Top of the World: Olivia de Havilland Turns 101!

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Today, the strong, lovely, talented, legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 101 years old and we are very lucky to still have her with us! Aging gracefully, she certainly is one of the most beautiful women of that age! For the occasion, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Eroll Flynn!

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For the occasion, I’ve decided to present you a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films! Remember, these are my personal favourites, so it’s purely subjective. I ask you to respect my choices.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen a total of 12 of her films so far.

Here we go!

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 1935)

I’m not THAT much a fan of this film, but I’ve decided to put it at #10 as 1- It has to be praised for the excellent performances (including Olivia’s one), 2- A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains, after all, my favourite Shakespeare play, 3- I love the magic and poetry embodied by the dreaming cinematography and 4- the two other ones I saw, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Santa Fe Trail left me a bit indifferent.

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9. Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Quite a creepy film, but I’ve always found Olivia de Havilland’s performance quite interesting as it is very different from the innocent Melanie Hamilton for example! And who would say no to a film reuniting her, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead?

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8. The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

This western was the last collaboration between Curtiz and De Havilland. Somehow it’s not too well-known, but I think it deserves more recognition. It’s a beautiful film and our Livie is absolutely touching in it.

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7. My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

One thing: I STILL have to read the book by Daphné du Maurier. Ok, this film contains his flaws, but it remains an appreciable one to see. Olivia is quite fascinating playing this ambiguous Rachel! Who is she really?! This film is a good way to size her versatility as an actress.

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6. The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

I actually just watched this movie today in honour of the celebrated one! I quite enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. Olivia and James Cagney (such a great actor!) looked just adorable together. The presence of Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson was, of course, highly appreciated as well. A good comedy movie to watch when you feel like not concentrating too much!

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5. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

I’ve always loved psychological movies and this one makes no exception to the rule. Playing two roles in one film never looks like an easy task, but, here, Olivia did it wonderfully. A fascinating film.

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4. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938)

Of course, we all like the collaborations between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. This one has to be my favourite one without hesitation. Olivia is so lovely as Lady Marian and the film itself is a wonderful entertainment!

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3. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

I’ve said that I’ve always loved psychological movies. Well, this one is another great example. I love to see the evolution of the characters in these. Here, Olivia de Havilland certainly gives one of her best and more challenging performances. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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2. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

And happy birthday to William Wyler, who was born on July 1st too! Well, if Olivia won her second Oscar with this film, it’s not without reasons. An extraordinary performance, full of subtleties and perfectly calculated. She gives an extraordinary essence to her character and it’s hard to surpass her. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it. Of course, I don’t think William Wyler ever made a bad film…

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  1. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

Ok, I know, this is not a very creative #1, but what can I say? I love the film ok! There would be so much to say about it, but for what concerns Olivia, she illuminates the screen and is in perfect harmony with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t think of anyone better to portray Melanie Hamilton. This is the first film of hers I saw. What a great introduction to her filmography! 🙂

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Well, that’s it! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

I want to thank Crystal and Laura for hosting this amazing blogathon. Please take a look at the other entries here:

The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn Day 1

Happy 101 birthday dear Olivia!

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Top of the World: Celebrating Bernard Herrmann with 10 Wonderful Scores!

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Yesterday, the famous movie music composer Bernard Herrmann would have been 106 years old. He did not only share his brilliance in his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, but in all the movie scores he composed. It’s for that reason that he is a favourite among many cinephiles. He certainly was among those movie composers who perfectly knew how to musically illustrate the atmosphere of a film.

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I didn’t have time to “celebrate” him yesterday as I was working, but I thought I should honour him today with one of my traditional top lists! So, let me introduce you my 10 most favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! Of course, that was a most difficult exercise as he was a master of music. I had to change the order of my top many times.

Before continuing, remember that these are my personal favourite ones, so it’s purely subjective. You obviously can’t contest my personal tastes. 😉

Ok, here we go!

10. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Ah! How can we forget this haunting music regrouping strings only?! The shower scene is not the most “melodious” Bernard Hermann moment, but probably the one people will remember the most.

9. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

As much as I’m not THAT much a fan of this film (despite the fact that it is considered the best movie of all times and blablabla), there are TWO things that I love enormously about it, one of them being the music (the other one being Joseph Cotten). I love how it is at the time very sinister or very joyful. Typical Herrmann!

 

8.The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

My favourite Hitchcock’s film! And certainly one of my favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! It’s so orchestral, I love it! You unfortunately won’t hear it in this clip, but, during the film, there are some notes that remind us a lot of Vertigo‘s score that Herrmann will compose two years later. Of course, we all remember Herrmann’s cameo in the film! 🙂

 

7. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)

Without being Hitchcock’s best film, one can’t deny that this is among Herrmann’s best scores! Actually, it might be the best thing about this film. I absolutely love it.

 

6. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

When those notes start, you know you are in for something special! Somehow, I can always see Carlotta Valdes’s portrait when I hear this music or the famous dream sequence. A team work between Hitchcock and Hermann always creates prodigies! Another film that is considered “the best of all times” and, once again, Bernard Herrmann had the chance to be part of the team!

 

5. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

As far as I can remember, North by Northwest has always been one of my very favourite music scores. It succeeds to so perfectly capture the attention of the viewers. Once again, one can perfectly visualize the film in his/her head while listening to this GREAT score!

 

4. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)

I must be honest, I didn’t become familiar with that score until… well today. The reason is that I’ve seen the movie only once and quite a long time ago, so let’s say the music was not necessarily fresh in my memory! But when I was re-listening to some of the Herrmann scores, I discovered how great it was! I just can’t believe I haven’t took the time to listen to it more carefully before. It’s just ace! Somehow, I can visualize the movie in my head when I listen to it. It truly makes me want to watch it again! 4m14 – 4m30: this moment is absolutely terrifying, but great!

 

3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)

That is THE sound of science-fiction! My favourite sci-fi film and very probably my favourite music score for a sci-fi film. In this score, we can hear both acoustic and electronic instruments, including two Theremins, which create those typical sounds from outer space.

 

2. Obsession (Brian de Palma, 1976)

It goes without saying, I am obsessed with this film score (ouuuu!). It’s just spellbinding. I especially love the first minutes of it. I can always see the scene where Cliff Robertson throws the suitcase with the money on the street or that unforgettable final scene… For a movie that is very similar to Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann was of course the ultimate choice for the music!

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  1. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Ah, the last and ultimate Bernard Herrman’s score! From Citizen Kane (his first movie music score) to Taxi Driver (his last), he proved to be an absolute musical master. Taxi Driver‘s music is so mesmerizing and fits perfectly the dark New-Yorkian atmosphere of the film. It sort of makes me want to take saxophone lessons!

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your personal favourites in the comment section!

Cheers to Herrmann!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #25: Where the Boys Are (1960)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twenty-fifth and, finally, last (!) review was for the 1960s classic Where the Boys Are directed by Henry Levin. Enjoy!

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Where the Boys Are, the 1960’s film by Henry Levin, is the ultimate definition of the teen movie, not simply because the main characters are teenagers, but for the way the film is developed. Where the Boys Are is not Rebel Without a Cause, but it’s not Gidget either. It’s the right equilibrium presenting the fun of being a teenager (led by a bunch of colorful characters) and the more serious matters that come with growing up.

In this coming of age story, four girls from a Midwestern university, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Tuggle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (Connie Francis), are going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for their spring vacation. They don’t only hope to find the sun that has been absent in the snowstorm of their university town, but also to meet some nice boys. In this sunny place various romances, adventures and misadventures arise to change the girls’ lives forever.

For someone who lives up north like the four girls in the movie, Where the Boys Are is the kind of film that makes one regret not following their lead and going south for a celebration under the sun. The weather can almost be felt through the screen, from the furious snowstorm that gives poor Merritt a cold, to the Floridian heat where the students spend their days in bathing suits.

