13 Camp Films Everyone Should See

From Hollywood's golden age to John Waters's trash cinema, the camp films that define a genre

3. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Take two combative and combustible divas from the golden age of Hollywood glamour, stir in a script reflecting the timeless themes of fading beauty and fame, and while you’re at it crank Bette Davis up to 11 and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a camp classic.

While the star power of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a duo with Joan Crawford, Davis is the camp heart of the film. Her campaign of jealousy and resentment as former child star Baby Jane Hudson against her wheelchair-bound sister, Blanche (Crawford), may have been horrific during its original run in 1962, but over the years it’s taken on a fine patina of camp cheese. There’s Baby Jane barking out, ”Butcha ya are, Blanche! You are in the chair!” There’s her questionable dietary choices for a homebound invalid. And then there’s Baby Jane decked out in her baby-doll dress and pancake makeup, trying to reclaim her glory years of child stardom with a rendition of ”I’m Writing a Letter to Daddy,” which remains one of the most disturbingly hilarious performances this side of Glitter.

Davis had a gift for delivering lines that lasted a lifetime (see All About Eve), so it’s no surprise that her famous co-star ends up as merely a foil for Baby Jane’s gleeful insanity. But add in all the stories of behind-the-scenes clashes between the two and Crawford’s looming fate as a camp icon and world’s worst celebrity mother, and you have a movie that helped define camp for a generation.

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