Famed child stare Jane Hudson cares for her even more famous paralyzed sister in an old Hollywood mansion. Thirty years have passed since either of them has worked. The two become near recluses while secretly hating and envying each other.
Jane Hudson (Betty Davis) was a famous childhood star (think Shirley Temple) called Baby Jane. As she got older though, her sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford) became an even more famous actress while her career fizzled out. Then one night after a Hollywood party Jane ran over Blanche with her car, paralyzing her for life.
Flash forward thirty years and the two are living together in an old Hollywood mansion as near recluses. Being paralyzed, Blanche lives in her room on the second floor depending on Jane to take care of all her needs. Blanche thinks Jane is slowly losing her mind and plans to have her put away with out her knowing. Jane, who is clearly crazy, suspects something is up and slowly starts to isolate her sister from the outside world by removing her phone and firing her maid.
As Jane slips deeper into her delusions she fancies a comeback using the same show material and outfits she wore as a child along with the help of a hired pianist. To frighten her sister and show her who is boss Jane becomes increasingly odd, even to the point of killing Blancheís bird and serving it to her raw for dinner. Janeís downward spiral leaves Blancheís chances for survival up in the air.
When the idea of placing two fading screen stars together for a major film came about, Jack L. Warner was quoted as saying ďI wouldn't give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads.Ē And yet forty years later we have a classic suspense film starring those two old broads. Bette Davis, whose role earned her an Oscar nomination and is also raked on AFIís top screen villainís list at #44, plays the maddening character with scary lushness. At times it seems over the top, but then you think, wait, she is crazy and we believe her all the more. Itís a superbly chilling and creepy performance. The hate between the two women is also palpable, probably because Crawford and Davis feuded in real life. Even on set the two tried to enrage each other. Davis actually kicked Crawford in the head by accident in once scene, which caused the need for several stitches. To get even, Crawford filled her pockets with weights for a scene where Davis had to carry her, resulting in a pulled back for Davis.
The movie as a whole though, is a bit too long at two hours and fifteen minutes. While creepy and entertaining, it could use some trimming. Yet it is certainly worth watching Bette Davisís performance.