Tuesday, 16 May 2017

''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'' (1964 film)- Review

Directed by: Robert Aldrich
Released: 1964
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Mystery, Psychological horror

Rating: 4 out of 5


The first season of the TV series 'Feud' chronicled the rivalry and feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and that was what made me interested in ''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte''. The early days of the production of the film has been depicted in the series, of how this film was planned as another film to star Crawford and Davis after the enormously successful ''What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?'', also directed by Robert Aldrich. However, the tension between the two stars kept increasing. Crawford, feeling that Davis controlled Aldrich and was trying to humiliate her, apparently feigned sickness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. I did not actually want to watch the film right now as, before watching it, I wanted to make myself fully familiar with the earlier works of the great stars starring in this film- besides Davis and de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Mary Astor, Agnes Moorehead and Cecil Kellaway also appear in this film. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up watching the film and admiring it.

Davis plays Charlotte. In 1927, she falls fallen in love with a married man, John (played by Bruce Dern) although she does not know that he is married. After being confronted by Charlotte's father (Victor Buono), the man, John, tells Charlotte that he is married. Charlotte is heartbroken. A party is going on in the house at that time and Charlotte appears with blood smeared on her white dress and when it is discovered that John is dead, all the people in the town starts suspecting that it was Charlotte who killed John.

Years pass. Charlotte's father has died. Charlotte is now a recluse, living all alone in the big house, tended by a housekeeper (played by Agnes Moorehead) who comes to clean the house everyday. The local doctor, Dr. Drew Bayliss (played by Joseph Cotten), occasionally visits her. People rarely go near that house as they are afraid of Charlotte. To this day, she clings to the memory of John. Threatened with the demolition of the house, Charlotte asks her cousin, Miriam (played by Olivia de Havilland), to come. Miriam comes and there is a reunion between the cousins after years. However, very soon, unexpected, startling things start happening and Charlotte keeps feeling the presence of John in the house at nights.

There is a Gothic atmosphere in some of the scenes and the film works as a perfect psychological horror. There are scenes in which Charlotte feels the presence of John and the atmosphere in those scenes are simply great. There are several twists and turns throughout the film, making the story a perfect mystery.

As for the performances, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten Mary Astor (playing John's widow) and Cecil Kellaway (who plays an investigator interested to know the real facts behind John's mysterious murder) are all great. Bette looks so very cute with her hair in those braids! Charlotte is so childlike and innocent! 

The thing about the film that keeps haunting me the most is the lovely song by Patti Page- ''Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte''. Those lyrics keep playing in my mind: ''Hush, hush sweet charlotte/ Charlotte, don't you cry/ Hush, hush, sweet Charlotte/ He'll love you till he dies/... You weep because you had a dream last night/ You dreamed that he said goodbye...'' John had written this lullaby for Charlotte all those years ago and she clings on to this lullaby just like clings on to John's memories.

''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'' is a layered, twisted and atmospheric film. I liked it very much and really admired the atmosphere.


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