Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Twisted Sisters: Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1990 telefilm). Director: David Greene.

"You always were a personality actress. Same performance, different outfit." -- Jane to Blanche.

Former child star Baby Jane Hudson (Lynn Redgrave) lives in a Hollywood mansion where she takes care of her crippled sister, former movie star Blanche Hudson (Vanessa Redgrave). The two sisters -- played by two real-life sisters -- have always had a problematic relationship, but things get worse when Jane discovers that her sister plans to sell the mansion and put her in an institution. Jane begins a campaign of harassment against her sister even as she plans her comeback with video shop owner and part-time drag queen, Billy (John Glover). Meanwhile Blanche does her best to escape her tormentor before the worst can happen. This TV remake of the classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? teaming two famous real-life sisters, must have seemed an irresistible notion, but however formidable the talents of Lynn and Vanessa they are "pygmies" compared to the even more formidable Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. That being said, Lynn [Georgy Girl] and Vanessa, with very different acting styles from the two Hollywood movie stars, give good, perhaps more naturalistic, performances. The telefilm has other pleasures, including Bruce A. Young as Blanche's handsome physical therapist (also an aspiring actor) and John Glover's wonderful portrayal of Billy, who tries his damnedest to get Baby Jane back into show business -- which culminates in a "showcase" in a bar which is one of the most memorable scenes in the picture. An in-joke has Blanche/Vanessa watching one of her older movies on television and saying "So many things that Tony could have improved upon" -- Vanessa was married to film director Tony Richardson for five years; she later married her Camelot co-star Franco Nero and they are still married to this day. This version is not as much of a horror film as the original, despite two murder sequences. Peter Manning Robinson's music helps add some pathos to the conclusion, but it still doesn't make sense that Jane would say "you mean all this time we could have been friends" when she finds out Blanche was only crippled trying to kill her sister!

Verdict: Not as good as the original, but not without its peculiar "charms." ***.


angelman66 said...

I remember this one well. Very very weird, but surprisingly faithful to the original. (Perhaps too much so?) Vanessa and Lynn are well cast, in my opinion. Vanessa plays the tragic victim so well, and Lynn is a scenery chewer from way back. A fun curiosity.

I actually met John Glover back in the mid-1990s when he accompanied Roddy McDowall to an event at the theater company I worked for in Boca Raton, Florida. He was witty and fun and flirty, though Roddy was a bit morose and pissy that night...I was disappointed because I have always been in love with him as Cornelius in Planet of the Apes!

Are you watching the Feud show on FX? I like it so far...even though it is very fictionalized. Based on the old Shaun Considine book Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud, which highly exaggerated the feud as going back thirty years...but fun nonetheless...

William said...

I will catch up with "Feud" in the near future.

John Glover is a very good actor, and I'm not surprised he was pleasant to meet; I've heard the same from others who met him.

As for Roddy ... he could be "pissy" all right. When I was working on an article on Vincent Price years ago I contacted him, and he sent a very nice letter with his phone number. When I spoke to him on the phone, however, he turned into a bored, blase bitch, and when I called back at a prearranged time he wasn't even there. I was told by others who knew him well that he could be "difficult." The article survived without his quotes.

Then again, he was fun in "Fright Night."