The real-life drama surrounding Joan Crawford and Bette Davis made for great movie publicity. The 1969 classic Whatever Happened To Baby Jane is a perfect example of psychological horror and serendipitous timing. Davis and Crawford, were famous for hating one another, but those two women could act like few others. Robert Aldrich’s timeless thriller is terrifying and still discussed nearly 55 years later. Sisters who hurt each other or stars who hate each other both make for fantastic controvery.
Baby Jane (Bette Davis) and Blanche Hudson(Joan Crawford) couldn’t be more different. Baby Jane is an aging star with all the narcissism you would expect. She is also beyond cruel. That cruelty is taken out on her sister Blanche who is wheelchair-bound and living in the same house. The opening sequence paints a picture of an abusive spoiled child star and a tormented quieter sister. Baby Jane was a Vaudeville star as a child, but as the girls grew up, Blanche became a movie star leaving her sister’s fame waning. This fact infuriates Jane, who viciously holds onto her fantasy life. There are swirling questions about who caused Blanche’s accident.
The two women spend nearly every moment locked in the house with very little interaction with the outside world. Just like the real feud between Davis and Crawford, Blanche and Jane do not get along. Blanche relies on her sister for everything. Jane is angry and very unstable. It is a recipe for disaster for the women but ideal for movie watchers. As Jane loses her sanity, Blanche becomes even more vulnerable. Blanche makes excuses for her sister’s escalating behavior until she can’t anymore. By that point it is too late. Jane’s psychosis, alcohol abuse, and jealousy cause her to sprial out of control. When she finds out Blanche is having her committed and selling the house, she breaks entirely from reality and the meat of the creepiness ensues.
Jane begins isolating her sister, giving the maid Elvira a week off. The disturbed woman had been practicing Blanche’s signature and had mastered her voice perfectly over the years. Jane had been planning to get access to her sister’s accounts even if Blanche was incapacitated. She delighted in torturing Blanche and by denying her food. Of course, there is the iconically deranged dead parakeet scene. Jane takes Blanche’s phone away so she can’t call for help and begins making plans to return to her former fame.
Things take a real turn when Blanche tries to crawl down the stairs to make a call for help, and Blanche beats her within an inch of her life. When Elvira returns to check on Blanche, fearing the worst, Jane fires her and then kills her. Jane panics and prepares to run away with Blanche. Edwin Flagg(Victor Buono), a performer Jane hired to resurrect her career, finds Blanche in pain and begging for help. The seriously intoxicated man came looking for his money but found something way worse.
The What Ever Happened To Baby Jane Ending
Edwin is drunk but manages to get away and runs right to the police. Jane drives her sister to the beach and Blanche reveals she caused her own accident. She had been trying to run over Jane for being mean at a party. All of these years, Jane had thought she caused Blanche’s injury. She tells Jane everything that happened was her fault including Jane’s looks. Blanche expresses remorse for ruining her life. Unfortunately, it is too late, and Jane loses herself in her delusion that she is still a child. She dances before the concerned crowd at the beach believing them to be adoring fans. The film ends without ever knowing what happened to Blanche. Whether she is alive or dead is left open to the viewer.
Was Blanche also a monster?
Blanche is trying to sell the mansion, but Jane reminds her the house is hers, not Blanche’s. There is no reason to believe this is a lie, and after finding out the whopper, Blanche had been sitting on all these years, it is probable that the home was initially purchased with Jane’s Vaudeville money by their father for her. There’s also the minor issue of trying to run someone down with your car for being mean at a social event. That’s not exactly model behavior.
Finally, she let her sister blame herself for the accident all these years. Obviously it affected Jane’s mental and physical health, yet she chose to let Jane believe she hurt her. A strong argument could be made that Blanche was also a terrible person and drove her sister crazy. Sure, her sister cooked her parakeet and served her both rats and birds instead of real food, but Blanche was partly responsible for her demise.
Did Jane kill Blanche?
While it is not shown what happens to Blanche at the end of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane, some conclusions can be drawn. Jane kicked Blanche repeatedly after catching her making a phone call to Dr. Shelby earlier in the film. She was severely injured and seemed to deteriorate as the film progresses. Blanche begs Jane to get her a doctor when they are on the beach. In all likelihood, she has internal bleeding and will be dead soon if they don’t find her and get her to a doctor immediately.
Jane would have been enraged to hear what Blanche said if she was in her right mind. She was already lost in her child star delusion, though, and offered to get her an ice cream cone instead of a doctor. She was terrified of being hurt by everyone again after they found out how she had hurt Blanche. Blanche was alive but fading fast when we last saw her. Assuming the police find her quickly, she would be rushed to the hospital. If they can save her is another issue.
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane is the quintessential psychological thriller that is the mark that most modern films of the same ilk are measured. It is brilliantly written, directed, and acted. The leading lady’s feud fuels the enthusiasm for this movie even all these years later. You can stream it everywhere or get it on HBO Max right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.