Matchup of the Day: A Streetcar Named Desire vs. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
It’s a tale of two sisters, or a tale of two Blanches, double feature – A Streetcar Named Desire vs. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
According to a few websites I browsed, Blanche DuBois, played by Vivien Leigh, in Streetcar shows traits of Histrionic Personality Disorder. Individuals with the disorder are inclined toward attention-seeking and overly dramatic behavior (though, most everyone in Streetcar is inclined to dramatic outbursts). Jane Hudson, played by Bette Davis, in Baby Jane? is typically assigned Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissists require constant admiration and lack empathy for others. In both films, they are looked after by their more stable sisters.
Well, the relationship is slightly more complicated in Baby Jane?. Jane was a popular child performer whose fame dwindled in adulthood. Her sister, Blanche, played by Joan Crawford, became a successful Hollywood actress, using her pull to secure work for Jane. Blanche is left wheelchair-bound after a car accident. Jane, who was drunk at the time, is believed to be responsible. Years later, she and Jane live together, with Blanche providing financial support and Jane resentfully tending to her sister’s needs. Jane is treacherously jealous of Blanche’s enduring fame while her’s is mostly forgotten. Blanche refuses to acknowledge that her sister may be deranged – at first – until the housekeeper provides evidence of her instability. By then, Jane has already set her evil plan in motion.
In Streetcar, Blanche DuBois goes to live with her sister, Stella, after the foreclosure of the family estate. Stella’s husband, Stanley, played by Marlon Brando, distrusts Blanche’s story as to why she showed at their doorstep. Blanche finds Stanley to be brutish and uncouth. Stella defends them both, perhaps without realizing that neither are behaving in a desirable manner. Blanche finds some solace when one of Stanley’s work buddies shows a romantic interest in her. This leads to Stanley investigating her past and discovering that Blanche has been involved in questionable activity. Stanley’s friend rejects Blanche when he finds out that she was deceptive about her past.
Jane starts to revert to her childhood, losing touch with reality more and more. She holds Blanche captive and forges checks in her name. She also murders the housekeeper. To revive her career, she hires a musician to collaborate with her on new song and dance numbers. He just wants the cash. When he drunkenly shows up to collect his fee he finds out that Jane has Blanche tied up in her bedroom. Aghast, he runs off. Jane drives away with Blanche to the beach. Fearing that her health is in severe decline, Blanche admits to Jane that the car accident wasn’t her fault. She allowed Jane to believe it because she resented Jane’s cruel treatment of her in the past. When the police find them, Jane dances in front of the onlookers.
Blanche DuBois starts to lose touch with reality as well. Toward the end of the film, she dresses up in a tattered dress and a cheap tiara, fantasizing about events that never transpired. Stanley comes home and indulges her imaginings briefly before becoming confrontational. The two get into a struggle and it’s implied that Stanley has his way with Blanche. Later, Blanche is so far gone that Stella arranges to have her sent away for treatment. She knows what Stanley did to Blanche but has trouble accepting it. When Blanche breaks down before leaving with the mental health professionals, Stanley’s friend blames him for what happened. Stella sees the light as well wanting nothing further to do with Stanley.