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During the opening credits, the film’s theme song is sung by Connie Francis. The style of the song perfectly reflects the ambiance of the film, as well as the ’60s in general. Francis’s voice is heard one more time when she sings Turn on the Sunshine in order to seduce Basil (Frank Gorshin), an eccentric jazz musician. With her smile and joie de vivre, Connie Francis illuminates the screen and proves her talents both as a singer and sympathetic actress.

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Dolores Hart plays the lead. Among all her films, Where the Boys Are is often cited as a favorite among her fans. Her dynamism and assurance as Merritt certainly impresses the spectators. Hart seems sure of what she is doing and gives her character the perfect emotions depending on the situation. She makes people laugh or cry, but always at the right moment. The actress is today known as Mother Dolores Hart despite a promising start in the movie industry. She and George Hamilton as Ryder Smith are a dream couple.

Yvette Mimieux was only 19 when the film was made and embodies its innocence, and the loss of it. Her angelic face and lovely mannerisms make the audience rapidly fond of her.

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Where the Boys Are was Paula Prentiss’s debut. The humor of this tall girl is delicious, but like the other actresses, she demonstrates a great sensibility. The loving and friendly team she makes with Jim Hutton, as TV, might be the one people appreciate the most. The comic and goofy guy certainly seems to be the perfect match for her and Jim Hutton is memorable in the role.

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Kudos also have to be given to Frank Gorshin whom, as always, doesn’t fail to amuse with his mimics portraying a, well, unique character.

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Where the Boys Are deals with the theme of sexuality, difficult particularity because during the Production Code era, such themes were put aside for censorship matters, creating a certain unreality in some movies. Although the code was still in force until 1966, the use of sexuality in movies was beginning to gradually emerge. Sexuality in Where the Boys Are isn’t used explicitly, but more as an educational tool that perfectly suits the coming of age story. The subject is treated as something that is inevitably part of life. Interestingly, the film was one of the first teen movies to deal with such material and the relationship teenagers have with it. The subject is mostly used in the dramatic parts of the film.

Despite the difficult subject matter, Where the Boys Are is filled with unforgettable hilarious moments, such as the scene where the whole gang is trapped in a giant aquarium, or each time TV makes an entrance with a peculiar rig-out.

One has to understand that, despite being a comedy and a Hollywood film, Where the Boys Are contains its share of realism. The film is developed in a way to show people that life contains its ups and down. But, even when living with difficult moments, the most important element is to be surrounded by loving people and Where the Boys Are proves the beautiful value of friendship.

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The film is a visually agreeable one to watch as its Metrocolor cinematography creates an atmosphere of joy and reflects the fun that teenagers hope to reach during this sweet and short spring vacation.

On its release, Where the Boys Are was a financial success and won the Laurel Award for Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actress for Paula Prentiss.

Where the Boys Are is a film full of truth that’s ahead of its time, but is also intended to make one feel pleasant. It’s one of those films made especially for teens that understands them so well and is not to be missed.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #15: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My fifteenth review was for the 1962’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird directed by Robert Mulligan. Enjoy!

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There are those films everybody has to see; 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan, is one of these. To Kill a Mockingbird figures among the BFI List of the 50 Movies You Should See Before the Age of 14. It’s one of those films almost everybody ends up seeing in their life, and for good reason. If you’re a curious teen who hasn’t watched many classic films, come explore the benefits of To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird is an adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel of the same name. The book is known as a classic of American literature and a favorite for many. (Sadly, Harper Lee recently passed away on February 19, 2016 at the age of 89.) Mulligan’s movie is still known today as one of the best adaptations of a novel.

