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Charlotte Hollis, an aging recluse deluded into a state of dementia by horrible memories and hallucinations, lives in a secluded house where, thirty-seven years before, John Mayhew her married lover, was beheaded and mutilated by an unknown assailant. Written by
When Joan Crawford was replaced by Olivia de Havilland in the role of Miriam and production resumed on Wednesday, September 9, 1964, Davis and de Havilland pulled a "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" routine by toasting one another with Coca-Cola - a catty observation of the fact that Crawford's husband had been an executive of Pepsi-Cola and that she was now on the board of directors. Joining in on the toast were Joseph Cotten and director Robert Aldrich. See more »
Near the end of the film, when Charlotte leaves Hollis House for the last time, her make-up varies wildly from shot to shot. See more »
John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), a married man, is having an affair with Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis). When Charlotte's father, Sam (Victor Buono), a local bigwig (the town is even named after the family) finds out that John was planning on eloping with Charlotte, he demands that John tells Charlotte during a big party that he's breaking off their relationship. John ends up dead, and Charlotte is the likely suspect. Thirty-seven years later, Charlotte is still living as a recluse on her family's plantation, but now she is being forced to move, as a highway is going to be built across her property. Gradually, people come back into her life to ostensibly help her.
For at least the first 45 minutes to an hour or so into the film, Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a 10 out of 10. Unfortunately, given a 133-minute running time, director Robert Aldrich can't sustain the intensity for the length of the film, but Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte finishes as an 8 out of 10 for me.
Although there are some thriller and horror elements, both take up relatively little screen time. At that though, these elements are extremely effective. Some parts are surprisingly graphic for 1964--just enough to be a surprise and evoke the appropriate sense of shock. The best horror/thriller material in the film is in the haunted house vein, and for a time, we wonder if Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte is going to end up being a ghost story.
But the focus here is primarily on Charlotte and Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland) and their relationship to one another. Davis and de Havilland are both incredible in the film, and both go through a very wide range of emotions. Oddly, Agnes Moorehead (as Velma Cruther) was more recognized for her performance than the rest of the cast in terms of awards and nominations, with de Havilland receiving neither. Not that Moorehead wasn't good, but in my view, she wasn't the standout performance. However, that's just further fuel for my belief that the Academy Awards have little to do with rewarding the best films, actors and filmmakers.
There are also broader themes explored as a subtext, including the changing way of life in the southern United States between the early and mid-20th Century.
I subtracted two points because the film lost a bit of its momentum and direction in the middle, but the last half-hour is as exciting as the beginning.
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