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Henry Farrell; wrote melodramatic thrillers

LOS ANGELES -- Henry Farrell, author of ''Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and other melodramatic thrillers that spurred a genre of psychological horror movies featuring female protagonists, has died. He was 85.

Mr. Farrell died March 29 after a long illness at his home in Pacific Palisades, longtime friend Mary Bishop said.

''Baby Jane," which Mr. Farrell wrote in 1960, was the basis for a film two years later that 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.

Mr. Farrell and director Robert Aldrich tried to bring the two together again in ''Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte," which was based on Mr. Farrell's 1964 campy short story.

Crawford declined to act in the film, which ultimately starred Davis as a demented recluse and 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.

Mr. Farrell's other books included ''The Hostage," which he wrote in 1959 under the name Charles Henry, and ''Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me" (1967), which French director François 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.

Mr. Farrell continued writing until his death and served as a mentor to members of a writing group he belonged to in Pacific Palisades.

He was born Charles Farrell Myers in California's Central Valley, and grew up in Coalinga. He was married to the actress Molly Dodd, who died in 1981.

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