The working-class twin sister of a callous, wealthy woman impulsively murders her out of revenge and assumes her identity. But impersonating her dead twin is more complicated and risky than she anticipated.
Popular and beautiful Fanny Trellis is forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, Jewish banker Job Skeffington, in order to save her beloved brother Trippy from an embezzlement charge, and predictable complications result.
Aged and wealthy Charlotte Hollis has lived alone and as a recluse in the crumbling family plantation mansion in Hollisport, Louisiana since her father Sam Hollis' death thirty-six years ago. The only people who regularly see her are her hard-as-nails but seemingly loyal housekeeper Velma Crowther, and her longtime friend and physician, Dr. Drew Bayliss. She has lived there the better part of her life except for a short stint in London thirty-seven years ago following the vicious murder of her married lover, John Mayhew, at the plantation's summer house while Sam was hosting one of his legendary grand balls in the mansion. That evening, she and John were going to run off together, that is before he was bludgeoned to death, his right hand and head which were never found. No one was ever convicted for his murder, but most people believe Charlotte did it after John changed his mind about running off with her. Not having seen her in years, they also now believe Charlotte is a crazy old ... Written by
Faded Southern belle Charlotte Hollis lives in depression and loneliness in her family's Louisiana plantation house, still distraught over the axe murder of her married lover 40 years earlier, a bloody killing that she was accused of doing. When the state condemns her home to put in a new highway, she defiantly refuses to leave, with a shotgun. When her long-lost Yankee cousin Miriam arrives to help, heads start to roll, literally.
Although not a sequel to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, it was conceived as a vehicle to reteam Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. And the story is similar in that the parts were written as Crazy Bette and Phony Joan (as Davis put it). Too bad Davis drove Crawford off the picture. (For details read "Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud" by Shaun Considine). It would've been great to see them do battle again, this time with Crawford having the upper hand.
Still, I enjoy "Charlotte" more than "Jane." For one thing, it has the delightfully grotesque Agnes Moorehead acting like Quasimodo as Charlotte's screwy ally/servant Velma. She steals every scene she's in (and an Oscar nomination), and I'm surprised Davis allowed it.
It's also nice to see sweet-faced Olivia DeHavilland cast against type as Miriam. She handles herself quite well, and god knows it couldn't have been easy for her. When Crawford heard that she was out and DeHavilland was in, she ranted against Davis and director Robert Aldrich in the press, but cooed, "I'm happy for Olivia, she needs a good movie role." Ouch. And after the picture was completed, Queen Bette said Olivia "was good at keeping the audience's attention while I'm off screen." With friends like her....
By the way, there is a long shot of Crawford still in the movie. Look for it when "Miriam" gets out of the taxi after arriving at the plantation house. That's actually the back of Joan's head, not Olivia's.
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