Tag Archives: Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Gay History Month Halloween Edition – October 31: Happy Birthday Baby Jane, Toronto’s Mass Gay Bashings, and Silent Film Star Ramon Novarro Murdered [With A Lead Jeweled Dildo?]

October 31st.  

1962:  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, opens in theaters. Happy Birthday Blanche and Jane!

Produced and directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, about an aging actress who holds her paraplegic sister captive in an old Hollywood mansion. The screenplay by Lukas Heller is based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell. Upon the film’s release, it was met with widespread critical and box office acclaim and was later nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Best Costume Design, Black and White.

The intensely bitter Hollywood feud and rivalry between the film’s two stars, Davis and Crawford, made the filming of the movie a living hell but  was heavily important to the film’s initial success. This in part led to the revitalization of the then-waning careers of the two stars. In the years after release, critics continued to acclaim the film for its psychologically driven black comedy, camp, and creation of the psycho-biddy subgenre.

Bette looked down on Crawford as a shallow “mannequin” with eyebrows like “African caterpillars” whilst she was a serious, theatre-trained performer. She also called into question Joan’s reputation with the opposite sex, or as she put it “She slept with every male star at MGM, except Lassie.”

Crawford was no kinder “Poor Bette,” she tutted “she looks like she’s never had a happy day, or night, in her life.”

Their claws continued to be out for one another for the remainder of their days, until Joan was the first to pass away from a heart attack. The tragedy did nothing to diminish Davis’ acid tongue; “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good…Joan Crawford is dead..Good.”

1968 : Silent film star Ramon Novarro’s body was found after being brutally murdered. A bathroom mirror had the words “US GIRLS ARE BETTER THAN FAGGITS” written upon it.

Novarro a Mexican film, stage and television actor began his career in silent films era in 1917 and eventually became a leading man and one of the top box office attractions of the 1920’s and early 1930’s.  He was promoted by MGM as a “Latin lover” and became known as a sex symbol after the death of his friend (and fuck buddy) Rudolph Valentino.

Novarro was troubled all his life by his conflicted feelings toward his Roman Catholic religion and his homosexuality. His life-long struggle with alcoholism is often traced to these issues. Once MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer reportedly tried to coerce Novarro into a “lavender marriage”, which he refused.  Navarro was romantically involved with journalist Herbert Howe, who was also his publicist in the late 1920’s.

Novarro was murdered in the late evening of October 30, 1968, by brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson, aged 22 and 17, two hustlers whom he had hired from an agency to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. According to the prosecution in the murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro’s house. The brothers of tortured  Novarro for several hours trying to force him to reveal where the non-existent money was hidden. They left the house with $20 they took from his bathrobe pocket. Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation—having choked to death on his own blood caused “allegedly” by a jeweled lead dildo that was given him by Rudolph Valentino being shoved down his throat.  (This was the Hiollywood rumour for decades.  No one actually knows what caused him to choke.)

The two perpetrators were caught and sentenced to long prison terms, but were released on probation in the mid-1970s. Both were later re-arrested for unrelated crimes for which they served longer prison terms than for the murder of Novarro.  During the trial, Novarro’s sexual orientation was called into question with more vigor than the guilt or innocence of the defendants.

In a 1998 interview, Paul Ferguson finally assumed the blame for Novarro’s death. He emphasized that he and Tom had not gone to the home to rob the elderly film star, although they trashed his home as a ruse, to make police believe robbery had been the motive. They knew nothing of a supposed five thousand dollars that Novarro kept stashed behind a portrait in his home. Paul Ferguson blamed internal homophobia for the rage that led him to pummel Novarro into bloody insensibility. “When he [Novarro] kissed me, I reacted like a Catholic, what they call homosexual panic… It had nothing to do with Novarro, nothing to do with his being homosexual. It all had to do with how I saw myself. And the fact that my brother was there. And that he could see me in that homosexual act”

Tom Ferguson committed suicide on March 6, 2005 by slitting his throat in a Motel 6.

He left no suicide note.

1969:  TIME magazine runs the  cover story on “The Homosexual in America” that included a report on the Stonewall Riots. It was protested by the Gay Liberation Front because the writer said homosexuals are mentally ill and immoral.

1977:  Halloween brings thousands of queer-bashers to Toronto’s Yonge Street looking for the annual drag parade. Gay representatives meet with police beforehand to try to prevent crowd from gathering. Operation Jack-o’-Lantern, a gay street patrol is organized to monitor situation but police do little to control crowd.

1979: Fire Island Pines’ beloved disco, The Sandpiper, closes its doors after its last Halloween party.

1987: The Associated Press reported that several nursing homes in King County Washington were under investigation for refusing to accept AIDS patients or those suspected of being likely to have been exposed to HIV.

1992: The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights held a march in London.

WIN! – The “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” 50th Anniversary Edition Remastered Hi-Def DVD!

Just in time for Halloween!

Back2Stonewall.com along with Warner Borthers Home video are giving away 2 copies of the digitally remastered, hi-def re-issue of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? – The 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray or DVD copy your choice!)

In one of the most sensational, and over the top films ever., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford pulled out all the stops for their only collaboration ever creating an iconic horror classic birthing the psycho-biddy subgenre.

The restoration of the film is so masterfully done its a MUST HAVE for any movie fan but the big attractions are the plethora of bonus features on this two-DVD set.

The first of these is a documentary titled Bette and Joan: Blind Ambition (2005). In this 30-minute piece, a number of Hollywood experts comment on the lasting impact of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? There are also two separate programs about the lives of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Jodie Foster hosts a 1994 TNT documentary titled “All About Bette” (48 minutes), which details the fascinating life of Bette Davis. “Film Profile: Joan Crawford” is a 28-minute BBC program from 1967 where she is interviewed by Philip Jenkinson.

In addition to those features, there is also a two-minute excerpt from “The Andy Williams Show” (12/20/1962), with Bette Davis singing “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (sans makeup). There is also a “Behind the Scenes” (6:30) piece about the filming of the movie, which probably ran along with the trailers to promote it.

We have TWO COPIES of WJTBJ – 50th Anniverasry Edition to give away.

HOW TO WIN – Just send an email to me at Will@Back2Stonewall.com with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? in the Subject line by Sunday October 21st @ Midnight and 2 Winners will be picked at random to recive this terrifing cult classic.

(ala’ Bette Davis) So send an email to Daddy today!


*Warner Brothers will be shipping the DVD to the lucky winner and are not able to send to PO Box address and winners must be within the United States.