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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
Throughout the film, Charlotte and Miriam keep on referring to
the "county commissioner". Louisiana is one of two states in the U.S. that's not divided into counties, the other being Alaska. See more »
Well, right here on the public street, in the light of day, let me tell you, Miriam Deering, that murder starts in the heart, and its first weapon is a vicious tongue.
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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