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Before going further you might like to know what the film is about. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the early ’30s in the fictional town of Maycomb. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a lawyer who has accepted to defend the case of Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man, accused of having raped a white woman. Atticus is a widower with two children: Jean Louise or “Scout” (Mary Badham) and Jeremy, “Jem” (Phillip Alford). On their side, the children and their new friend Charles Baker “Dill” Harris (John Megna) are interested in their father’s business, but also in the mysterious house of Mr. Radley where legends say that his son, the dangerous “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall) is locked up in the basement, eats cats and rats, and never sees the sunlight.

 

 

To Kill a Mockingbird was both a commercial and critical success on its release. The film won three Oscars: Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay (Horton Foote), and Best Art Direction (Henry Bumstead, Alexander Golitzen, and Oliver Emert). Believe me, all three wins are highly deserved. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Mulligan), Best Cinematography-Black and White (Russell Harlan), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mary Badham, ten at the time) and Best Music (Elmer Berstein).

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To Kill a Mockingbird was, of course, a revolutionary film at the time, fighting racial prejudices in an America that had started escaping from them. In the ’60s, anti-prejudice films were in vogue with examples like A Patch of Blue (1965) or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967). Some directors had the desire to speak and denounce this social problem, but there was still a lot to do. The context of To Kill a Mockingbird and the story itself, is different. Here, we are in the ’30s, in a small village, where, of course, defending a black man is not well seen by everybody in the town.

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Apart from its main theme, To Kill a Mockingbird needs to be seen for Atticus Finch. Why? It’s simple; he is the incarnation of the perfect man and perfect father. He is fair, calm, wise, respectful, always find a way to explain things, understand people’s problems, and doesn’t have prejudices. Too bad he is only a fictional creation, we need more people like him in our society. It explains why Atticus Finch figures at the top of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains list. Harper Lee’s father inspired the character. Gregory Peck said it was his favorite role. Peck gives one of the finest, if not, the finest performance of his career. His Oscar was certainly deserved. His acting is well calculated; he doesn’t overact and is natural. He suits Harper Lee’s character perfectly.

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To Kill a Mockingbird is told from a child’s point of view with Scout telling us the story. The film is as much focused on Atticus Finch as it is on the children. If Atticus Finch is the soul of the film, the children are his eyes. Scout, Jem and Dill are all respectfully played by talented child actors: Mary Badham, Phillip Alford and John Megna, who make the film alive, and their chemistry with Atticus is a real treat.

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There are several other interesting characters and actors, including Robert Duvall in his first credited on-screen role and Boo Radley, without revealing too much about him is one of the most intriguing characters in movie history. Just like the children, we’re avid to discover a little bit more about him as we watch.

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To Kill a Mockingbird’s brilliance also resides in the script. Atticus Finch’s speech during Tom Robinson’s trial allowed Gregory Peck to, once more, express his talent. It’s a very humble speech, without any exaggerated theatricality, but full of meaning. It’s unforgettable when Gregory Peck, with his deep voice inspiring the respect, asks to the jury “In the name of God, do your duty.” How can we forget the respect the African-American people in the audience show for him? We haven’t often seen such touching and poignant cinematographic moments.

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On a more technical aspect, the film is worth seeing for its beautiful black and white cinematography which, in its poetic way, perfectly expresses what the movie is about. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a metaphor I’ll let you discover by yourself. The music, fantastically composed by Elmer Bernstein, also reaches us for similar reasons. It’s simple music, not too orchestral, but reflects the atmosphere of the film.

 

 

 

As a matter of fact, the main quality of this film is that everything is in harmony: the acting, the characters, the story, the music. The common humility within makes it stand out from other movies. Simplicity can sometimes be the best solution.

If you haven’t seen To Kill a Mockingbird yet, make sure to do so, whatever your age. You’ll learn a lot from this film on many levels and it teaches you how to understand life and how to live it. It’s a real inspiration.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #8: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My 8th review was for the 1962’s classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? directed by Robert Aldrich. Enjoy!

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October is synonymous with autumn and, for some of you, synonymous with Halloween, too. So, here we are again with another movie that will make you shiver, but you will love! However, unlike my previous review of The Innocents, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is not classified as a horror movie, but as a drama or a drama-thriller. That’s not important, because Robert Aldrich shows you and tells you a story horrifying enough to give you nightmares. In other words, it’s perfectly suitable for Halloween.

