Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)

“Why wouldn't I tell him that his pure, darling little girl was having a dirty little affair with a married man?”
“You're a vile, sorry little bitch!”

My god I do not even know where to start with this post about Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte because IT WAS SO DAMN AMAZING!! For a few days this past week I house sat for my brothers’ friends parents and they have a small movie theater in their house (Jealous? Me too). The dad is an old movie freak which I absolutely loved. I came across Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte which I have been meaning to see because Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis, and Joseph Cotton are in it. Let me just say I was happy the one son was out at the time because I was going crazy! The film is brilliant in every single way.
            Bette Davis plays the title character. Charlotte has been shut away in her home for several decades. She has been the talk of legend in her small Louisiana town since the late 1920s. The legend goes that Charlotte was set to runaway with a married man named John. Her father forbid them from doing so. The father had  weird relationship she wanted to keep her on the plantation that he had and have her run things when he was gone. The night that John went to Charlotte’s was when they were going to runaway after a party that was being held. That night the legend was born that Charlotte in a fit of rage and sadness took a knife and cut of John’s hand and his head.
            Forty years later the past begins to be dug up again as an insurance claims man named Harry (Cecil Kellaway) comes from Lloyds of London to investigate the unclaimed life insurance policy of John. Harry finds Charlotte living alone with her maid and only trusted friend Velma (Agnes Moorehead). The land her old plantation home has been on for generations is being taken over by the county to build a new highway. Time again Charlotte has fought off the workers and this time she shoots at them with a shot gun. The chief of police comes by telling Charlotte she has no choice but to move.  To help her move Charlotte wrote a letter to her cousin Miriam (de Havilland) to come to the house. The house is just as Miriam remembered it after so many years of being away.
            The more Miriam comes between Charlotte and the way she has lived her life for so many years the more we see her fall to pieces. Little by little Miriam brings out the past: she was supposed to marry the town doctor Drew (Joseph Cotton) but he could not marry her after what Charlotte did and the biggest part of the past that is brought to the surface is that Miriam was the one who told Charlotte’s father about her affair with John. One day in town Miriam sees John’s wife Jewel Mayhew (Mary Astor). She goes up to the woman has been very sick to talk to her. Jewel practically spits venom yelling at Miriam to go away saying that she has done enough to her over the years and wants to be left alone.
            As the days and nights go by strange things begin to happen at the house. Charlotte wanders downstairs in the middle of the night thinking she hears John playing the old harpsichord and another night she thinks she sees her father and in a fit breaks all the mirrors. Miriam begins to believe that Velma is playing tricks on her to get her to leave the house and Charlotte. In retaliation Miriam fires Velma. Velma sees there is something sinister going on between Miriam and Drew to drive Charlotte out of her mind. The maid goes to the police but they do not do anything which makes Velma try to take matters into her own hands. She tries to take Charlotte away one day but Miriam catches her and pushes the old maid down the stairs. Drew helps her to make it look like Velma fell in her own home in an accident.
            Miriam and Drew continue to play evil tricks on Charlotte. They have a head made to look like John’s and Miriam has it fall out of a box and onto the floor by Charlotte’s feet. The last one is truly cruel: in the middle of the night Charlotte has a nightmare and walks downstairs. She has a gun in her hand and freaked out that someone is in the room with her shoots. She shoots a real person and the person was Drew. Miriam hears the commotion. She sees that Drew is dead and makes her cousin go along with her to get rid of the body. Charlotte is like a scared little kid and Miriam the big bully. The next night Charlotte awakens and walks out to the porch on the second floor to see her cousin dancing with Drew who faked his death.
            Throughout this maze of a story Harry comes to learn several things about Charlotte that he never knew before. He also comes to find what really happened the night John died.
            This film is way too amazing to give too much detail and to give away the ending.
            I do not even know where to start with how incredible this cast was. Bette Davis was boss! I love seeing her as bat shit crazy characters because she played them very well. From the moment she comes out with the shot gun shooting the construction workers she is just awesome and owns the film. Olivia de Havilland hands down takes this film. Take the sweet adorable wonderful Olivia de Havilland from her films like Gone With the Wind, Fours a Crowd, The Strawberry Blonde and completely get those characters out of your mind. You know an actress/actor is good when you get so used to seeing them in a certain type of role then you see them in another and they blow your mind with their awesomeness and that is exactly what de Havilland is in this film. Miriam is a sinister- I repeat sinister- character. That is definitely not a word often used to describe the type of characters we are so used to seeing de Havilland play. Joan Crawford was supposed to play Miriam and even filmed a few scenes before she had to back out. Crawford would not have done as well nor have been as believable. I think she would have made the character of Miriam very campy. Joseph Cotton was sinister too along with creepy. But is there any better Joseph Cotton than a creepy sinister one? I think not. Agnes Moorehead freaked me the hell out. The more films I see her in the more wacked out and scary she is. But I have to hand it to her she really was a good actress because she played women that were so ugly and so freakish at a time when top billed actresses were supposed to be glamorous no matter what their characters were. Moorehead was excellent at slipping into characters no matter what they were and seemed not to care what she looked like as long as she was getting the character across. This film was Mary Astor’s last film of her very long career. She was nothing short of brilliant as she was in her earlier films.
            Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever seen. It does have its plot holes and at times things get a bit difficult to follow but for what it is, the film is amazing. As soon as the film was over I wanted to watch it again and show it to my friend. I was thinking about the whole next day and just wanted to talk about it with someone.  The cast was so well put together and perfect in their roles. The direction by Robert Aldrich was fantastic he did a great job of building tension with his shots and angles. If you have yet to see Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte get on the ball with seeing it you will not be disappointed.