Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Movie Review

As moviegoers were recovering from the shock of watching twin gorgons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford claw their way through the unforgettable Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, producer/director Robert Aldrich was already planning to capture lightning in a bottle twice by coming up with another vehicle for the gruesome twosome. In the end, Crawford wouldn't commit (no big surprise, given the way Davis upstaged her), so Aldrich ran through a roll call of aging leading ladies, none of whom had the desire -- or the guts -- to appear opposite Davis in his follow-up, the delightfully named Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Luckily, Olivia de Havilland eventually signed on, and the film, a campy Southern gothic thriller that scares and amuses in equal parts, finally got made. Davis stars as Charlotte Hollis, a decrepit and slightly insane Southern lady who 30 years earlier murdered her boyfriend John Mayhew (Bruce Dern)... maybe. The weapon? An axe, what else?

Charlotte has more than a few screws loose, and it's up to her well-meaning cousin Miriam (de Havilland) and her doctor, Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotten), to come to her rescue when she's in danger of losing her plantation in a bad real estate deal. But the longer they hang around the house, the crazier Charlotte seems to get. She starts having scary flashbacks and visions, and the creepy music swells and the camera angles go wild and the sharp black and white cinematography gets blacker and whiter.

In a nod to her Baby Jane role, Davis gets dolled up in pigtails and a girl's party dress as her nighttime wanderings get increasingly spooky. Could it be that perhaps cousin Miriam and the good doctor don't really have Charlotte's best interest at heart? Could it be that Charlotte isn't nearly as crazy as she thinks she is? Could it be we'll see an axe again in the third act? What do you think?

Hush... Hush is a Grand Guignol romp from beginning to end, and Davis gets credit for giving it her all, as do her co-stars, all of whom, including Agnes Moorehead, were amazingly willing to risk their reputations and their integrity by appearing in what is essentially well-shot schlock.

Long after you've watched the movie you'll be haunted by the soundtrack, which was composed by the legendary Frank DeVol and features the title song, sung by a children's chorus to give it the feel of a twisted nursery rhyme: "Chop chop, sweet Charlotte/Chop chop till he's dead/Chop chop, sweet Charlotte/Chop off his hand and head." Yikes.

That's not how you climb down stairs, Bette.


Comments

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 1964

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