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.
Aged, wealthy Charlotte Hollis has lived 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 most 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. She and John had planned to run off together that night, but instead he was bludgeoned to death, his head and right hand severed from his body. Nobody was ever convicted for his murder, but most people believe Charlotte did it after John changed his mind about running off with her. They also believe that Charlotte, whom they haven't seen in years, is a crazy old woman. Conversely, ...Written by
When Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland) is preparing to close up the house in anticipation of moving out, she is packing a box which is stenciled "Sam Strangis Storage & Transfer, Baton Rouge, LA.". Sam Strangis was the Assistant Director on this movie. See more »
Shots of Bette Davis (shot in heavy shadows) and an obviously much younger double are unsuccessfully cut together in the opening prologue sequence. See more »
Good Night, Ladies
Played by the band at the party when Charlotte appears See more »
Grand Southern Gothic
What an entertaining movie! It's the Southern setting that gives the film its potent flavor, with that overwrought plantation house, the Southern accents, the small town gossip, antebellum attitudes, and the music at the party in 1927. The script's dialogue also reflects this Southern tint. Mournfully reflecting on the past, Sam Hollis (Victor Buono) says near the beginning: "My daddy sat out there on that veranda; let this whole place slide to dust; when he died there was nothing but debts and dirt; I touched that dirt and made it blossom".
The story's theme is a preoccupation with the past, with ghosts not properly buried, and with family secrets, repression, and subterfuge. Charlotte (Bette Davis) is a pitiful woman because she is not rational. Like her daddy, she can't let go of the past. Living all alone in that big house with just her housekeeper Velma (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte obsesses about bygone days. But if her own delusions contribute to her misery, she at least has the presence of mind to understand that those who come to visit her may not have her best interests in mind, hence the story's conflict as she attempts to fight back.
All of the major roles are ideally cast. I would not have made a single change in casting. Acting trends a tad melodramatic at times, but that's part of the fun. Agnes Moorehead gives one of the great supporting performances of all time. And Olivia de Havilland, with her vocal inflections, shrewd smile and stylish behavior, adds elegance that contrasts nicely with the shabby and humorously uncultured Velma.
B&W cinematography also contributes to the film's high quality. Dramatic lighting, interesting overhead camera angles, lots of interior shadows, and quick zoom-ins all add visual interest.
Plot structure is okay, but the runtime is a bit lengthy. I wish they had edited out some of the campy scenes in the second half.
"Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte" is a grand movie, with grand actors and grand moments. The story contains mystery, spine-tingling suspense, and it veritably drips with Southern angst. Though the film is a tad campy in a few spots and is a bit long, nevertheless it's wonderfully entertaining.
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