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

Day Three (Saturday - 4 pm)

Dressed in an ill-fitting coat and tie for his appointment, corpulent gigolo pianist and musical director Edwin Flagg uneasily approached the Hudson home, as he wiped his glistening brow a few times with a soiled handkerchief. With heavy makeup and overdressed in her frilly "Baby Jane" outfit (with a fancy waist bowtie) in the kitchen while polishing a silver tea set and nervously drinking, Jane awaited the musician's arrival. When the front door buzzer rang a few minutes before 4 pm, Jane answered the door and her guest introduced himself. Upstairs, Blanche curiously wondered who had arrived and strained to listen.

With a contorted look on her face, Jane welcomed Edwin through a wrought-iron gate, as he clutched his sweaty handkerchief and knocked his head on the hanging hallway light. In the living room which he regarded (with a mock English accent) as a "perfectly charming room," she offered him afternoon tea. As she scurried to the kitchen, Blanche moved closer to the top of the stairs to listen, as Edwin looked at Jane's pictured display of her days of stardom. When he wandered into the hallway for a moment to investigate the wall hangings and decor, Blanche tried to signal to him, but Jane returned with a rattling tea cart.

During the awkward encounter, Jane mentioned that it was a hot day. Edwin had taken a cab to the house, mentioning that his car was in service (but he was lying - he had taken a bus and didn't own a car). As she poured him a cup of tea, she chatted: "l always think it's nice to break bread with strangers, don't you?" The self-delusional Jane proceeded to tell him about her intentions: "l've been retired for some time now. l've been taking care of someone in my family who's sick.." He guessed that she was ready to return to her profession with a highly improbable comeback. As he stuffed his face with tea biscuits, she played a game with him - to guess what famous actress she was. Unable to restrain herself, she revealed herself as 'Baby Jane' Hudson. He paused for a long time before appearing astonished. With delight in her voice, she explained her musical objective:

Baby Jane: And l'm going to revive my act exactly as l used to do it. Of course, some of the arrangements will have to be brought up to date. Music changes so much, doesn't it? And you know, they're desperate for new acts. Television, Las Vegas, and all the clubs. Well, there are a lot of people who remember me, lots of them.
Edwin: (ingratiating and falsely supportive) I don't see how you could fail.
Baby Jane: (moving over to the sofa next to him) You know, l had a kind of a feeling the minute l opened that door and saw you standing there. l just knew we were going to be friends.

'Baby Jane' was anxious to talk about her costumes from the old days that were being copied (to fit her), and she urged him to see all of her "scrapbooks and stuff" in the rehearsal room. And then she exclaimed: "Oh, l wish Daddy could be here right now. 'You can never lose your talent,' he used to tell me. 'You can lose everything else but you can't lose your talent.' She led him by the hand into the rehearsal room, to view her stacks of memorabilia on the piano - when suddenly, Blanche's loud and insistent buzzer interrupted them. Jane turned angrily toward the buzzer, but then restrained herself and politely apologized that she needed to be excused for a moment.

'Baby Jane' marched stridently up the stairs to Blanche's room, reprimanded Blanche with a venomous comment: "You always spoil everything, don't you?", and ripped out her buzzer system. Blanche affirmed that she had always wanted Jane to have friends and wasn't trying to spoil anything. Jane then asked pathetically: "Then how come l never had any?" and blamed her sister: "You always stopped me from having friends, that's why!" Blanche's intention was to join their company ("l could meet him and we could have a nice talk, just the three of us") - but Jane would have no part of it: "Then you could tell him a whole lot of lies about me. Scare him off, or maybe have him for yourself." She viciously slapped Blanche across the face with a blow of her hand.

Meanwhile, Edwin had seated himself on the piano bench and looked at the titles of sheet music strewn across the piano rack - from 'Baby Jane's' past:

  • The Flag of Freedom
  • She's Somebody's Little Girl
  • I Wouldn't Trade My Daddy
  • I've Written a Letter to Daddy

He began to play the simple one note melody tune of "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" - as Jane slipped back into the room and began to sing the song. Before a mirror, garishly dressed up as a little girl in a baby-doll suit (with her hair in golden curly locks), she practiced and croaked the song. During the song's interlude, she danced and sashayed around, and curtsied when finished. Edwin applauded and congratulated her: "You certainly can sing," and she bubbled with excitement.

[Note: The scene of her attempt to recapture her former glory days was reminiscent of aging movie queen Norma Desmond's (Gloria Swanson) similar efforts in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950).]

As they talked, Edwin admitted it would be his most recent "contact with show business," since his long-dead British father was a "classical tradition" actor who performed plays by Shakespeare. He then revealed his disdain for the callous working world - as he spoke further about his father: "He never really got a chance out here in Hollywood...he came from a rather distinguished family, socially I mean, and yet nearly all the parts he had were playing menials, butlers and such....l don't think my mother ever really appreciated what he was trying to do." 'Baby Jane' was continually interrupted by Edwin describing his own lofty past, although he conveniently fed into her own delusions.

