Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte: A Photo Review

I've decided to attempt another photo review and after much thought I chose Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

I had only seen this film once as a child and it was after my parents took me to visit the house where the movie was filmed in Louisiana, the Houmas House.  After watching it again this week it reminded me of so many films I saw as a kid that really scared me but when revisiting that same film as an adult I found myself laughing during the "scary" scenes. That doesn't take away from the fact that I still like it or I can see the appeal it had when released or even now as a classic thriller.  (This review has spoilers).

The movie was released in 1964 with director Robert Aldrich at the helm.
Bette Davis as Charlotte
Olivia de Havilland as Miriam
Agnes Moorhead as Velma
Joseph Cotton as Dr. Drew
Mary Astor as Jewel Mayhew
Bruce Dern as John Mayhew

We open to a cold looking plantation in 1927

Inside a young man is being lectured and blackmailed into leaving pops daughter alone. (He's married to someone else named Jewel) Dirtbag!

Since thats not "Laura" I assume she's the daughter who's being led astray and not a ghost

OMG! It's a young Bruce Dern! The last time I saw him he was getting whacked by Marnie. Please stick around awhile young BD.

We next get a glimpse of the same plantation at night and theres a celebration, dancing and gigantic party lanterns. (This should be a fun night)!

In the summer house young Bruce Dern (John) is breaking up with a girl but she's not taking it so well.  We soon find out it's Charlotte.

 The director makes sure we see a meat cleaver.

Which seems to be missing all while everyone is still dancing

Young Bruce Dern is trying to suffocate himself with a corsage! He's all weepy and sad which someone observes from the shadows.

Even a cherub looks down upon him with shame and judgement.

N00000! Young Bruce Dern has lost his corsage

He's in bad shape and I'm guessing he gets whacked AGAIN! (Sorry and see you around when you can behave).

We get a glimpse of a young Miriam as she notices a not so happy party guest.

Theres Charlotte who has gone and ruined her party dress and everyone's evening.

Daddy looks real mad! (Hopefully he's learned his lesson about blackmail and threats)

It's now 1964 and these boys are up to mischief as they pass a cemetery

They meet up outside the old plantation and scare themselves silly with ghost stories and tall tales from years past.

Of course just like any good story the runt of the litter gets picked to snoop around.

Don't look so pleased with yourselves, I have a feeling you'll be running for your lives shortly.

Pip squeak has run right in to old Charlotte who seems harmless.

But he runs for his life as we get a glimpse of that face and the creepy painting! (It reminds me of those paintings where the eyes follow you around but Robert Aldrich doesn't agree and I'm left to my imagination).

The next morning all seems okay except for the fact that structures are being bulldozed all over the plantation. 

After a late night of scaring children Charlotte has her slumber interrupted

Charlotte gets her crazy on and starts shooting willy nilly at everyone. Luckily she's as good a shot as she is at drawing her eyebrows on so nobody gets injured today.

Nope! She still can't hit anything.

George Kennedy has no time for the crazy and lets her know she needs to be vacated in a week plus he's running to tell the sheriff!

 We meet the sheriff who already has a visitor. A big city reporter who's interested in the events that took place in 1927.  (Somehow I doubt any of it will ever make since to him).

The Sheriff comes calling and gives Charlotte her notice to vacate.  (And I'm still wondering who allowed her to live there after that party with death and mayhem).

I hope nothing happens on those stairs! They make me dizzy.

We get our first glimpse of Velma, the trusted housekeeper. She's looney tunes and I love her.

Charlotte has reached out to her cousin Miriam who looks thrilled to be visiting. (Apparently all of Louisiana has amnesia and has forgotten the events of 1927).

Miriam gets her first glimpse of Velma who's acting all crazy on the porch! Any normal person would run but I have a feeling she's up to something herself so I'll leave her be.

Eyebrows is peeking from behind a giant planter which somehow feels normal

We get our first glimpse of Dr. Drew who seems drunk as he waves a lit cigar around flammable blankets. (Young Bruce Dern is lucky he got the heck out of there early)

Dr. Feeling Good greets Miriam with groping and inappropriate kissing which she doesn't mind. (These two are just bizarre)!

Poor Velma gets ignored outside as she goes postal on the luggage. 

Fresh from her make-out session Miriam gets her first look at Charlotte in years.  We know Charlotte is thrilled because she's doing that weird hand emoting. (Yes, we've all seen Bette Davis and her acting methods before). 

Everyone's all dressed up for a strange dinner party and all it's missing is Norma Desmond!

YEP! It's getting creepy, queue the monkey funeral.

