Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
Dir: Robert Aldrich
Life is never easy for an aging actress. Actors have it somewhat easier. Harrison Ford - 71, Michael Douglas - 69, Clint Eastwood - 83 - just a few examples of actors who still can be cast as the 'leading man'.
But a woman's career moves rapidly into the area of 'character' roles once bloom of youth is gone.
Thus it was for Bette Davis.
She was keen to continue to work, but in the 1950s, she appeared in a number of flops, and even the critics deserted her.
In September 1962, Davis placed an advertisement in Variety under the heading of "Situations wanted-women artists", which read, "Mother of three-10, 11 & 15-divorcee. American. Thirty years experience as an actress in Motion Pictures. Mobile still and more affable than rumor would have it. Wants steady employment in Hollywood. (Has had Broadway)."
She claimed it was a joke, but maybe it wasn't. Davis was used to fighting to stay in the limelight. She had fought all the way to stardom, and she wanted to keep it.
She faced criticism in the later years because she would insist on dominating films to their detriment. Critic, Richard Winninger, wrote, "Miss Davis, with more say than most stars as to what films she makes, seems to have lapsed into egoism. The criterion for her choice of film would appear to be that nothing must compete with the full display of each facet of the Davis art."
But in 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane', Davis would have to share the limelight with Joan Crawford. The two detested each other, and perhaps that hatred is the magic chemistry that makes the film so successful.
The story of an aging star, living with her sister in a decaying mansion is filled with the venom that only two stars with decades of rivalry could pull off.
Bette Davis was rewarded with a nomination for Best Actress. If she won, it would set a record for the most wins for any actress. But Crawford was furious, and actively tried to influence the Academy members to not pick Davis.
On the night of the Awards, Davis was standing in the wings of the theatre, waiting for the result to be announced. But when the envelope was opened, it was Anne Bancroft who had won. But Anne Bancroft was not present to accept the award.
Bette Davis felt a hand on her shoulder as Joan Crawford pushed past to get to the stage, saying, "Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept".
She had begged Bancroft to let her accept the award on Bancroft's behalf.