Trying to hide his own unemployed desperation, Edwin asked about the remuneration for his services, and it was agreed upon that he would receive $100/week, but he required assurances that she was serious, because he was going to have to give up his music lessons for his pupils. Point-blank, he asked her about a start date and the first payment. Jane claimed she had "family matters" to attend to for one week, and then could begin after that. But then she vaguely suggested beginning rehearsals right away. There was a long pause, then Jane proposed: "l'll pay you first thing Wednesday, a month in advance." She then invited him to dinner during a car trip to pick up her costumes, but he declined: "l promised Dehlia l'd be home for supper," but he did accept a ride home. Jane was ecstatic about teaming up for rehearsals with Edwin beginning the following Wednesday: "l'm so excited! You know, l know everything is going to go just marvelously."

Once they drove off, the half-starved Blanche wheeled herself out of her room and into Jane's bedroom, looking for scraps of food in an emptied candy box sitting on the bed. In the drawers of the vanity-mirror dressing table, she discovered a stash of Jane's chocolates, and began to voraciously stuff them into her mouth. Beneath the box after she moved it, she found an autographed, fan-mail photograph of herself underneath -- but her face had been scribbled over with dark ink. She also found a sheet of notepaper with practiced forged signatures of her name. Below those incriminating pieces of evidence of Jane's devious skullduggery was a large checkbook ledger, with a record of Jane's wasteful spending of Blanche's assets - without Blanche's knowledge. She was shocked and bewildered to see the latest check stub, dated August 9, 1962, made out to WESTERN COSTUME for $93.20, with the memo (Clo. for new act).

A tense sequence followed - with Jane away, Blanche determined that it was her last chance to phone for help from the downstairs main phone at the foot of the stairway. She wheeled herself to the top of the landing, and made a last-ditch, excruciating attempt to make her way down the steep staircase. She lifted herself out of the wheelchair, gripped the bannister, and slowly made her way down. It was a marvelously filmed segment, with the phone in the foreground and the wearying Blanche struggling in the background. Once she reached the first floor, she was in agony and she tumbled to the floor. She crawled on her hands and dragged her hips along the tiled floor to the small phone table. She was able to dial Dr. Shelby's office - just as Jane returned and was parking the car in the garage, but the receptionist-nurse Miss Hilt (Dorothea Lord) said that the doctor was involved with a patient. However, Dr. Shelby was interrupted and came to the phone to speak to the increasingly-hysterical Blanche, who breathlessly blurted out:

You must come. l need you here. No. lt's about my sister. l need your help. l need you here. Here at the house. No, no, it's nothing like that. lt's the way she's behaving. You've got to come over right away. Please, before she comes back....Yes, she's emotionally disturbed. She's unbalanced.

At that moment, the agitated Blanche heard the swinging kitchen door behind her and realized that Baby Jane (with her costumes in her arms) had unexpectedly arrived home and heard part of the conversation. Dr. Shelby reassured Blanche: "I'll come over right away." After Blanche hung up, Jane approached with a ferocity - and became accusatory: "I know what you're trying to do!" When Blanche responded: "I'm not trying to do anything," Jane kicked Blanche hard across the face, and then struck her a few additional times in the body, causing her to roll across the floor and turn unconscious.

Jane returned to the phone and redialed the doctor's office. For the second time in the film, she cleverly and convincingly impersonated Blanche's voice to apologize for the misunderstanding and to assure the doctor that there was no need for him to visit: "Dr. Shelby, we're not going to need you after all. l know, but Jane has gone to another doctor...After all, we really can't interfere, can we, if Jane's chosen to go to another doctor?" After the call, Jane grabbed Blanche's extended arm and dragged her body across the floor to the foot of the stairs.

Day Four: (Sunday) - SKIPPED? (Note: Jane couldn't be doing business at a bank after 4 pm on Saturday, or all-day Sunday)

Day Five: (Monday)

In the next scene, as Jane was pulling out of her driveway, Elvira unexpectedly appeared for work. Jane angrily accosted her maid: "l thought l told you not to come back until next week." And then Jane abruptly fired her: "We're not gonna be needing you anymore....We're closing up the house. Blanche wants to take a smaller place at the beach. The doctor thinks that's best for her so that's what we're gonna do. Oh, don't worry, you'll be paid for today. l'll send you a check." Elvira's concern was not about her paycheck, but Blanche's condition. However, Jane refused with the flimsy excuse that Blanche was asleep, and asked that Elvira surrender her keys. Sensing that something was wrong, Elvira claimed (untruthfully) that she had left the Hudson house keys at home.

After Jane had driven off for a downtown errand, Elvira faked getting on a bus at the corner stop and returned to the Hudson house. She defied Jane by ascending the stairs to Blanche's bedroom. She was stunned to find the door locked, with no answer, and then noticed the discarded, disconnected buzzer. She feared the worst and knocked furiously on the door: "Miss Blanche, are you alright in there? Wait now, and l'll go find the key."

