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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was a smash that only took 36 days to film, and yet, in many ways, the drama between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had been building for much longer. Go behind the scenes of the thrilling tale below.
1. Joan was hands-on.
Crawford got the Baby Jane ball rolling when she found the book and did the leg work to line-up the initial players. She took the part very seriously and started prepping before the cameras started rolling. Since her character was bound to a wheelchair, she practiced moving about in one and even consulted a war veteran who trained her how to maneuver. Crawford wanted to wear her own outfits, but costume designer Norma Koch didn’t think short, stylish dresses fit the character. Crawford was eventually talked out of wearing them. Bette was also hands-on with her appearance (more on that here).
2. Bette’s daughter played the neighbor’s daughter.
However, she wasn’t originally cast. The stepdaughter of Anna Lee, who plays the neighbor, was. But Davis asked the director, and her daughter, B.D. Merrill, got the part. Even though Davis got her daughter canned, Anna Lee enjoyed working with her. She looked up to the Hollywood legend. The admiration was apparently mutual. Director Robert Aldrich said Bette called Lee a "pro."
3. Crawford’s meals didn’t agree with her.
Bette served up two very special meals for her co-star, which were (understandably) not well received. Before meeting its demise on screen, the parakeet pecked at Crawford in real life, which was apparently a sign of affection. According to Burt Reynolds, a close friend of Davis, Bette was responsible for a real rat being used in Crawford’s close-up, rather than the prop one.
4. Joan really liked Pepsi.
In fact, she had a vending machine installed on the set, and when the director wasn’t looking, she would exchange his Coke for a Pepsi (which he didn’t appreciate). Crawford, of course, was biased because she was married for a time to Pepsi Chairman, Alfred Steele. She also served as a spokesperson for the company. And if you look closely when the sisters visit the beach, you'll see a man deliver bottles of Pepsi to the food stand.
5. The prop chocolates weren’t chocolate.
Crawford was very meticulous when it came to her heath regime, even shedding some pounds for the part. Rather than eating chocolates, she had them replaced with... meatballs. Davis got quite the surprise when she expected to have a sweet treat during a film break and instead tasted meat.
6. A dummy was used for that scene.
The tabloids had a field day depicting Bette and Joan’s relationship, and Baby Jane’s crazy antics helped fan the flames. The script called for Davis to slap and kick her co-star, but Crawford was nervous. So a double was used for the slap, and a dummy was used for the kicking. “To my credit, I have never indulged in physical punches, only verbal ones,” Davis said.
7. Joan’s crucial scene had to be reshot.
The consistency between the lighting of the stars necessitated that Crawford refilm the beach finale. However, rather than return to the actual location, sand was brought into the studio to create an indoor beach. The cost was $60,000. Some of the crew suspected that Joan removed some of the aging makeup so she wouldn’t look so old for her big moment.
8. The drama didn’t stop after the camera did.
Despite the buzz, Bette Davis and Victor Buono were the only cast members nominated for Oscars. When the big moment came at the Academy Award ceremony, Davis lost to Anne Bancroft for her performance in The Miracle Worker. And who should accept the award in her honor but Joan Crawford... If Davis had won, she would have been the first to win three Academy Awards. Instead, in 1968, Katharine Hepburn set the record when she tied for Best Actress after starring in The Lion in Winter.