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
Until his death in April 1959, Joan Crawford had been married to Alfred Steele, the President of Pepsi-Cola. After his death, she was elected to fill his spot on the Pepsi Board of Directors. While making this film, Crawford had Pepsi-Cola vending machines installed on the set and during rehearsals, costume tests, filming in Baton Rouge, and on 20th Century Fox's soundstages, she would sometimes have a bottle of Pepsi by her side or in her hand. In an effort to spite her co-star, Bette Davis had Coca-Cola vending machines installed as well, and later when Crawford was replaced, she also had a Cola-Cola truck barrel through town just before Miriam sees Jewel Mayhew on the street. See more »
As household staffers pack up her belongings, a haggard Charlotte wanders through the house wearing no makeup, but the minute she sees an insurance investigator in the yard, she's suddenly wearing lipstick, eye makeup, and looking years younger. See more »
[Played by the band at the party before "When the Saints Go Marching In"] See more »
Better than Baby Jane.
Following the success of camp classic 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?' (1962), producer/director Robert Aldrich once again cast Bette Davis in the lead for his follow up 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte', this time with Olivia De Havilland as her co-star. One might expect this to be an inferior imitation of Baby Jane, repeating that film's formula of outlandish melodrama and twisted characters, but although it does share some similarities with its predecessor (most notably, Davis's eccentric performance), I consider it to be the superior film, a gripping murder mystery that serves up a large helping of Southern gothic, grand guignol, and the macabre.
The film opens in 1927, at the antebellum mansion of the Hollis family, where patriarch Big Sam (Victor Buono) confronts John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), the married lover of his daughter Charlotte, and orders him to end the relationship. The next evening, during a party at the Hollis house, John meets Charlotte in the summerhouse and tells her that he no longer loves her; distraught, Charlotte runs away. Moments later, John is brutally murdered, his hand and head hacked off with a meat cleaver (this scene being surprisingly gory). Wandering into the party covered in blood and in a state of shock, Charlotte is ushered away by her father.
37 years later, Charlotte (Davis) still lives in the mansion, her father having used his connections to prevent his daughter from being charged or tried. The only other occupant is Velma the housekeeper (a wonderfully unconventional turn by Agnes Moorehead), but this all changes when Charlotte writes to her cousin Miriam (de Havilland), hoping that she can somehow prevent The Louisiana Highway Commission from evicting her from her home. Miriam comes to the house soon after, but helping Charlotte couldn't be further from her mind: with the help of old friend Drew (Joseph Cotten), she intends to push the already mentally fragile woman over the edge and have her certified insane so that she will gain control of the family fortune.
While perhaps not as iconic as Baby Jane, 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte' trounces that film's tale of bitter sibling rivalry with its engrossing mystery that, while not always unpredictable, provides bags of atmosphere, lots of suspense, and plenty of opportunity for Davis to do her demented thang. It also neatly switches things around at the halfway point, allowing De Havilland her chance to act deranged, the seemingly sweet Miriam proving to be just as nutty as her cousin. Also a delight to behold: Cecil Kellaway as insurance investigator Harry, who ties up the loose ends nicely.
Like Baby Jane, Sweet Charlotte is perhaps a little overlong for this kind of thing (under two hours would have been nice), but Aldrich maintains a steady pace, and the game cast (which includes silent movie star Mary Astor, as John's widow, and disaster movie regular George Kennedy as the foreman of the crew come to flatten Charloote's home) ensures that there is rarely a dull moment.
7.5/10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
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