Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Infobox Film
name = Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte

caption = Promotional Poster for "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte"
director = Robert Aldrich
producer = Robert Aldrich
writer = Henry Farrell (story & screenplay),
Lukas Heller (screenplay)
starring = Bette Davis,
Olivia de Havilland,
Joseph Cotten,
Agnes Moorehead
music = Frank De Vol
cinematography = Joseph F. Biroc
editing = Michael Luciano
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = flagicon|USA December 15, 1964
runtime = 133 min
country = USA
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:23957
imdb_id = 0058213

"Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (also known as "What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?") is a 1964 American horror film directed by Robert Aldrich. The screenplay by Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller is based on Farrell's story, "What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?" It stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and Joseph Cotten.

Plot synopsis

Charlotte Hollis (played by Davis) is a middle aged, wealthy spinster who lives in a big house on a rural Louisiana plantation in Ascension Parish that has long been in her family. The Louisiana Highway Commission intends to demolish her home and build a new highway through the property. This decision is met with opposition from Charlotte, who ignores the eviction notice and refuses to leave. She keeps the foreman (played by Kennedy), his demolition crew, and the bulldozer away by shooting at them with a rifle. They finally give up and leave temporarily.

Thirty-seven years earlier Charlotte's married lover, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), was murdered. Although the killer was never discovered, the local townspeople are convinced of Charlotte's guilt.

Charlotte herself, believing that her father (Victor Buono) killed Mayhew, became a recluse, living with her housekeeper, Velma (Agnes Moorehead), in the deteriorating Hollis mansion. Now she seeks help in her fight against the Highway Commission from Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), a poor cousin who lived with the family as a girl. Upon returning, Miriam renews her relationship with Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotten), the local doctor who jilted her after the murder.

The eccentric Charlotte becomes progressively wilder with Miriam's arrival--her nights haunted by mysterious piano playing of the song Mayhew wrote for her and by the appearance of Mayhew's disembodied hand and head. Velma, realizing that Miriam and Drew are trying to drive Charlotte completely mad in order to get her money, seeks help from Mr. Wills (Cecil Kellaway), a Lloyd's of London insurance investigator who is still interested in the Mayhew case and who has visited Mayhew's ailing widow, Jewel (Mary Astor); but Miriam kills Velma when the housekeeper tries to remove Charlotte from the mansion for safety.

Miriam and Drew trick Charlotte into shooting Drew with a gun loaded with blanks, and Miriam helps Charlotte dispose of the body in a swamp. Drew's reappearance later reduces Charlotte to whimpering insanity. Believing Charlotte completely mad and secure in her room, Miriam and Drew go into the garden to discuss what they have done.

As Miriam embraces Drew, she looks up to see Charlotte, who has overheard them, push a huge stone urn from the balcony above, crushing them to death. Later, as Charlotte is taken away by the authorities, Willis hands her an envelope from the now-dead Jewel Mayhew; it contains Jewel's confession of the murder of her husband.

Directed and produced by Robert Aldrich, it was adapted for the screen by Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller, based on the short story "Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?" by Henry Farrell.


The movie reunited two of the stars from Aldrich's "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", Davis and Victor Buono. Joan Crawford was cast to play the de Havilland role, but dropped out (see: "Production notes" below).

"Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Agnes Moorehead); Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) (William Glasgow Art Direction, Raphael Bretton Set Decoration); Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Joseph Biroc); Best Costume Design Black-and-White (Norma Koch); Best Film Editing (Michael Luciano); Best Original Score (Frank DeVol); and Best Song ("Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" Frank DeVol (Music), Mack David (Lyrics). Farrell and Heller won a 1965 Edgar Award, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. The song became a hit for Patti Page, who took it to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte" received more Oscar nominations (7) than any other horror movie ever up until that time. The record was tied in 1991 by "The Silence of the Lambs", and surpassed by "The Exorcist" in 1973 which received 10 nominations.

