Hagsploitation

Film
Photograph by Mark Ashkanasy

In 1962, Hollywood legend Bette Davis took out this ‘work wanted’ ad in Variety. Despite 30 years’ experience in motion pictures, the two-time Best Actress Oscar winner had to playfully remind the industry of her legacy and expose its attitude towards older women: “Mobile still and more affable than rumour would have it.”

Joan Crawford was in a similar situation. After almost four decades on screen and her own Best Actress Oscar, by her mid-50s the job offers were drying up. When Davis landed the titular role in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), she found a co-star in Crawford. The low-budget gothic melodrama was far from their glamorous roles, but the film plays on their celebrity pedigree and legendary rivalry.

Davis plays Jane, a former child star who’s grown into alcoholism and madness since her sister Blanche’s (Crawford) fame eclipsed her own. Wheelchair-bound after an accident, Blanche is helpless against Jane’s envy and abuse. The surprise hit spawned ‘hagsploitation’, a genre of campy thrillers and horror movies that resurrected stars of yesteryear. The films provided roles, but they were grotesque caricatures of aging that persist in films like Hereditary (2018) and Relic (2020), whose characters have greater depth, but still represent the shortage of parts for older women.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) Official Trailer via Rotten Tomatoes Classic's YouTube channel

How are these works connected?

Explore this constellation

Related articles

Related works

Content notification

Our collection comprises over 40,000 moving image works, acquired and catalogued between the 1940s and early 2000s. As a result, some items may reflect outdated, offensive and possibly harmful views and opinions. ACMI is working to identify and redress such usages.

Learn more about our collection and our collection policy here. If you come across harmful content on our website that you would like to report, let us know.

Collection

Not in ACMI's collection

Previously on display

1 October 2023

Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Collection metadata

ACMI Identifier

193591

Curatorial section

Goddess → Dangerous Women → Bette Davis

Collected

17464 times

Please note: this archive is an ongoing body of work. Sometimes the credit information (director, year etc) isn’t available so these fields may be left blank; we are progressively filling these in with further research.

Cite this work on Wikipedia

If you would like to cite this item, please use the following template: {{cite web |url=https://acmi.net.au/works/122028--hagsploitation/ |title=Hagsploitation |author=Australian Centre for the Moving Image |access-date=26 May 2024 |publisher=Australian Centre for the Moving Image}}