The young, blonde Jane Hudson, known as “Baby Jane Hudson,” is a successful child performer on-stage. She makes a lot of money and is pressured by her father to succeed. Her sister Blanche, a much simpler person, living in the shadow of her fame, but, as her mother has promised her, one day she’ll be famous. Indeed, several years later, in their adult life, both Blanche (Joan Crawford) and Jane (Bette Davis) have careers as movie actresses. This time Blanche is the successful one and Jane is about to be forgotten since movie directors don’t see talent in her anymore. One night, something terrible happens: Blanche is in an accident and loses the use of her legs, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. This is just the prologue…

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After the opening credits, we are brought a few years later. Blanche and Jane are now two mature women living together in a big house in Los Angeles. Blanche is trapped in her wheelchair and room all day long, and Jane “takes care of her.” Well, in her own way. As a matter of fact, this is the occasion for Jane to take her vengeance. She can’t accept the fact Blanche ended up the successful one so she’ll make her sister’s life a living hell. Blanche, who has a good heart, understands her sister, who’s also an alcoholic. For Blanche, Jane is sick and needs to be cured which won’t be an easy mission. Meanwhile Jane wants to make a comeback in the show business.

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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? can be compared to Sunset Boulevard (another worthwhile film), for its themes of the fallen star refusing to grow old, who refuses to be forgotten and, even if it’s a hopeless case, wants to make a comeback. Sorry, a RETURN! But, unlike Sunset Boulevard, one element is added: revenge. Films about Hollywood are pretty interesting to watch as they make you understand the darker side of the movie business. I hear you saying: “But this is just a movie!” Maybe, but we can agree that, somehow, it reflects a certain reality. Look at for example, those silent movie stars who were forgotten with the talkies arrival! Hollywood can make you rich, but not necessarily happy.

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The most enjoyable thing about Baby Jane is the evolution of the characters. You see Jane’s cruelty towards Blanche grow and know how it’ll end. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is also a psychological movie. Of course, this psychological side is embodied in Jane. We, like Blanche, are eager to know why Jane’s acting this way. Why is she plotting this undeserved revenge? Blanche, as far as we know, hasn’t done anything wrong to her. Sisterly rivalry can be pretty bad sometimes! Jane complex mind is not only scary, but, somehow, completely fascinating because it’s hard to explain.

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Talking about sisterly rivalry, you’ll be amazed to discover how this film is, at some points, a perfect reflection of reality. Indeed, the two actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford truly hated each other in real life. Working together might not have been easy, but in a way, Robert Aldrich was right to cast them: he could be sure their acting would be sincere. I prefer Joan Crawford, but both are excellent actresses and, in this film, they give us one of the best performances of their career.

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Even if What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is not truly a horror movie, there are many aesthetic and narrative elements which will please scary movie lovers! Those who have seen the film will immediately think of the scenes where Jane gives horrible “food” to Blanche for dinner. For those who haven’t seen the film, I won’t say more; my maleficent mind wants you to be as surprised as Blanche!

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Also, those creepy Baby Jane dolls are an eerie object present throughout the film. Dolls are often used in horror films, especially porcelain ones. I remember, when I watched the trailer for this, I had to stop because the dolls were such a big part and honestly scared me. I really thought it was a horror movie with dolls coming to life and scaring people around them. After seeing it, I realized this was not the case, but, in a way, there’s something so alive about those dolls, probably due to the fact they are a perfect copy of Baby Jane Hudson when she was a charming little girl. In her house, Jane owns one of those dolls and it’s the only thing around that seems to make her happy by reminding her of her happy childhood.

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On its release, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was a commercial and critical success. It’s known as a classic today. It’s a movie with delightful suspense that teens will discover with a great pleasure. They’ll certainly be thrilled to discover another worthwhile film for Halloween.

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