I was watching, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, enjoying the campy wonder of it and lamenting the death of old Hollywood. Or as Wikipedia puts it, “psycho biddy…the sub-genre of horror/thriller featuring psychotic women.”
Hoping to capitalize on the success of 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? And shaving years off his life, producer/director David Aldrich rushed into production for Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. But the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was so bitter it wasn’t meant to be. Other actresses were sought out, among them Vivian Leigh, who famously 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.” Ultimately Olivia De Havilland was cast in the role of Charlotte’s elegant cousin, and foil Miriam.
Whatever happened to the biddy-psycho? WHTBJ inspired so many accolades and parodies you’d think there would be more gold to mind. But as Norma Desmond said, “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small.”
Just as I was about to give up I remembered Kathy Bates in Misery. As close to a modern day equivalent as one can find.
I chalk it up to ageism, and was reminded of the fact when I saw a commercial for ABC’s fairy tale series Once Upon a Time. I believe it was the season opener, a remake of, The little Mermaid. Gone was the wonderful campy Ethel Mermanesque Ursala, with her trademark whiskey voice, and whiskey barrel body. Replaced with a standard pretty face and a plunging neckline. Sigh. (Kathy Bates would have made a great Ursala.)