Whatever Happened After Baby Jane?

Bette Davis, a formidable talent, was never to play the glamorous roles. Instead she concentrated on the grittier parts. Despite winning an Oscar in 1938 for "Jezebel" and starring in a number of successful films, work started to dry up in the late 50s. This prompted her to publish the famous "Job wanted" advertisement in the trade papers in Hollywood in 1961.

Shortly after this, she started work on "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" (1962). In this tense psycho-thriller she plays a former child star who is old and horribly bitter over the far more successful career her now wheelchair-bound sister (Joan Crawford) had. Her revenge is to trap Crawford in the mansion they share, removing her of any dignity and contact with the outside world. Davis gives a shockingly venomous performance that chills to the bone with hideous, child-like make-up distorting her features into a cruel mask.

The success of that role kept Davis busy right until 1989 but she was typecast as usually bitter and malevolent characters. The next such role was in "Dead Ringer" (1964) where she kills her richer twin sister and assumes her identity. This was followed by "Where Has Love Gone" (1964) with Davis as the nasty matriarch of an equally hideous family. She also ruled another roost but this time as "The Nanny" (1965). This British film was a far better effort than her previous few films and saw Davis back at her chilling best.

Davis again played the manipulative head of the family in "The Anniversary" (1968), "Scream, Pretty Peggy" (1973) "Burnt Offerings" and "Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter" (1979), probably the best of an uneven bunch. The one to avoid, though, is the awful "Wicked Stepmother" (1989) which was sadly her last film.

Despite continuing ill-health, Bette Davis continued to act until her death in 1989, at the age of 81.