. To get rid of her, Jane was uncharacteristically friendly to Elvira. She apologized for being "unkind" the day before, claimed that she had cleaned the whole house herself, and offered Elvira the day off - with her regular pay of $15 dollars. Although doubtful, Elvira reluctantly agreed and said she would be back the following Tuesday, but as she left, she looked up quizzically at Blanche's window. Upstairs, Blanche realized that the house was unusually quiet.

When Jane brought Blanche her lunch tray, she explained how Elvira was given the day off, and then offered a suggestive afterthought at the door before leaving: "Blanche, you know we got rats in the cellar?" Then, she paused outside Blanche's room - awaiting what would happen next. Voraciously hungry, Blanche wheeled herself up to the table - and removed the main course lid - to reveal a very large roasted rat resting on a bed of tomatoes. She screamed and pushed the tray off the table to crash onto the floor. Jane reacted with a hideous cackling laugh in the hallway that resounded through the house. Blanche spun her wheelchair around in utter confusion and fear as she gave a gutteral scream - she was photographed from a top view.

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