- Published on Friday, July 13 2012
- Written by Katie Marzullo
Back in the 1960s, an odd fad swept the Hollywood scene – casting aged, faded movie goddesses from the Golden Age of Hollywood in creepy B-grade slasher films. Why so many of these ladies agreed to this is beyond me, other than a paycheck. Faces which once graced the silver screen and glamour pictorials in the ‘30s and ‘40s were now being shot at severe angles and unflattering lighting as they either swung or avoided a hatchet or some such. Screen queens became scream queens.
Not that many of those movies weren’t amazing, mind you. The grandmamma of them all, the one that set the trend in motion, is without a doubt 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. The film starred two of the greatest actresses of their generation – and of all time – Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as (guess what?!) forgotten former film stars and sisters who kinda want to see each other dead. Life imitated art big time in this movie, not just because of the actress angle but because, off-camera, Bette and Joan were lifelong rivals. So, quite a few novelties were at work here – seeing two past-their-prime movie stars return to big screen, but also seeing two ladies notoriously at each other’s throats for decades actually in a picture together! Guaranteed ticket seller, for sure. It didn’t hurt that the movie was actually pretty great – utilizing camp humor to creepy, macabre effect, which, at that time, was rather innovative. And, for the record, Bette and Joan continued to hate each other’s guts during and after filming. Gotta love old school Hollywood.
Now that you have the set-up, here’s the point – A remake of this film is in the works. With the blessing of the family of the late Robert Aldrich, who directed the original, Walter Hill has decided to resurrect Baby Jane Hudson and her wheelchair-bound sister Blanche for another go-around. Early reports indicate that he intends to keep the film set in the same time period and the circumstances of the sisters in tact – that is, former screen sirens from the 1930s. No casting announcements have yet been made, but as I sit and ponder who could possibly play these roles, I come up empty-handed (or minded, whatever). Mainly because the circumstances that made the original film such a hit no longer exist. We no longer have these glamorous, unattainable movie stars like they did back in the earlier half of the 20th century. What made Baby Jane so unique was peering into the shattered lives of discarded film icons, and then actually casting actresses who were then, at that time, not only reflective of that state of being but willing to be shown on-screen looking UGLY. Yes, that was a huge deal, even back in the ‘60s, but even moreso when they were at their prime. Female movie stars were simply NOT SEEN in public looking anything other than like a movie star. Seriously, it was written in their contracts. Case in point, when Joan Crawford missed the Academy Awards ceremony where she won her only Oscar in 1946 due to illness, when reporters showed up at her home immediately following the broadcast, they found her in bed -- in full hair and make-up.
Pictured: A DayQuil success story
So, in a day and age like today, where little mystery remains when it comes to even our A-list movie stars, the kitsch appeal that originally made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? a hit in the first place no longer exists. However, an opportunity to showcase the STORY on its own merits can certainly be found, if Hill has the chops to develop it. So, if we concentrate simply on THAT aspect – ignoring the relatability and real-life tension aspects of the two leading ladies – then it’s a bit easier to contemplate some casting possibilities.
My picks? Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon. BOOM.
- Katie Marzullo, YH Staff Editor