A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Monday, July 1, 2013

Majolica in the Movies: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane


Lately there have been a rash of sightings by your author of majolica appearing in movies. We always get a kick out of discovering these hidden majolica gems and, from the response from readers, you enjoy reading about them. Well, I have another movie to add to our cannon of majolica infused films... well, maybe... : What Ever happened to Baby Jane.

The classic black comedy/gothic horror tale What Ever happened to Baby Jane has been a favorite since I first saw it at the Esquire Theatre in Philadelphia when I was eight years old. My parents would give me money for the movies every Saturday and my cousin and I would just sit in the theatre all day often watching the double bill over and over again. Every Wednesday the theatre would change the bill, sometimes keeping a popular movie while rotating the second feature. When Saturday rolled around we'd head back to the theatre and watch the old movie with the second film. In this way we got to see some very peculiar double features. I can remember watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane one week with the sci-fi horror movie The Day of the Triffids and the next week with The Miracle Worker. It was a colorful childhood!

To those unfamiliar with the plot to Baby Jane, Joan  Crawford and Bette Davis play sisters both of who had movie careers in the 1930's. Joan, the more successful of the two, is an invalid from an accident many years earlier, supposedly caused by her sister. Bette has spent her entire life caring for her. The movie is basically a two hour exercise in sadistic mayhem as Bette subjects Joan to one torture after the next as she goes insane and slowly loses touch with reality.
They live in a large, typically California house with faded glamour all around them. Among this faded glamour in a small Minton cachepot. It sits on Joan's bedroom dresser in a rather prominent spot. I recognized the shape immediately as a Minton form. The Dictionary of Minton identifies it as the Thorwaldsen jardiniere.


I only caught a quick glimpse of it so I wasn't sure if the piece in the movie was majolica or not. In a black and white movie like Baby Jane it's sometimes hard to figure these things out. I decided to do an image search on line to see if I could track down a picture of the piece.
It wasn't hard.
With my first search came the photos below.




You can see the jardiniere sitting plainly in the center of the dresser but since the piece was made in other bodies besides majolica there is no way of knowing if the example in the movie is porcelain, earthenware, majolica or even bone. The only thing we can be sure of is that it's Minton.

Still it's a great piece. Who would have guessed that it would show up in a place like that!

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