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Monday, 30 July 2012

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) - Star of the month... Olivia de Havilland

"Where you are I could spit in your eye with no strain at all." - Bette Davis (as Charlotte Hollis in 'Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte')

'Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte' is a 1964 horror thriller starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, Cecil Kellaway and Mary Astor. The gothic melodrama was directed and produced by Robert Aldrich.

The film begins in 1927 at a party at the Hollis mansion in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. During the party John Mayhew (played by Bruce Dern) is murdered and decapitated. When Charlotte Hollis (played by Davis) returns to the party with blood on her dress, she is presumed to be the murderer.

The film then jumps to 1964, with Charlotte still living in the mansion, still unmarried and still traumatised by the horrific murder of John Mayhey. When Charlotte's cousin Miriam (played by de Havilland) comes to stay, Charlotte's sanity deteriorates further as she is haunted by mysterious music playing during the night, and horrific hallucinations. In an attempt to prove her sanity, Charlotte is forced to fight against the plot of insanity tormenting her.

Watch the trailer:

Whatever Happened to... Joan Crawford?

Joan Crawford on the set of
'Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte'
before her sudden departure

Following the success of 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' in 1962, director Robert Aldrich planned to reunite the three stars of the film (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono) in 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'. After a few days on the set, Joan Crawford quit the film amid claims she was unwell. There has been speculation the true reason why Crawford left was because she feared she would be upstaged once again by rival Bette Davis, who had done so in 1962 with an Oscar nomination for 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane'.  After the role of Miriam was rejected by a number of well known actresses, Bette Davis suggested her friend Olivia de Havilland would be suitable.

The title song

The Oscar nominated title song, "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" became a hit for Patti Paige, where it reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Listen to Patti Paige's recording:

6 quick notes about the acting performances

Agnes Moorehead was nominated for an Oscar for her
performance as Velma Cruther

  • Bette Davis' exceptional dramatic performance as Charlotte is a cross between her Oscar winning performance in the southern epic 'Jezebel' (1938) with the gothic overtones of her Oscar nominated performance in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?' (1962)
  • Olivia de Havilland delivers an effective and natural portrayal of Miriam
  • Agnes Moorehead is brilliant as Charlotte's maid, Velma Cruther, and was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress
  • Sadly Joseph Cotten's acting career has seen much better days
  • Victor Buono's appearance in the film is far too short to comment on
  • Screen legend Mary Astor delivers a memorable swan song in her final screen performance

Did you know...

  • After Joan Crawford's sudden departure, Vivian Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck and Lorreta Young all turned down the role of Miriam
  • The film was originally titled 'Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?'
  • Footage of the exterior of the Hollis mansion were shot on location in The Houmas in Louisiana, while the interior of the mansion were shot in Hollywood
  • Victor Buono, who plays Charlotte's father Sam Hollis is actually 30 years younger than Bette Davis (who plays Charlotte)
  • The film was nominated for 7 Oscars - at the time of release this was the most Oscar nomination a horror film had ever received
  • Bette Davis was paid $200,000 for her performance
  • This was Mary Astor's final screen film

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Agnes Moorehead)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction in a black & white film
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography in a black & white film
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design in a black & white film
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Song ("Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte")
  • Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting actress (Agnes Moorehead)
  • Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award winner for Best Motion Picture Screenplay

Closing remarks

'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte' is a chilling and gripping horror story of murder, insanity and deceit. While the overall film is well made and enjoyable to watch, the opening sequence in 1927 plays far too long.

I remember first watching 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte' when I was about 15 years old, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then I have seen the film a number of times, yet never seem to tire of it. Of all the films starring Olivia de Havilland, this is the one which I've seen the most, and is possibly my favourite.

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