Tag Archives: Joan Crawford

Film Review: The Miracle Worker (1962)

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First thing first. I was watching Davis-Crawford starrer What Ever Happened To Baby Jane few weeks ago. Bette Davis’ scintillating performance made me curious to check the results of Academy Awards of that year. I was flabbergasted to see that she didn’t win for the character Baby Jane which qualified to become a memorable cult classic in coming years and decades. More painful for Davis was that the recipient of the award was none other than the film’s co.star and her biggest rival, Joan Crawford, who accepted the award on the winner’s behalf in her absence. Why? That is the other story.

So who was the winner? She was Anne Bancroft who played Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (TMW). That earned my attention and made me watch the film so here is the review.

A short history of the film is that it actually was William Gibson‘s three-act play based on Helen Keller‘ autobiography “The Story of My Life” which was premiered on Broadway at the Playhouse Theater between 1959 and 1961. The production of entire 719 performances were directed by Arthur Penn. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke performed leading roles of Anne Sullivan and Hellen Keller respectively.

Play-writer Gibson, director Penn and both leading performers Bancroft and Duke reunited in 1962 for the film version. United Artists, the production company for the film version, put the condition on the director to offer the budget of $5m if he choose Elizabeth Taylor for the role of Anne Sullivan but $500k if he insist to continue with Anne Bancroft. Penn decided the choose the latter and the rest was history.

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A very sensitive subject was brought to the screen with plenty of promises in the story and the dynamic duo. All focus was on Bancroft/Duke which for them was a routine outing after their hundreds of performances together at the Playhouse Theater. But the film was what defined a plague of emotions and distortions resting on each other’s shoulders.

 

TMW was about two unparalleled people who had to understand each other throughout the film. It was a suicidal attempt of a teacher to control an ill-fated hopeless spoiled child who was not able to hear or see since birth. So the teacher Anne was established with blindness of visions who recently lost her brother while the student Hellen was gutted with muttered eyes and mumbled ears, lost in her mother’s echoes. The magic began when both came to same frame and wonders happened. Anne’s strictness towards the spoiled child rose alarm towards her parents as doubts began foiling whether bringing teacher Anne for their child was a careful decision or not.

There were numerous scenes of the silent duo displaying a bravura performance but the jaw-dropper easily was the dining room battle scene. That was a 9-minute sequence which required 3 cameras and was shot in 5 days.

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Overall, TMW was an honest portrayal of emotional violence and the desperation of escaping from the dark world to the other dark world was insane. I liked the violence in the melodrama; the face-slaps, breaking of plates, throwing objects which was very natural.

43 years later, Sanjay Leela Bhansali made Black on the same tone as TMW based on Hellen Keller’s life. Gender of teacher was changed as Amitabh Bachchan played the role of Anne Sullivan while Ayesha Kapoor and Rani Mukherji played Hellen Keller’s young and adult versions. That year, Time Magazine of Europe chose Black five of the best films around the globe.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke played unforgettable roles and won their acting awards in the Oscar the following year. Superb film.

Film Ratings: 8.4/10

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Film Review: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

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Dreams rot in jealousy and fraction of life freeze with idiocy. Two tamed sisters in one roof with a peculiar understanding live a rough and rigid life. Blanche Hudson is on a permanent wheelchair and her sister Jane Hudson, once a child stage performer under the name Baby Jane, has health and mental issues loyal with liquor.

Baby Jane is now a forgotten name and out of any limelight and she clearly blames Blanche that she ruined her career. Then Jane in fury hit her car on Blanche taking her legs forever. Bounding her life within a room, Jane’s behavior towards Blanche goes worse and mentally tortures her by many ways.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is a psychological thriller directed by Robert Aldrich and based on Henry Farrell‘s novel of the same name and enjoys a cult status among moviegoers. The biggest reason of this movie’s immense popularity was bringing two of the greatest darlings of Hollywood’s golden era in same frame who never shared the screen together – Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

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The legacy behind uniting two wonderful actresses burdens a major fact that the names were, are and will always remain Hollywood’s most notorious feud. In their careers, both ladies carried tremendous hatred for each other for many reasons and the same level of respect was maintained in the making of movie.

There is one intense scene where Jane (Davis) beats Blanche (Crawford) after Blanche forces to drop herself from wheelchair to the ground floor to call the doc and asks for help by reporting Jane’s mental problems. Crawford was concerned that Davis would actually hurt her, and asked for a body double. There was one close up however that a double could not be used for. When this was filmed, Davis did clip Crawford’s head – Crawford screamed, and filming stopped. “I barely touched her” said unapologetic Davis. Others claimed that she left Crawford in need of stitches.

Another scene is a sweet revenge by Crawford over Davis. There is a scene when Jane has to lift Blanche from her bed towards the door. Crawford knew that Davis had suffered back problems in the past, so she drops her weight in the hands of Davis to make her feel worse. When the filming was finished, Davis was screaming in agony, and Crawford strolled back to her dressing room.

That is not enough! Bette Davis was nominated for Best Actress in Oscars for the role but that night in the Academy Awards function, she lost the award to Anne Bancroft for The Miracle Worker. In Anne’s absence, it was none other than Crawford to accept the award on her behalf in front of Davis. Some have claimed, Crawford pushed Davis while walking towards the stage and said “Step aside; I have an award to accept!”

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Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a smashed pumpkin caused by a running vehicle. A genuine psychoanalysis of hatred among the kins. It is not only Davis-Crawford show, the whole movie is also a story-teller to the generations. Before WHTBJ happened, the careers of both legendary actresses were waning and both in the same weak timeline were in need of a successful movie. Another great aspect of the movie is the description of downfall in fates or shall I say instant karma. How the success has its last goodbye on you and you make unsuccessful attempts of winning the same limelight but in reality you are faking and fading yourself. Bette Davis as Baby Jane displays amazing portrayal of emotions. Her performance in last 30 minutes will break you.

On the other hand, Crawford as Blanche is the perfect patient on wheelchair who understands and translates her desperation in performance. The most critical portion of her superior performance is when she lifts herself from the wheelchair and strives to walk down the ladder to chase the telephone.

WHTBJ was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Actress to Better Davis and winning for Best Costume Design. It indeed is insane movie but worth a name for inclusion in the list when it comes to picking best movies of the sixties. Unforgettable Davis-Crawford show!!

Movie Ratings: 8.2/10

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