At that moment, Jane had entered the First National Bank, and at the window of one of the bank tellers (Maxine Cooper), she pushed forward one of Blanche's monthly-income studio checks, on which she had forged Blanche's endorsement signature. When the teller thought this was out of the ordinary and asked for her deposit slip, Jane was slightly flustered but explained: "Blanche wanted me to get it all in cash this time. l guess she has some special reason." The teller reminded Jane of the normal procedure: "If she isn't going to deposit her monthly check, she usually gives us a call and tells us what she wants us to do, doesn't she?" but this time there hadn't been any phone call. Jane gave the same excuse that Blanche was still sleeping. After the teller asked for approval, she returned to her window and asked: "Fifties and twenties, all right?"

Without a key, Elvira used a hammer and screwdriver to remove Blanche's bedroom door hinge pins, as she surmised that Jane had given her sleeping pills to keep her quiet. As Jane pulled into her driveway, Mrs. Bates detained her with a request to use Elvira's cleaning services for a couple of days a week. Jane was happy to comply: "As far as l'm concerned, you can have her as often as you want. My sister and l are moving, so we won't want her anymore. But you'll have to call her because she isn't here. l've already sent her home." Mrs. Bates insisted that she had just seen Elvira recently enter the home - causing Jane great consternation.

She turned and ran into the house, and found Elvira at the top of the stairs attempting to enter Blanche's room. There was a major confrontation between the two, when Jane glared up at Elvira and repeated that she was fired, but Elvira demanded: "l want to know what's goin' on around here" - she wanted to know the reason why Blanche was locked inside her room. Elvira continued to make aggressive demands while Jane blocked the front of the door: "You open that door and stop all this nonsense!" Elvira also threatened to alert officials, as she set the hammer and screwdriver down:

Elvira: All right, Miss Hudson. l'm not going to fool with you. lf you won't give me that key, l'll go right down and call the police.
Jane: You'll be sorry.
Elvira: Give me that key.
Jane: (reaching into her purse to retrieve the key) (ominously) l didn't mean her any harm.
Elvira: You better not have done her any harm.

After Elvira unlocked the door and entered Blanche's darkened room, to her horror she saw Blanche (with a strip of tape crudely covering her mouth) half-suspended in mid-air in her bed. Her arms were raised almost vertically by two cords tied to her wrists and attached to the lifting mechanism above the bed. Elvira gasped: "My God, Miss Blanche. What has she done to you? I'll get it off in a minute. Don't worry, Miss Blanche. l'll get you down from here. You just rest easy." Blanche responded with a muffled cry to try and alert Elvira to the danger behind her - Jane had picked up the hammer, followed Elvira into the room, and struck a deadly blow to her head. Blanche sunk down onto the bed in despair.

Day Six: (Tuesday) - SKIPPED

Day Seven: (Wednesday)

The evening of their scheduled Wednesday rehearsal, Edwin had dressed up to go out to dinner with 'Baby Jane'. She was already situated in her rehearsal room, seated on the floor and half-drunk as she perused her old scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings and photos from her glory days. With deep self-pity, she muttered with slurred speech about being unloved:

You could've been better than all of 'em. But they didn't want that. They just didn't love you enough. Do you know that? They just didn't love you enough.

As she grasped for one of her pictures, it tore in half. Edwin arrived at the Hudson front door and pushed the shrill doorbell. Completely disoriented, Jane seemed unaware of their scheduled rehearsal, and appeared fearful after looking up the stairs and noticing Blanche's half-opened bedroom door. As she leaned against the front door, she spoke softly to herself: "l'm sorry, Edwin. l can't let you in. Not now." Exasperated with no response, Edwin impatiently yelled: "Oh, the hell with it" and marched off. Jane cried and mumbled to herself: "I can't let you in. Not now. (she collapsed on the stairs and wept) What am l gonna do? I don't know."

Later that night, the kitchen was viewed from an outside camera angle as Jane struggled to wheel a blanketed body to the back side door, down the driveway steps, and out to the garage. As she heaved the body into the back seat and took the wheelchair around to the trunk, the headlights from Mrs. Bates' approaching car momentarily lit up the scene. The nosy neighbor was startled to discover Jane standing in the shadows of the garage. Hesitantly and uneasily, she excused her curiosity: "I thought perhaps you'd left the lights of your car on." Petrified by the chance encounter, Jane excitedly drove down the driveway to the street, looking back and forth. There was a close-up zoom to Blanche's upstairs darkened window.

An enormous billboard sign advertisement at a Standard gas station read:

From $100

Edwin stepped into view awaiting a telephone caller to vacate a phone booth, so he could make a phone call to Jane. When the booth became available, he dialed the Hudson's home, but the hallway phone rang without anyone there to answer it. Suddenly, there was a view of Blanche still trussed up and gagged in her dark bedroom -- listening to the shrill ring. It was now apparent that the body in the wheelchair belonged to the bludgeoned maid Elvira.

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