Labor Day was actually a rather relaxing day for me. I slept in, which was lovely, and then leisurely did chores around editing and reading. I started reading Steve Berry's latest, The 14th Colony, while watching the Ole Miss/Florida State game last night, and it's off to a nice start--although I am curious what the historical puzzle in this one will be. I rented Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte on iTunes yesterday afternoon, and watched while I cleaned the floors and washed the linens.
This movie isn't quite as well known or as famous as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the previous Robert Aldrich film that was a huge hit and got Bette Davis her final Oscar nomination, but I've always preferred this one; it was more my style. It's Gothic, it's set in the South, and it's really about the long-lasting effects of a horrible, brutal, unsolved murder from the past. I also saw this one before I saw Baby Jane, on the Afternoon Movie (it was shown in two parts, I remember), and it absolutely terrified me. I've always had a soft spot for it. I remember (SPOILER) the big shock about halfway through when you find out what is really going on at Hollis House...and who the true villain of the story is.
Plus, it was filmed at Houmas House. I love Houmas House.
The story is basically this: back in the 1920's, Charlotte Hollis was the spoiled and indulged only child of Big Sam Hollis. Also living with them was their poor relation, Miriam Deering, who hated and resented both Sam and Charlotte, and was dating Drew Bayless. Charlotte fell in love with married John Mayhew, and was planning on running away with him the night of a big party at Hollis House. Big Sam found out and put a stop to it, ordering John to dump Charlotte and go back to his wife, Jewel. Charlotte met John in the summer house as planned, but John went through with his deal with Bi Sam and broke up with Charlotte, who runs away after shrieking "I could just kill you" at him. Later, someone goes to the summer house and butchers John, cutting off his head and his hand--which are never found. Charlotte later wanders into the party with blood all over the front of her dress, in shock. Everyone, of course, assumes Charlotte killed John, but she is never charged with the crime. Big Sam dies about a year later, and Charlotte continues living in the old house by herself, slowly becoming a local legend and something used to scare kids. After the scene where Charlotte goes back into the party in her bloody dress, there's a scene where some kids are daring another one of them to go into the house and steal something--of course playing up how Charlotte is a crazy killer. She hears the boy, comes downstairs calling for John, and he runs away....and she stands there, crying, as the opening credits roll.
It's a great film; as I watched it again yesterday for the first time in years, knowing how it ends and what all the secrets of Hollis House are, I was watching for the misdirection; how the director and the script makes you think one thing when the truth is actually right there in front of you the entire time. Olivia de Havilland is fantastic as Miriam, and Joseph Cotten's accent is a little overdone as Dr. Drew--but the movie is completely stolen by Agnes Moorhead as Velma, Charlotte's white trash maid.
It wasn't until many years later I learned that Joan Crawford was originally supposed to play Miriam; it was to reunite Davis and Crawford after the enormous success of Baby Jane. Crawford withdrew from the film after filming actually began, claiming illness; it's still up for debate whether she was actually ill or not. DeHavilland is terrific as Miriam, but I couldn't help but wonder how much more amazing the film would have been with Crawford in the role.
DeHavilland wasn't even second choice; that was Vivien Leigh. Again, how amazing would the movie have been with Bette Davis and Vivien Leigh? Leigh declined, however, reportedly saying, "I can't imagine seeing Bette Davis first thing in the morning for months."
And now, back to the spice mines.
I haven't seen that movie in AGES. I always preferred it to Baby Jane, too. According to Cristina Crawford in "Mommie Dearest", the mere mention of Bette Davis' name would send Joan Crawford in a rage and I recall reading something similar about Bette with Crawford's name but can't remember where.