Friday, October 23, 2020

13 Rats of Halloween #5

"Oh Blanche. You know we've got rats in the cellar?"

Listen. We all agree that Bette Davis is amazing in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. "Amazing" doesn't even seem a good, big enough word for what Bette Davis is in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. But we really overlook too often Joan Crawford performance as Sister Blanche, if you ask me, and this scene provides one of my favorite bits of acting in the entire movie. After Jane says the line about "rats in the cellar" and leaves the room Blanche is left there to stare at her covered dish of dinner that Blanche dropped off at the same time. Crawford is tasked with, without really saying anything (save an under-the-breath whispered, "No..."), communicating to us the audience the connection between that line about the rats and her food dish, the ridiculousness of that connection, the horror and total revulsion that there might be a connection -- a million little unspoken beats and Joan knocks that shit out, yo...

I always go into this movie on Bette Davis' side, because I have been trained by life to always be on Bette Davis' side. But I always nevertheless end up feeling terrible for Blanche because of how damn good Joan Crawford is. I mean... it's hard not to get a little enjoyment out of seeing Mommie Dearest be tormented...

... but Joan always ends up making me feel a little guilty 
for those inclinations by right about this point in the movie. 

There were several admirable facets to Ryan Murphy's series Bette & Joan but one of its best was its window into Joan Crawford's anxieties and insecurities which had turned her into such a hardened character, and the light it shone on her as also a victim of bullying -- Bette Davis sure weren't no saint, and no doubt Joan felt as trapped as Blanche here does in that chair, in this film which was supposed to have its stars on equal footing but which was clearly being stolen from her right before her eyes. But Joan made the most of her straight-man role and gave a terrific performance, and the film wouldn't be considered the classic it is today without her. 

1 comment:

DCameron said...

Couldn't agree more. Joan gives such a detailed performance.