For some strange reason Miriam ups the awkward by letting Charlotte know a few things about that night way back in 1927.  John's wife Jewel knew about the affair and apparently she's been writing Charlotte nasty letters for years. 

Charlotte gives the evil eye as Dr.Feeling Good stands around amused then theres Velma who's wondering around like the Mad Hatter! (Possessed paintings would really add something special right now).

Another party ends and Dr. Drew finally stumbles out into the night after another kiss and a gun exchange. Because another firearm won't spell disaster around these people. (I have my suspicions that he's not a real doctor).

Miriam starts wandering around a dark house and stumbles onto her old party dress thats been torn to shreds.

The next day we get a glimpse of newspapers after the events of 1927.  The reporter wants to know what happened to John's missing head and hand. (I want to know why young Bette looks like the Queen of Tarts).


Miriam runs into an elderly Jewel, who's still the grieving widow.  

Velma's at home amusing herself with a comic book. 

She's quickly interrupted by Charlotte having a tantrum so she has one herself. (Agnes Moorehead is at her best in this film).

Bette Davis is upstairs trying her damnedest to get her final Oscar!  Sadly I can't take my eyes off of that ugly bird who's dying to escape the madness and the overacting all around him.

Because there are no normal nights in this house Charlotte starts hearing music and finds her way downstairs only to see things at the delight of Miriam.

Charlotte is having a really bad night! Luckily things quickly disappear and we are left wondering if she's seeing things.  Miriam convinces her that theres nothing there which has Charlotte on the verge of madness.

Charlotte calms herself in the cemetery the next day which seems to be the only place thats not haunted.  She runs into the reporter who's still trying to find body parts.

Everyone seems normal for about 5 seconds until Charlotte has another meltdown over a music box.  Plus she shows 100's of letters supposedly sent by Jewel that cause Charlotte grief and guilt.

Later that night theres a storm which oddly makes Bette Davis look 30 years younger.

We get a glimpse of creepy shadows and I hope those pesky kids aren't back again. 

Charlotte's desperate for company so she runs outside. The only thing there is a wind machine. Go to bed Charlotte!

Ironically Velma thinks things seem a bit crazy with Miriam around. She gets gussied up and finds her way to the police station to report her suspicions.  

Later that night Charlotte's greeted by a rolling head during her nightly stroll around the house.

It's Young Bruce Dern who looks oddly fresh after 30 plus years.

Surprise! Dr. Feeling Good is back and they're having a good laugh over young BD's head. Apparently it's a fake and it's sole purpose is to drive Charlotte mad and out of the house. The estate is worth money and these two have plans.  Dysfunction Palooza!

Velma sneaks back and realizes Charlotte has been sedated and conned. She may be crazy but she's loyal. 

Velma lets Charlotte in on everything then tries to get her out of the house. (Somehow I doubt these two can sneak quietly anywhere).

The escape plan is interrupted by Miriam which leads to a fight on those dang stairs.

Miriam has turned into a real B****!

Dr. Drew is drunk and Miriam is seeing dollar signs so Velma's body ends up at her house in a tidy accidental death.  Charlotte is missing so I'm guessing she's upstairs chatting up the stuffed bird.

The next night more antics as Dr. Drew calls out to Charlotte, plays the piano then hides. (If they put people in jail who lopped off heads none of this would have been necessary).  

Charlotte finds her way downstairs and into a dream state right on queue.

Zombie Bruce Dern has one last dance.  (I'm really starting to feel bad for Charlotte).

Daddy shows up again and the guests have all lost their faces but Aldrich couldn't give me one haunted painting!

Charlotte shoots a headless Young BD! (If this movie only had Gloria Swanson it wouldn't be weird and over the top at all! Just PERFECT).

Back to reality and it appears young BD was actually Dr. Drew who was shot dead.  Oops! Miriam is freaking out.

It's the doorbell and the reporter! For people who have a history of murder and strange happenings people sure do enjoy stopping by all hours. 

A very awkward drive to the latest body dump.

Sayonara Dr. Drew!

Because Charlotte hasn't been through enough trauma to last a lifetime Miriam decides to berate her all the way home.

Because nobody stays dead in this film Dr. Drew makes another house call fresh from the pond. (I can't take my eyes off of the lily pad that was so imperative to attach to his face).

Poor Charlotte! I wish these two would leave her alone already. She's past the bend by a mile.

Once Charlotte is drugged these two start planning how they'll spend their money. We now know that the letters were sent by Miriam and not Jewel. Charlotte didn't kill Young BD but Jewel did in a jealous rage! Miriam has always known but covered for Jewel.  They better not get away with this! 

BLECH! Enough of these two and the awkward drunken groping.

