Friday 16 November 2018

The original psycho-biddy

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Henry Farrell's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? opens in 1908 with the famous child star having a tantrum in public. "What's ever to become of a child like that?" comments the matron of one of Baby Jane Hudson's fidgeting fans. "It's the others I pity, the ones who'll have to live with her," is the ominous reply.

Fast forward to 1959, and we find Jane living with her sister Blanche, who has been confined to a wheelchair since an accident involving a car damaged her legs and put an end to her movie career. They remain together because their dying father told them, "You are sisters, [-] the same flesh and blood. And that means that you've always got to stick together, no matter what." The adult Jane is still having tantrums, as well as periods of dark brooding, and bouts of drunkenness. Her behaviour becomes even more erratic after the sisters watch Blanche's old movies on TV. Initially Blanche makes the excuse "that it's really all my own fault," but as her fear of her sister increases, she must secretly try to engage the help of various characters: Edna Stitt the sensible cleaner; Mrs. Bates the star-struck neighbour; Edwin Flagg, Jane's would-be musical accompanist.

There is plenty of suspense and the story is told with a fast pace. It is a great example of gothic horror, all the more disturbing because fear is caused by someone experiencing psychosis rather than by something supernatural.

The ending is the best bit, and it will make you reassess the whole tale.

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