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'Baby Jane' Writer Henry Farrell 1920-2006


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'Baby Jane' Writer Henry Farrell 1920-2006

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Bette Davis in Henry Farrell's 'Whatever Happened to

Baby Jane?'

LOS ANGELES, California - Henry Farrell, author of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and other melodramatic thrillers that spurred a genre of psychological horror movies featuring female protagonists, died March 29. He was 85. Farrell died at his home in Pacific Palisades after a long illness, longtime friend Mary Bishop said.

"Baby Jane," which Farrell wrote in 1960, was the basis for the film two years later, which brought actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together for the first time, late in their flagging careers. The two played once-famous sisters whose lives ended in disappointment and tragedy.

Farrell and director Robert Aldrich tried to bring the two together again in "Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte," which was based on Farrell's 1964 campy short story. Crawford declined to act in the film. Ultimately, Olivia de Havilland went on to play the role vacated by Crawford.

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A scene from Henry Farrell's 'Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte'

The film starred Davis as a demented recluse with Olivia de Havilland as her scheming cousin who comes from Europe offering to help her. The film later won seven Academy award nominations. It and "Baby Jane" became standard bearers for the Grand Guignol film genre starring legendary female stars in grisly roles.

Farrell's other books included 1959's "The Hostage," which he wrote under the name Charles Henry, and 1967's "Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me," which French director Francois Truffaut used as a basis for a 1972 film. He wrote several screenplays for television movies, as well as a number of episodes of the series "Perry Mason," Bishop said.

Farrell was born Charles Farrell Myers on September 27, 1920, somewhere in California's Central Valley, and grew up in Coalinga, Bishop said. Farrell continued writing until his death and served as a mentor to members of a writing group he belonged to in Pacific Palisades.

Farrell was preceded in death by his wife, actress Molly Dodd, who died in 1981. He is survived by his sister, Wanda Zey Michael, of University Place, Washington.

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