Female movie stars have struggled with misogyny, sexism and ageism in Hollywood since the creation of the industry. Stars over 40 were considered ’out to pasture’, ‘old hags’ and afforded few good script options. Therefore, if women wanted to remain relevant and in the spotlight, they needed to reinvent themselves or seek scripts on their own.
One infamous example is Joan Crawford, who in her 50s, pitched the novel ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ to director Robert Aldrich. Subsequently, he became director of the book turned psycho-horror-thriller film. Bette Davis also starred in the film portraying the bitter rivalry between two former competitive star sisters. Jane, played by Bette was such a beloved childhood star, a doll was created to immortalize her. Blanche, played by Joan, saw her Hollywood star shine in her early adulthood.
Eventually, both careers dimmed, never to be resurrected. Fast forward to their 50s, Blanche lives life as a hostage in their decrepit Hollywood home, having been paralyzed in a car accident with her sister during one drunken evening. Pathetic, delusional Jane has never accepted that Hollywood has tossed her into an expired ‘has-been’ trash bin. She is convinced her career will be resuscitated and expresses this as she dances around the mansion with her life-size childhood doll. What makes this even more campy is the garish full face thick clown makeup she never removes. As Blanche watches her sister’s precipitous descent into insanity, she desperately tries to claw and crawl her way out, but her escape plan is thwarted by Jane, who has another plan. If you haven’t seen the film, I urge you to watch one of the campiest, overacted, thrilling productions you can add to your ‘top 100 movie list’.
The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, overlooking Joan’s performance and lauding Bette’s. The film fueled the longtime bitter rivalry and jealousy the two actresses harbored towards each other. I was never aware about this lifelong deep-rooted hatred for one another until director Ryan Murphy (creator of American Horror, Glee and Nip/Tuck) turned their rivalry into binge-worthy Hollywood grist in the FX anthology series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”
I prefer not to critique the series, rather you watch it and decide for yourselves. If you are like me, loving title sequences, then you must watch this video which shows the Saul bass-inspired masterpiece designed by the team at Prologue.
This series fell into my lap at the perfect time since I was seeking inspiration for a future blog post with my bestie, JJ. We have known each other since college, but see each other infrequently since she resides in Seattle. But when we spend time together, we make sure to orchestrate an insane, side-splitting few days with non-stop laughter. Replay: the time we dressed as lumberjacks for my blog post about how much we despise the Hipster beard trend.
I messaged JJ about the prospect of impersonating the washed-up sisters in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” by way of a parody to share on social media and a new blog post. She jumped at the suggestion and immediately shrieked into the phone, barely audible with excitement. She would play Bette Davis’ evil character Jane; I would play the hapless crippled sister, Blanche.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to recreating their look and staging a hilarious montage parodying the cult movie.
MAKEUP TIPS & VIDEO TO TRANSFORM YOURSELF INTO A BABY JANE ‘HAG.’
- Buy some wigs. The Blanche wig was purchased at Jet.com and pinned into bun. The Jane wig was purchased at Amazon.com.
- Makeup. I used high pigment professional concealer from the Karity palette on JJ’s face, using several layers. This palette is a great purchase because you can use the darker colors to add fake wrinkles with a tiny brush. I mixed the two lightest colors to achieve the white clown effect. I already had a pink blush and a blue/red matte lipstick, which you can buy for under $8 at any drugstore. Don’t bother wasting money on an expensive one. I used Bobbi Brown’s gel eyeliner in Caviar Ink #27 to line her eyes and draw in the heart on her cheek. We didn’t use false eyelashes, just layered mascara with about 3-5 coats.
- Ben Nye’s Wrinkle Stipple – Use this gel to create a cratered wrinkle effect on and under the eye lids. This stuff works like MAGIC!
- Outfits. JJ bought her dress at Good Will for $6. That dress was meant to find her. It even has tiny black cat silhouettes speckling the fabric. It is hilarious. The shoes are mine. My jacket is vintage, which I have owned since I was 16. I also had the silk scarf and black dress. Purchase some nylon knee highs.
- Purchase a doll with ringlets and plastic rat. My nutty BFF Mini happened to have those items, so I didn’t need to purchase them. I never would have been able to successfully achieve JJ’s look without the expert help from this YOUTUBE blogger GoldieStarling, who is a professional movie makeup artist. I watched this video several times to nail the look.
If you have never watched the movie, here is the most iconic clip, which will explain our rendition of the scene below.
Here is our version of the scene.
Channeling and impersonating Joan and Bette was effortless for us because we are confident about our appearances, with or without makeup, and rarely care what people think. Hollywood and the media has always demeaned women’s appearances, never ceasing to fuel and exacerbate women’s insecurities. At one time, Joan and Bette’s roles in Baby Jane were described as ‘daring’ and ‘brave.’ Veterans of war are daring and brave. Bette and Joan were merely creating characters that would put their failing careers on a straighter, more hopeful path. They succeeded in their mission. Hollywood continued to hand them movie scripts. Today, actresses are less intimidated to be cast in roles portraying ‘hags’ in the name of art and ‘honing their craft.’ (Charlize Theron in “Monster” and Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer” to name a few.)
Let’s put a few things in perspective. You may not hold onto your beauty forever. So today, go out, live like a hag and own it. More importantly, do something that will make you laugh and be creative. I practice these virtues daily.
THIS IS THE EERIE SHIT THAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU IMITATE CHARACTERS THAT ARE DEAD! DID BETTE AND JOAN SPEAK TO US FROM THE DEAD?
(Yes, this actually did happen. We didn’t stage breaking that doll. Does art imitate life?)
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