Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte… more Psycho-Biddy love!

a better title than, "Shut the F*** up, Sweet Charlotte!"

I am new to the term Psycho-Biddy, but this kind of film has been one of my favorites since I was young. I think the most famous might be Mommie Dearest, but especially during the 1960’s, aging stars were clamoring for these roles. First, let me acknowledge that without the right analytic eye, these movies could certainly be interpreted as anti-feminist. The message is, that unwed women in their older years are CRAZY, and will probably come at you with an axe.

Agnes Moorehead plays Charlotte's bitter housekeeper. She got an Oscar nod for this!

Hmmm… of course I don’t believe that, but another aspect of these films, usually, is the woman has experienced a trauma or mental break in her youth. Certainly, they’re convincing motivators for therapy. Last week, I blogged about the movie Strait-Jacket, starring the lovely Joan Crawford. In that film, Joan’s character is healed through the power of therapy, and describes the institution she was committed to as awful, but necessary. The treatment of mental health by physicians has always been touchy, at best. Women, especially, have been abused and deemed incompetent in making decisions over their own minds and bodies.

Bette Davis wielding a rifle! All is as it should be...

That being said, we can relate to these crazy ladies swinging the axe down on the society that has done them wrong. We cheer for them when they fire the pistol, or set the estate ablaze! In this case, it’s Bette Davis, back to unreality. Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte is about a young woman, who is a happy member of a prominent Southern family. One night, her lover, John Mayhew, arrives at family party to announce to Charlotte that he wants to elope with her. Charlotte’s father, pulls John aside, and confronts him. He knows that John is already married! OMG! So, John pulls Charlotte away from the party, and tell her that he no longer feels for her. Charlotte trots off heart broken, and in moments John is savagely murdered! Of course, everyone suspects Charlotte.


Many many many moons later… Charlotte is a wealthy recluse, and living with her devoted maid, Velma. The big evil government is going to bulldoze her her family mansion to build a highway. Decrepit, and mentally failing, Charlotte, fires a rifle on the sheriff when he tries to evict her. An elderly Bette Davis with a shotgun is no joking matter, by the way! It’s scary… and beautiful… all at the same time. She doesn’t want to lose her home, so she calls on her cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland). Miriam was taken in by Charlotte’s father when she was young, because her immediate family was extremely impoverished. She did not inherit any of Charlotte’s father’s money, however. This is a clue to unravelling what’s going on in this twisted Southern tale of murder, and psychosis.

Olivia's character seems so sweet and kind... Can there be sweet characters in these movies? Yes... they all die.

So, Olivia de Havilland replaced Joan Crawford in the picture. Joan quit, feigning illness. After the director hired an investigator, it was revealed that Joan wasn’t sick at all. In reality, she was upset that Bette Davis had upstaged her in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and didn’t want it to happen again. I’m sure some of the cast was relieved when she quit, because part of every Joan Crawford contract was to keep the set at freezing temperatures. She felt like it made her skin look young. She also demanded that Pepsi products be placed throughout the film, because she sat on the board of directors. To spite her, Aldrich (the director) filmed a Coca-Cola truck driving in one of the scenes. Anyway, Joan quit, and about six other famous actresses turned the role down. Vivian Leigh supposedly said, “I can just about stand to look at Joan Crawford at six in the morning on a southern plantation, but I couldn’t possibly look at Bette Davis.”

Such CATTINESS! I adore it! Olivia took the role at Bette Davis’ urging. Olivia wasn’t a B star though. She played Melanie in Gone With The Wind, among other famous roles.

Gruesome Mutilation? As opposed to charming.. or tasteful?

This movie opens with a bang, and closes with one. The middle of the movie does drag a bit, but trust me, it’s worth it to persevere. It received many Oscar nominations, and did well at the box office. Since part of the focus of the movie is that it’s set on a southern plantation, I decided to re-watch the film looking for overt racism. It’s there… you don’t have to look. Wealthy families in the south seemed to never get over emancipation. It’s interesting to think about this movie in association to the civil rights movement. Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte came out in 1964, the same year we passed the Civil Rights Act. The federal government couldn’t enforce desegregation until then.

Anyway, this movie is a trip… a twisted one.

Watch it HERE!

Someone PLEASE do this in Portland!

Also.. apparently, some drag queens put on a play version calling it “Hush Up! Sweet Charlotte!” All I could find is a clip, but it looks amazing!

Watch the clip HERE!

Well, you all have a lovely day, and tune in next week, where I PROMISE not to talk about a movie in the Psycho-Biddy category. .. sorta promise…

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