Apparently Charlotte heard everything and sacrificed her favorite flower pot for a good cause!

In the end Charlotte's name is cleared as she leaves her beloved home which is surrounded by reporters and nosy neighbors.  Jewel dies after hearing the news so all is right again.  Well as right as it will ever be for poor Charlotte.  

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte Facts:

You can read more about the Houmas house where the interior and exterior scenes were shot HERE.

The young painting of Charlotte is of Bette Davis as Julie for her role in "Jezebel" 1938.  (My favorite Davis film).

Joan Crawford was originally cast as the older Miriam after her and Bette's success in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane". Unfortunately for Joan she took ill after filming started which led to a hospitalization, an issue with insurance coverage, many arguments with director Aldrich then her eventual replacement.  Of course all of Joan's footage was useless and re-shot but there is one scene when Olivia first arrives by taxi where Joan is seen in the car instead.  She's wearing a dark hat and glasses.

After Crawford left the film her role was offered to Kate Hepburn, Vivien Leigh and Loretta Young. The role would eventually go to Olivia de Havilland. Each leading lady either didn't want to star in a horror film or work alongside Bette Davis.  

Joan Crawford had it written in her contract that her trailer be placed so many yards from Bette's. Her trailer was placed in back of the house with a golf cart provided to take her back and forth for filming.

Agnes Moorehead was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the film. She did win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

This would be Mary Astor's last film. Barbara Stanwyck was originally considered for her role.

After all of the delays and re-shoots caused by Joan's replacement one last dig at her can be seen in the film. Since Joan was married to the head of Pepsi and she herself was on it's board of directors at the time. Joan had demanded Pepsi product placement in all of her films.  Aldrich has a Coca Cola truck appear in one scene when Olivia's character is walking in town.

Before Joan was finally replaced her and Aldrich's working relationship had dissolved to the point where they did not speak directly but through lawyers.  In confidence Aldrich told Bette that Joan was replaced by Olivia but Bette being her spiteful self contacted the media so Joan found out through a radio announcement.  (I'll be doing posts on Bette, Joan and Mary Astor but you can read more about Bette and Joan's long standing feud in my Franchot Tone post).

Robert Aldrich had to take a plane, train and a taxi up a goat trail to get to Olivia de Havilland's home in the Swiss Mountains. Once there it took him four days to convince her to take Joan's place in the film.

Thanks for revisiting this classic with me and please share your opinions on the film, characters etc in comments.  (Oh and Velma shredded the party dress. Nobody's perfect)!


  1. Fabulous post! I love photo reviews, I used to do them on my old blog and have a new one coming up in a few weeks. It's just so fun to revisit a film frame by frame! This is a great Psychobiddy movie, one of my favorite subgenres. I just got this one on DVD but haven't had a chance to watch it yet, so obviously I need to because it's been a long time since I've seen it and it's such a fun movie!


  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it Caroline! I can't wait for your photo blog. I'm interested to see which movie you choose. They are more work but the end result is interesting when you step back and look at which frames stood out to you while re-watching a film. : )

  3. It's cracking me up that Bruce Dern has been in both of your photo review posts. And in such different movies!

  4. KC,
    Whats so funny is I had no idea Bruce Dern was in either movie until I re-watched them to do these photo blogs! I couldn't believe it when he showed up AGAIN!
    Thanks for the very nice comment you left on LAMB! : )

  5. LOVE your site, and HHSC is one of my favorites. How did you get such clear captures?

  6. Thank you Claro. Unless you've read the Marnie post some of my comments on this review may sound a bit random. I used a screen capture program while the movie was on pause. The pictures are a bit small but can be enlarged by clicking.
    I hope you stop by regularly. : )

  7. Page, I absolutely LOVE your pictorial posts. You have a great sense of humor and irony, and had me laughing all through it. Your comments about BD's eyebrows and Joseph Cotton's lust for Olivia were a hoot! Thanks for a good laugh and a good time!

  8. Thanks Becky! : )
    I'm afraid you all created a snarky monster with that Blogathon! ha ha

    Bruce Dern showing up again had me rolling. If only Crawford had stuck with this film the snark would have been upped by the 10th degree. I could have said things like "If you would just strap Charlotte into her bed she wouldn't wander around all night"!
    This blizzardy, cabin fever has me around the bend too.

  9. OH. MY. GOD. I am addicted to this site, youre so whitty. I LOVE IT!

  10. Apollo,
    I'm glad you enjoy the site. I had a look at yours and I must say it's very appealing with the gorgeous photos (I have a soft spot for Clara Bow). then your interesting posts..

