Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte

dir. Robert Aldrich

TIFF Cinematheque - Hollywood Classics

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Bette Davis reunited with director Robert Aldrich following their unexpected hit What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? for another mossy modern Gothic, about a reclusive Southern spinster who becomes the target of a murderous family plot.
"Davis has done nothing better since The Little Foxes," averred none other than Kenneth Tynan about the star's performance in this follow-up to the immensely successful What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which was intended to reunite the director and stars of that unexpected hit; however, Joan Crawford dropped out soon after filming began, fearing that Davis would once again upstage her. The best of the mossy modern Gothic genre, Hush opens in 1924, as heiress Charlotte (Davis) prepares to elope with a man her daddy despises; when her beau ends up beheaded, everyone blames the blood-soaked and bewildered belle, even though the murder is never solved. Four decades later, Charlotte has become a Southern Miss Havisham, a recluse living in her decaying mansion with only her housekeeper (Agnes Moorehead, snacking on whatever scenery is left over) for company. When Charlotte asks a poor cousin (Olivia de Havilland, in the role originated by Crawford) to help in her battle against the state authority that wants to send a highway through her place, the dotty old dame becomes the victim of a plan to drive her insane and grab her land. Death and dismemberment again become the order of Charlotte's day. Evocatively shot in what Davis called a "dark, glittering style" and acted way past the hilt, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte won critical accolades and seven Academy Award nominations.