Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Psycho biddy a-go-go!

One of my favorite horror genres got a lot of love this year when Ryan Murphy's new series Feud debuted its first season with the rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Call the genre what you like--psycho biddy, hagsploitation, hag horror, or my favorite, Grande Dame Guignol--it all boils down to the same thing: nutty old ladies played by even nuttier old stars.

Love the print! Do the psycho biddies 
come with or cost extra?
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? kicked off a string of  psychological thrillers that used aging actresses' crumbling glamour as a plot device. It was made in 1962, when Crawford and Davis were in their 50s and at a low point in their careers. Since the two were real-life rivals, the tension between their feuding sister characters is real and palpable. Casting them was basically a gimmick, and the gimmick worked--Baby Jane was a hit that earned Bette Davis an Oscar nomination. It also added fuel to the Crawford/Davis rivalry with the snubbing of Joan Crawford for an Oscar nomination of her own.

Heads will roll!
The two were supposed to pair up again two years later for Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and even filmed a large number of scenes together, but their rivalry had grown so intense and Joan Crawford's behavior so impossible that she was fired and replaced by Olivia de Havilland. But Joan Crawford still had some psycho biddies left in her without Bette, like the axe-murderer she played in 1964's Strait-Jacket and her real self, whom she played her whole life. Biddies don't get much more psycho than Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in the biopic Mommie Dearest. "Tina! Bring me the axe!"

What could possibly be scarier than the real Joan Crawford? The undead one, of course! Here is Blue Oyster Cult's 1981 vision of an apocalyptic future in which Catholic school girls become vampires and Joan Crawford rises from the grave. Look out, Tina! She's got the gardening shears!

Just to make things even and not rile the unquiet spirits of any jealousy-prone, passed-on psycho biddies, here is Bette Davis as the ancient child star Baby Jane. That voice! That face! I think Baby Jane's daddy was wrong--maybe you CAN lose your talent. While she squawks out one of her bygone hits, her sister Blanche simmers with hatred nearby. I bet Bette sneaked a few wire hangers into Crawford's dressing room that day. 

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