    I hope you'll return on a regular basis.

  11. I'm laughing out loud at work while reading this, and people are looking at me funny. (OK, so people always look at me funny.) Anyway, you are HILARIOUS. You need a book deal for these reviews.

  12. Classicfilmboy,
    I'm glad I could give your co-workers another reason to watch you closely.
    I'm looking forward to the Blogathon and upping the snark.
    I'm working on a couple of pictorial reviews so stay tuned.
    Oh how you flatter me!

  13. With so many stills from the movie this is an interesting and entertaining post.

    No, the choice of the usually sweet and docile DeHavilland was a lucky one. With Crawford, HHSC would have been a mere Baby Jane sequel with both in reversed roles. It would have turned out less effective.

    Have you seen the YouTube docu 'Backstory?' It features a photo of DeHavilland, Aldrich and Davis celebrating on the set of HHSC. They grin into the camera and bring out a toast with... bottles Coca-Cola.
    The day that photograph was released to the press, not a perfume flask must have survived in the Crawford home.

  14. Even if you're not particularly interested in Joan Crawford, you should visit this site

    It's an amazing 24-page encyclopaedia full of JC facts, rumours, quotes, review snippets. Once I started reading the first page, I couldn't stop. This woman was Cleopatra, Queen Victoria and Elisabeth Bathory rolled into one...

  15. deDeurs,
    I find that photo op situation pretty amusing and I'll certainly look for it on Youtube.

    Although I give Joan a hard time I actually like her very much and find her a very talented actress who truly loved her fans and worked hard at her craft.
    I will be doing a post on Joan some time in the future so please stay tuned and keep commenting. I'm enjoying your love of old Hollywood and your wealth of information

  16. Robert Aldrich also inserted a scene in Hush, Hush where a Coca-Cola delivery van can be seen. Bette's idea, and demand, no doubt.

    'loved her fans and worked hard at her craft'...

    Yes, but there was something quite obsessive about it. She wasn't so far removed from the larger-than-life diva in the movie Sunset Blvd, actually.

    She never stopped drinking, although in 1972 she said she had. I saw this (unplanned) interview during some event where she stood in a corridor. 1977 or 1976. It was the last time she was filmed. She was clearly intoxicated, and at the same time knew how to handle that. In many ways she was amazing, lol.

  17. Oh, and I don't think she was such a good actress. Which may be unfair, in her days a certain style and expressiveness was desired, which today looks stiff and unnatural and overdone.
    But Crawford didn't need to be a good actress, her sheer presence was enough...

    There's a tv interview she did years after Whatever happened to Baby Jane where the host says 'Beth Davis'. She immediately reacted with 'She'll KILL you if you call her that.'
    Not a word about their feud. But that one sentence says it all. Such class!

    There's also a video in which she does a wardrobe and hairdo screen test, from around the time she did Straight Jacket. It's quite interesting to watch. It can be found in YouTube and much more.

  18. deDeaurs,
    I feel a bit differently about Joan actually.
    I really enjoyed her in her really early films all the way back to Our Dancing Daughters then the ones she did with Gable early on.

    I think it was during the early 50's when she had no choice but to continue working that her acting wasn't up to par. Sadly most people remember Joan "the later years" and not her very successful days in Hollywood during the 30's into the 40's.
    I did look at a couple of Youtube videos of Joan that surrounded the Baby Jane and Hush Hush fiascoes and found them very interesting. Have you seen Joan's appearance on the Lucille Ball show because that really was enjoyable.

  19. Yes, and according to Lucy she was not only difficult but also loaded. So much so that Desi Arnaz freaked out. But the episode turned out quite well, after all.

    I'll have a peek at one of her early films, the only pre-BabyJane movie I saw of her is Johnny Guitar.

  20. Oh dear deDeurs!
    Surely you've seen Joan in Grand Hotel! But if you can find Forsaking All Others, Sadie McKee, The Bride Wore Red, Dancing Lady or The Gorgeous Hussy please give them a try. Joan in her early career was quite the actress.

    No wonder you feel that way if you've only seen Johnny Guitar. BLECH

  21. I HIGHLY recommend both "A Woman's Face" and "Mildred Pierce," both made when she was at the top of her acting game and hadn't yet acquired those scary eyebrows.

    I pretty much considered her a joke until I saw those two. And of the two, I preferred "Face," because she plays a scarred blackmailer. Top-notch MGM production values and George Cukor directing. You can't ask for more from a picture of that time.

    I'm embarrassed to say I STILL haven't seen "Johnny Guitar." I'm going to have to make time for that this weekend.

