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Trivia / Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte

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  • Actor Allusion:
    • The painting of the young Charlotte is of Bette Davis's character in Jezebel.
    • Bette Davis had also played a depressed spinster called Charlotte in Now, Voyager.
  • Actor-Inspired Element:
    • The title would originally have been the same as the original book (What Ever Happened To Cousin Charlotte?) but Bette Davis felt that was too similar to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Hearing the lyrics in the song written for the film, she suggested that as an alternate title.
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    • As noted below, when Olivia de Havilland came on board there wasn't enough time to have Miriam's costumes redone. So Olivia supplied them all from her own wardrobe.
  • California Doubling: Partial aversion. Exterior scenes were shot in Louisiana, while interiors were shot on soundstages in Los Angeles.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Bette Davis's son Michael Merrill claims that his mother had this about the film - especially the scene where the severed head rolls down the stairs.
    • Olivia de Havilland didn't think much of the final film either, calling it 'reverse typecasting'. She found Miriam to be a bland villain with generic motives.
  • Follow the Leader: It was especially made to cash in on the success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
  • The Other Marty: Joan Crawford was originally cast as Miriam. Two weeks into production, she fell ill (or claimed she had) and it was clear she'd need to be recast. Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn both declined the role, and Olivia de Havilland came on board instead.
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  • Playing Against Type: Olivia de Havilland had carved a career out of playing The Ingenue or sweet good girls. Playing a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing like Miriam is drastically different.
  • Production Posse: Robert Aldrich carried over three (at first) cast members for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono.
  • Reality Subtext: A reference is made to Bette Davis's famous lawsuit with Warner Bros. When Harry Willis describes what Charlotte was wearing at the murder trial, his description matches what Bette was wearing the day she arrived for her court date. What's more is that Harry says Charlotte's trial was held in London, as was Bette's in real life.
  • Troubled Production: In contrast to the rather smooth production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, production of Charlotte was deeply problematic because of the Crawford/Davis issues.
    • Baby Jane had been a surprise hit, and so the studio wanted nothing more than to get the two aging divas together again. Henry Farrell, whose novel had been the basis for that film, had an unpublished story perfectly titled "Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?", with a similar plot where one woman manipulates an unsuspecting female relative for personal gain. It was agreed that this time around Joan Crawford would play the villainous Miriam, attempting to manipulate her titular cousin (Bette Davis) out of the estate she had just inherited. Robert Aldrich agreed to direct the sequel, and the script was duly written.
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    • However, between the films came that year's Academy Awards. Davis was nominated for Best Actress for her Baby Jane turn, while Crawford was not. Resentful about this, she went to all the other actresses nominated and offered to accept the award on their behalf in the event they could not attend the ceremony in person, something Davis did not hold against her as it was simply courteous (and of course also because Davis was pretty sure she would win her third Oscar for the part). On the night of the ceremony, as luck would have it, Anne Bancroft was on Broadway and couldn't accept her award for The Miracle Worker, leaving Crawford to go to the stage, and later pose holding the statuette with all the other acting winners as if she had won, while Davis seethed in the audience.
    • Davis believed that Crawford had somehow manipulated the Oscar vote so that she could upstage her costar and longtime rival one more time. She insisted that if she were to do Cousin Charlotte, she would have to be a producing partner. In an Ironic Echo of the question Crawford had asked Aldrich before taking the Baby Jane part, Davis asked Aldrich if he was sleeping with Crawford.
    • Crawford, who years later admitted her drinking had "crossed a line" during Baby Jane, proved to be very difficult on set - turning up with about twenty suitcases for one week's worth of location shooting in Baton Rouge, and forcing the wardrobe mistress to have to iron many chiffon dresses in the 100-degree weather. Crawford also refused to work longer hours, and eventually stopped speaking to Aldrich at all - forcing him to communicate through her make-up artist. Not helping matters was Davis throwing a few barbs at her during filming, and Davis basically forcing all the crew, some of whom had worked on pictures with both her and Crawford in the past, to declare which side they were on. Given Crawford's behavior, many who had originally sided with her began supporting Davis.
    • On the last day of location filming, Crawford fell asleep in her trailer, in case she was needed for some extra takes, and woke up hours later to find that the crew had all packed up and left her behind. She was convinced that Davis had arranged this.
    • Back in Los Angeles, after learning from her lawyer that there was no way out of her contract for the film, she took sick and would not show up on set. At first she was faking, hoping this way to force changes to the script, but then really did become sick, although doctors could not diagnose it. Production was suspended through summer 1964; a month after coming back from Baton Rouge she was able to return to work for one day before telling Aldrich it had been too much. When she hemmed and hawed out of letting the studio doctor examine her, Aldrich hired a private detective to follow her around and see if she was really sick (It didn't work ... Crawford managed to lose him fairly quickly).
    • Pretty soon the insurance company and the producers sat down with Aldrich and gave him an ultimatum: Either you replace Joan Crawford or we shut production down and call this a loss. He decided on the former option. However, recasting the part proved harder than expected. Katharine Hepburn wouldn't even return the call; Vivien Leigh famously said "No, thank you. I can just about stand looking at Joan Crawford's face at six o'clock in the morning, but not Bette Davis." So too did Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyck, both of whom were friends of Crawford.
    • Finally Aldrich was down to Olivia de Havilland, whom Davis herself had suggested, the last actress the studio would accept in the part. She had retired to Switzerland, and getting to her home to talk to her was no easy feat; he had to take three planes, a train and taxi up a goat trail to get there. It took him four days to convince her to sign on. As there was no time to have Miriam's costumes redone, Olivia supplied most of them from her own wardrobe.
    • Crawford complained later that Aldrich didn't even have the integrity to call her up and tell her she was fired; instead she heard about it on the radio in late August. She never again took a role in a serious film, finishing her career over the next six years with some B-grade horror films she did strictly for the check.
    • On the first day De Havillandnote  was on the set, she and Davis toasted with Cokes (a dig at Crawford, who was on the board of Pepsi due to her late husband having been an executive there). The film, retitled to reflect that it was no longer a retake on Baby Jane, did moderately well, even gaining some Oscar nominations, although it was not the phenomenon Baby Jane had been.

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