The picture is what the copy of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I read looked like. I point this out because the picture has little to do with the story. This particular edition of the book was published in the 1990s. The cover played on the song “Bette Davis Eyes” and the fact that Bette Davis played Baby Jane in the movie. I will say that I like that song, and I love the movie. The book surprised me.
The first movie I ever saw Bette Davis in was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I loved her in it. Now she is one of my favorite actors. The movie is one of my favorite’s in the horror genre, and my favorite in the psychobiddy subgenre. I love this movie so much that I’ve wanted to write a psychobiddy for a while. I’ve made two attempts. The first is a completed but yet unpublished novel that devolved quickly from a psychobiddy to a ghost story. The second is a novella I literally just finished last week, which holds up although it has been watered down some. The whole reason I started reading the book version of this story is to inspire me while writing that novella.
I often read books after I see the movie version. I actually like to do that. I know that some people prefer it the other way around because the book is always better than the movie. For the most part that is true, but I still like to read the book after the movie. Books most of the time offer a richer take on the story. You get a lot more depth of character. The thing that surprised me the most about the book version of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is how much time it spends focused on Baby Jane. The movie focuses much more on Blanche. I understand the reason for this. A movie audience needs someone to sympathize with quickly. Blanche is that character. It would have been hard to make this book into a movie with a heavy focus on Jane.
The plot is almost identical. There are a few changes as movies are apt to do, but I like them equally in there own way. The movie is acted to the hilt by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. In reality, the actresses hated each other and does it show. However, the book’s focus on how far gone Jane really is does a wonderful job as well. In the movie version, you don’t feel that sorry for Jane even when the truth of Blanche’s accident is revealed. The book makes you feel sorry for Baby Jane. Blanche doesn’t deserve how she is treated. Baby Jane didn’t deserve what she got either.
The one thing I’d hoped the book would make clear was whatever happened to Blanche. I won’t spoil the ending, but Farrell gives something sad, creepy, and slightly horrific in the end. Even if you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, the novel’s end is satisfying and still surprising. This book was written around the same time as Psycho and almost a decade before The Exorcist, but it is a classic like those two and needs to be read. Please, read Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?