Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

In producer/director Robert Aldrich's follow-up film (and a sequel of sorts) to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) - a gory, suspenseful Southern Gothic crime-horror drama and psychological thriller:

  • the film's pre-credits prologue set in 1927, regarding the Hollis family who lived in an ante-bellum mansion located in Ascension Parish, Hollisport, Louisiana; patriarchal father Samuel Eugene 'Big Sam' Hollis (Victor Buono) was chastising John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), the philandering husband of Mrs. Jewel Mayhew (Mary Astor in her last film), for wanting to elope with his young Southern belle daughter Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) during a dance the next evening; he vehemently objected to their affair: "This house, this plantation, this whole damned parish belonged to my family before your people stepped aboard the stinkin' cattle boats that brought 'em to this country. Don't you dare talk back to me, boy! My family's seen this state crawlin' with lousy carpetbaggers that knew more about behavin' like a gentleman than you do! I can't even look at Charlotte without ugly thoughts rip my guts. I'd sooner it had been one of my field boys. I could have killed him. Do you know what it's costin' me not to kill you? My daughter and Jewel Mayhew's husband. You gutless, soft, sucklin' swine! My daddy sat out there on that veranda, and let the whole place slide to dust. When he died, there was nothin' but debts and dirt. I touched that dirt and made it blossom. I fought to keep this house and to bring it back up. I don't have a son to give it to. Only Charlotte. And she ain't gonna give it to you. You ain't gonna have my home or my child. I created both and I'm gonna keep 'em. I ain't watched over my girl all these years to have some, to have some, to have some creature like you take her away"
  • in the opening scene set the next night during the dance, married lover John broke the news to Charlotte that they had to break up ("I made a mistake, Charlotte, that's all. Don't cry. Look, I know it's no consolation to you, but I really loved you at one time. Try and understand that. I really loved you"); she was devastated by the news, and stomped off: "I could kill you!'; then, in a graphic and brutal murder scene, John's right hand was severed by a meat cleaver (wielded by an unseen figure seen in dark shadows), and then he was beheaded - blood splattered on a white marble statue of a cherub (or cupid)
John Mayhew's Murder by an Unseen Assailant
  • the sight of Charlotte, who returned to the party in progress and walked in with a huge blood stain on the front of her white dress; her father approached and solemnly told her: "Charlotte, honey, you come with me now....Come with me, baby" before a fadeout
  • later, newspaper headlines from 1927 exclaimed: "GRUESOME MUTILATION MURDER - Parts of Body Missing", and "SOCIALITE LOVE TRIANGLE BARED"; Charlotte claimed that she had discovered John's decapitated body in the summer-house gazebo; although she was the prime murderess suspect and assumed to be the guilty one, she was acquitted; Charlotte feared that her father had killed John (and subsequently he had committed suicide)
  • flashforward to 1964: the aging Charlotte was still residing in her childhood bayou home, having turned demented, eccentric, reclusive and sheltered; she was known to fire her shotgun at road construction crew workers led by a foreman (George Kennedy) - due to ongoing efforts of the Louisiana Highway Commission to evict her and tear the home down in order to build a road and bridge
  • the deranged Charlotte was cared for by longtime, loyal, 'white trash' housekeeper Velma Cruther (Agnes Moorehead); Charlotte's close childhood cousin Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland) was also called to the decaying plantation home to help; meanwhile, she rekindled a relationship with longtime local family doctor Dr. Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotten)
  • visiting Englishman Harry Willis (Cecil Kellaway), curious about the decades-old murder, conducted an insurance investigation; he was invited to tea on the outdoor veranda of ailing, tired widow Mrs. Jewel Mayhew, Charlotte's cynical age-old rival; she admitted her imminent death: "I'm not a well woman. You can see that much for yourself. Who was it said, 'This long disease, my life'? Well, it's, it's comin' to an end. Perhaps a month, a few weeks. Who knows?...I think I'm even glad" - she handed Willis a envelope - not to be opened until after her death: ("You'll know what to do when the time comes, or what not to do"); she then added wistfully: "Ruined finery. That's all I have left. I'm, uh, stony broke - is that the phrase? It's a relief to admit it"
  • the sequences of Charlotte's tormented hallucinations and nightly hauntings - she called for "John" at night, heard a harpsichord playing one of John's songs written for her, and experienced sights of Mayhew's disembodied hand and meat cleaver - and his head rolling down the stairs
  • the sequence of the death of Velma, who suspected that Miriam and Dr. Drew Bayliss were conspiring to drug Charlotte to inherit her estate and to drive her insane; she frantically tried to rescue Charlotte and help her escape from the house; she asked: "What's goin' on up there that you don't want me to see?", but Miriam smashed a chair over her head and pushed her down the spiraling staircase to silence Velma's suspicions and interference forever
Murder of Housekeeper Velma by Miriam
  • the scene of the two-faced conspirators who tricked Charlotte into shooting and 'killing' Drew (the gun had blanks in it); the two drove off with the body in the back seat, as Charlotte complained: "Miriam, I can't touch him. Don't make me do it, Miriam"; Miriam berated and snarled back at Charlotte: "Get out. Do what I say!"; the two rolled the corpse down a hill to bury it in muddy swamp water; as they drove back to the mansion, and Charlotte was wimpering - claiming that she couldn't lie to authorities if they found the body and asked her questions, Miriam scolded: "Will you stop that?"; then, Miriam abruptly stopped the car, and repeatedly slapped the cowering Charlotte across the face: "Damn you! Now will you shut your mouth? You'll do as I tell you. And if I tell you to lie, you'll do that too. I'm never going to suffer for you again. Not ever. Do you understand?"
  • the scene of Drew's 'return from the dead' in a muddy suit; at the top of the stairs, his muddy feet and trousers had left a trail of footprints - to her horror, Charlotte crawled backwards down the stairs, emitting feral sounds and screams
  • the film's major plot twist: Miriam's revelation to Drew that in 1927, she had witnessed Jewel Mayhew murder her own husband John, and had been using it as blackmail against Mrs. Mayhew (and Charlotte) for many years
  • the great climactic sequence when Charlotte overheard Miriam and Drew's plotting, embracing and kissing; she crushed both of them to death by dropping a huge stone urn with a potted plant onto their heads from the balcony above them
Charlotte's Murder of Miriam and Drew as They Embraced
  • in the conclusion, as Charlotte was driven away (possibly to be a suspect and charged with murder for a second time), Willis handed her Mrs. Mayhew's envelope: ("Miss Hollis, this letter's for you. I think you've been waiting a long time for it") with the written confession that Mrs. Mayhew had murdered her husband John; upon hearing of Miriam's and Drew's deaths the night before, Mrs. Mayhew had suffered her third stroke and died that morning

'Big Sam' Chastising John Mayhew For Elopement Plans with His Daughter Charlotte

Charlotte Implicated in Murder of John Mayhew

Years Later, the Deranged Charlotte

Family Doctor Dr. Drew Bayliss and Charlotte's Childhood Cousin Miriam

During an Investigation, Mrs. Jewel Mayhew's Prediction of Her Coming Death

Charlotte's Hauntings Regarding John's Murder

Conspiracy of Miriam and Drew to 'Murder" Dr. Bayliss and Blame Charlotte

Dr. Drew Bayliss' 'Return from the Dead'

Concluding Scene - Charlotte Received Mrs. Mayhew's Confession in Envelope


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