Production notes

Following the unexpected box-office hit "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962), director Robert Aldrich wanted to re-team stars Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. After Crawford worked only four days, she quit the film, claiming she was ill [ [ "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" at Turner Classic Movies] ] . However, Crawford can be seen in the film. There is a long shot in the beginning of the movie, when Miriam gets out of the taxi upon her arrival at the Hollis plantation, that actually shows the back of Joan Crawford's head and not de Havilland's. "When the taxi pulls up with cousin Miriam inside and stops at the foot of the steps, if you look closely before Miriam gets out you can just for a split moment see it is fact Joan Crawford in the back and not Olivia de Havilland. You can't see Crawford's face but you can tell it's her by the black dress and dark sunglasses that she is wearing. When de Havilland as Miriam is seen in the taxi before she arrives she is wearing a white hat and her clothing is light colored."

Alain Silver and James Ursini wrote in their book "Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?", "Reputedly, Crawford was still incensed by Davis' attitude on "Baby Jane" and did not want to be upstaged again, as Davis' nomination for Best Actress convinced her she had been. Because Crawford had told others that she was feigning illness to get out of the movie entirely, Aldrich was in an even worse position"...Desperate to resolve the situation, "Aldrich hired a private detective to record her [Crawford's] movements." When shooting was suspended indefinitely, the production insurance company insisted that either Crawford be replaced or the production cancelled [ [ "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" at Turner Classic Movies] ] .

Davis suggested her friend Olivia de Havilland to Aldrich as a replacement for Crawford after Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyck turned the role down. The cast also included Mary Astor, another friend and former co-worker of Davis' during her time at Warner Bros. [ [ "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" at Turner Classic Movies] ] .

The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Moorehead, her fourth in the category.

Principal cast

*Bette Davis .... Charlotte Hollis
*Olivia de Havilland .... Miriam Deering
*Joseph Cotten .... Dr. Drew Bayliss
*Agnes Moorehead .... Velma Cruther
*Cecil Kellaway .... Harry Willis
*Victor Buono .... Big Sam Hollis
*Mary Astor .... Jewel Mayhew
*Bruce Dern .... John Mayhew
*George Kennedy .... Foreman

Critical reception

In his review in "The New York Times", Bosley Crowther observed, "So calculated and coldly carpentered is the tale of murder, mayhem and deceit that Mr. Aldrich stages in this mansion that it soon appears grossly contrived, purposely sadistic and brutally sickening. So, instead of coming out funny, as did "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", it comes out grisly, pretentious, disgusting and profoundly annoying." [ [ "New York Times" review] ]

"Variety" says, "Davis' portrayal is reminiscent of "Jane" in its emotional overtones, in her style of characterization of the near-crazed former Southern belle, aided by haggard makeup and outlandish attire. It is an outgoing performance, and she plays it to the limit. De Havilland, on the other hand, is far more restrained but none the less effective dramatically in her offbeat role." [ [ "Variety" review] ]

"Time Out London" says, "Over the top, of course, and not a lot to it, but it's efficiently directed, beautifully shot, and contains enough scary sequences amid the brooding, tense atmosphere. Splendid performances from Davis and Moorehead, too." [ [ "Time Out London" review] ]

Judith Crist, on the other hand, says about the film, "The guignol is about as grand as it gets".


*Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Agnes Moorehead)
*Academy Award for Best Original Song (Frank De Vol, music, and Mack David, lyrics, for "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte")
*Academy Award for Best Original Music Score
*Academy Award for Best Film Editing
*Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black and White
*Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Black and White
*Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black and White
*Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture (Moorehead)

DVD releases

"Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" was first released on DVD on August 9, 2005. It was re-released on April 8, 2008 as part of "The Bette Davis Centenary Celebration Collection" 5-DVD box-set.


External links

* [ "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte"] at Internet Movie Database
*amg title|1:23957|title=Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte

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