    If you want to see the Crawford of "Mommie Dearest," then watch her in "Queen Bee." The sets and costumes (and her character) heavily influenced Mommie D.

    Hell you have a LOT of catching up to do lol. And really you should, I'd never particularly liked her as an actress, but I'll admit freely I've enjoyed those tough dame things she did in the 40s and 50s. If nothing else, you can laugh at her hairdos and delivery.

  22. Claros,
    Are you trying to scare deDeurs away from watching Joan's old movies by mentioning her scary eyebrows and her hair? I really do like Joan's early films and then theres Mildred Pierce which I truly enjoyed then it made me become a fan of Ann Blyth.

    You two and all of this talking about Joanie makes me want to get my behind in gear and do a post on her! If only I had the work ethic and stamina of Joanie. : )

  23. No way I would want her work ethic, it's begging for trouble (and lubrication via vodka.)

    Ann Blyth's another I like. I saw her in a film years back on AMC back when it still played actual CLASSICS. "Sally and Saint Anne."

    It's a comedy with a religious theme, but nothing preachy, very low key and just plain charming.

    I don't know why that was never released on DVD, I guess because of the religious angle. Pity people get such a stick up their asses about stuff like that. It should be available for movie hogs like us.

    But if you ever get the chance, watch it if you haven't. Edmund Gwenn is in it, and if I'm not mistaken Aunt Bea from Andy Griffith (Frances Bavier -- who according to that show's cast was a terror to work with) plays her mother.

    OH and "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid"'s another I liked with her. That was William Powell's last film.

    A friend of mine got to see her at a screening of "Mildred" a few years back and said she was delightful, answering questions for the audience and not at all crazy.

  24. Claros,
    Theres a couple of clips on Youtube of Ann giving an interview and discussing working with Joan on Mildred Pierce. I have to say Ann looked fabulous even at 70. I hadn't heard that she was a crazy person or were you talking about Joan?

    I plan on doing a post on Ann in the future so I'll know a little more about her history. Perhaps I can find Sally and Saint Anne but in the meantime I actually taped King's Row and I plan on watching it this weekend. We will have to discuss it a bit later. I'm actually wanting to do a photo review of Blonde Venus now! That blonde fro needs it's own blog! Ha HA

  25. I meant Ann wasn't crazy, and that's only because I expect most old actresses to be at least a little crazy haha.

    You're gonna LOVE Kings Row!

  26. Not being able to find complete Crawford movies on YouTube, I watched a few Tributes, and yes, she was doing very well. What an incredible PRESENCE.
    There's a Mildred Pierce remake with Kate Winslet, I don't want to see it. No dount Kate does a good job, but it's sort of blasphemy. Like doing a remake of the Julie Christie/Don Sutherland movie Don't look now. The idea angers me!

    We 21st Century people have to accept that up till the 1960's, expressiveness in acting was largely based on mannerism, not realism. In playing ladies 'suffering in mink' Crawford looked absolutely stunning, that's true. I also saw scenes where she certainly convinces as the person she played. Still, these were larger-than-life performances. But such was expected from them. And she herself never wanted to be taken for real.
    'If you want to see the girl next door, go see the girl next door,' Her Majesty Joan once said, and with that she said it all.

    Johnny Guitar I saw in the seventies during a lecture on film art, and I thought, you gotta be kidding. An dreary, cheap looking movie in which she looked like a dyke (she seems to have been very proud of the film). See it for its curiosity value, Claroscureaux, but don't expect much else.

    Faye Dunaway may have branded herself with the Crawford role, she is amazing. One should see that movie in the light of classic Hollywood stardom, and á presentations of the 'typical' Diva of these days. But because of the uncanny resemblance with Joan and her name being said frequently, it's impossible to do so. Of course they couldn't give Faye an Oscar for her portrayal, but she truly deserved at least a nomination.
    It's the one time I felt sorry for her...

    Here's a great Joan the Bitch collage:

  27. Page, Vinnie and I had one of our best wedding anniversaries ever (22 years of wedding joy and merriment as of this writing, not to put the whammy on it!): enjoying an early dinner at Olive Garden, and then reading your uproarious pictorial on HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE! You really have a gift for snarky comedy. We have sore throats from laughing so hard, but it was well worth it! Great job of spreading hilarity, my friend! :-)

  28. So excited for you two! Happy Anniversary you crazy kids. Toasting you with a glass of skim milk...oh wait I can top that and I'll toast you with Almond milk....hmmm that's still pretty sad so breaking out a bottle of wine. CHEERS you two in love crazy kids.
    Wishing you many more wonderful years together not spent on my blog because that would be lame and costly for me to have Monet on hand. Ha Ha