We’re usually taught to respect our elders, but there have been plenty of characters in film who never quite got that memo. There’s a long and proud tradition in movies of elderly abuse and bad doings being transgressed on the 4:30 dinner crowd. This is the generation that did things like survive the Great Depression, fight the Nazis (and the Reds!), raise our parents and all too often us. One would think they’d earned a bit of consideration like guaranteed Social Security, adult diapers that don’t leak or generally not getting the shit beat out of them and snuffed like some third-rate red shirt. In this CHUD list, we’re going to take a look at a batch of old timers who, unfortunately, turned into having-a-really-bad-timers.
The Film: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Buy It From CHUD
The Director: Robert Aldrich
The Elder: Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford)
Blanche was a successful and glamorous film actress, until one fateful night in 1935 when an automobile accident left her paralyzed. Now, decades later, Blanche whiles away her time lying in bed and watching her old films on the television. The closest thing she has to a friend is her African-American house keeper, Elvira.
The Abuse: Rage-fueled shit-kicking.
Elvira had become increasingly concerned for Blanche’s safety, because of the drunken, angry and erratic behavior of Blanche’s roommate, Blanche’s sister Jane (Betty Davis). Well, turns out Elvira was right to be worried. When Elvira isn’t around Jane starts psychologically torturing Blanche — serving her a dead rate for lunch…
…and other such non-violent cruelties. But when Jane returns home one day to discover that Blanche has painfully drug herself downstairs in order to call Jane’s doctor (to you know, let him know that his patient is bugnuts crazy), Jane isn’t too pleased.
That’s when the shit hits the fan. Or rather Jane’s foot hits Blanche’s face. Since Blanche can’t run away or stand up or fight back, she makes the ideal kicking victim. A fact Jane relishes with lunatic fury. Though Blanche survives the kick-storm, the injuries eventually prove mortal, and she dies days later.
Lack Of Respect By: Jane “Baby Jane” Hudson
Jane Hudson had been a child star of the Shirley Temple variety. But as happens with many child stars, she was unable to make the transition from her cutesy song and dance routines to a legitimate adult acting career. Making matters worse was the fact that Jane’s sister, Blanche, who had always been forced to live in Jane’s shadow, now had a blossoming and respected acting career. Also as happens with many child stars, Jane turned to booze and partying. Now, old, haggard and sad, Jane lives off her sister’s money, bitter at life and riddled with angry-guilt over knowing that it was her fault Blanche had become crippled (the accident happened after a night of Jane’s partying). She resents her sister Blanche with the intensity of a 1000 cheap kicks to the face and gut.
Did She Have It Coming? In the moment: no. Not at all. She is a wheelchair-bound old woman trying to save herself. But – without going into any spoilers – karmically, in the grander sense, yes she kind of does.
Could the AARP Have Helped? No. Blanche is clearly decently well off from her acting days, and she had someone taking care of her. Hard to avoid violence if it comes from your own crazy family.
If Nature Had Taken Its Course? She probably would have lived for another ten or more years. Though, her life seemed rather shitty and depressing, and given that she is in a wheelchair, it is unlikely her career could have been resurrected by a Tarantino type. That said, she was the right age to start receiving honorary life-time achievement awards and whatnot.
What Andy Rooney Might Say: Call me old-fashioned, but I remember the days when seniors stuck together as a united front against the younger generations. “Don’t trust anyone under sixty,” our motto was. It just ruffles my feathers to no end when I hear about senior on senior violence. It is just not right, and I do not approve of it. If seniors will not stick up for each other, then who will?