Here's an inside tip: This year's Emmy for best dramatic...

February 15, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Here's an inside tip: This year's Emmy for best dramatic actress in a made-for-TV movie will go to Lynn Redgrave for her performance in ABC's remake of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" at 9 p.m. Sunday on WJZ-TV (Channel 13).

The story of two sisters, who live together very unhappily ever after their screen careers are over, was first done in 1962 as a feature film.

The original had Bette Davis playing the role of thetormenting sister, Baby Jane Hudson, with Joan Crawford as the older, wheelchair-bound Blanche.

Lynn Redgrave plays the mad, alcoholic Baby Jane in ABC's version. Vanessa plays Blanche, the sister on the receiving end of Baby Jane's ever more terrifying "little tricks."

Part of the suspense of the film is the way the tricks escalate in their menace and madness. An especially effective one comes early in the ABC film when Baby Jane brings Blanche a sandwich, neatly wrapped in a linen napkin. Blanche thanks her sister and then bites into the sandwich without looking. What she bites into is still moving -- or, perhaps, slithering would be a better description.

And that's light comedy compared to what's coming. These are the original twisted sisters.

Lynn Redgrave's performance hits all the notes on the "Now I'm mad, now I'm a little sane, now I'm really out of control" chart. Her performance makes us stare in horror at the actions of Baby Jane and cry for her, too, as a pathetic, very wounded little girl in a woman's body.

That's the best dramatic trick of all: the actress who gets you to loathe the monster, but still recognize its humanity.

It makes ABC's "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" memorable television.

Lynn Redgrave hits right notes as Baby Jane

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