Saturday Film Score: “Sweet Charlotte” by Jo Gabriel * Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte

“Sweet Charlotte” by Jo Gabriel from my Gothic Neo-Classical album  The Last Drive In

Tribute to the great Bette Davis! and her performance in the Grande Gothic Cinema piece by director  Robert Aldrich

Grande Dame/Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema Part VI conclusion: Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte “Ruined finery…that’s all I have left”

THE VISUAL NARRATIVE “Ruined Finery”

Continue reading “Grande Dame/Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema Part VI conclusion: Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte “Ruined finery…that’s all I have left””

Grande Dame/Guignol Cinema: Aldrich’s Hag Cinema: Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte Part IV “Murder starts in the heart and it’s first weapon is a vicious tongue”

HUSH…HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) – Continued

Charlotte is sipping her coffee and hears a car pull up. She’s holding her shot gun. She sets the china cup down and starts to get up, moving toward the door, we hear a small bird chirping, then the police vehicle is coming up the drive encircled by glorious oak trees. Charlotte closes the door and runs to the great hall calling “Velma!” Velma comes to the top of the banister looking through the wooden slats down at Charlotte. She hangs over the edge “What?” in a long drawn out suspension of the word.

Velma is unpretentious and could be perceived as a crude woman. She’s like an unmade bed or someone who looks like she just rolled out of one, and she doesn’t throw away her words. She strong, sensible and reliable. Velma, disheveled, unkempt by the years of working as a caretaker to her Miss Charlotte, is misleadingly simple yet she is sturdy and obviously faithful to her mistress. Continue reading “Grande Dame/Guignol Cinema: Aldrich’s Hag Cinema: Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte Part IV “Murder starts in the heart and it’s first weapon is a vicious tongue””

Grande Dames/Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema Part II: Baby Jane: “You mean all this time we could have been friends?”

“Lunatics are similar to designated hitters.Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can’t go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside” -Suzanna Kaysen from Girl Interrupted (1993)

*This is featured as part of my Women in Peril series*

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane (1962) Directed by Robert Aldrich. The film Stars Bette Davis, Joan Crawford Victor Buono, Marjorie Bennett, and Maidie Norman as Elvira

“But you “are” Blanche, you “are” in that chair!”~ these are the words I often utter to myself or amongst friends, merely cause it tickles me.

I could question whether or not Aldrich made these films as a vehicle in which to translate the lives of the psychologically intricate , often tragic women which he viewed through a sympathetic lens, or perhaps some of his female driven films are an exercise in misogyny.

So was he a misogynist? Perhaps some might find the portrayal of his female characters unattractive, or maybe he didn’t differentiate between his male and female roles. He was definitely more focused on both genders’ struggle. These outliers of society who couldn’t simply fit in, so if the film’s driving character happened to be a woman then it would stand to reason she would also be an outcast or damaged in some way. If he did make a distinction as to the gender, he was mostly preoccupied with the character’s system of dealing with the obstacles they faced in their lives. It does appear that his “women” usually are the solitary focus, while his “men” are framed as groups of men trapped by precarious situations.

Robert Aldrich is still one of my all time favorite directors.

Aldrich always brings us a story that is cynical and gritty with very flawed characters who are at the core ambiguous as either the protagonist or the antagonist. Aldrich studied economics in college, then dropped out and landed a very low paying job at first as a clerk with RKO Radio Pictures Studio in 1941.

He studied with such great directors such as Jean Renoir and it was his training in the trenches that made him the auteur he is, delving inside the human psyche and questioning what is morality? Aldrich went on to become the assistant director, script writer and associate producer, to various filmmakers whom were later on targeted by the black list.

Aldrich has a flare for the dramatic, he likes to break molds and cross over boundaries. He also has a streak of anti-authoritarianism running through the veins of his films. There aren’t just traces of his ambivalence toward the Hollywood machine in his film philosophy, he also conflates the ugly truths beneath the so called American Dream and the “real” people who inhabit that world.

He died in 1983, And while he remained inside the Hollywood circle, he maintained an outsider persona. He memorialized the misfits and outcasts by making them the anti-heroes in his work, all of which ultimately were destined to fall because they refused to play the conformity game. Continue reading “Grande Dames/Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema Part II: Baby Jane: “You mean all this time we could have been friends?””

Grande Dames/ Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema “But you *are* Blanche, you *are in that chair” Part I

What Ever Happen To Baby Jane (1962)

At the start of Baby Jane the screen is pitch black, we can hear a child sobbing. The 1st prologue begins 1917. The screen still blacked out, we hear a man’s voice say “Don’t you want to see it again,little girl?” This is setting up an eerily invasive narrative as we do not know yet if it is something sinister making the child cry. The male voice adds “It shouldn’t frighten you” then a quick jump cut and we are able to see a Jack in the Box toy popping up, causing terror in the child. Now we actually see the little girl staring at the toy with tear soaked cheeks as she gasps for air.The toy has disturbed her with it’s quick movements and odd expression. There is a shot of its peculiar face which has an uncanny shedding of tears down it’s tin cheeks. The use of children’s toys in horror films has often been used as a mechanism to evoked fear or otherworldly dread in us, as if they might embody some incarnate evil. Here is a great link to Horror Film History’s website.

http://www.horrorfilmhistory.com/index.php?pageID=childsp

Next we hear vaudeville music and see Baby Jane Hudson’s name up in lights on the marquee of the theater. The theater is sold out, Jane is tap dancing in spot light, to Stephen Foster’s “Swanee River” in front of a packed house.Her father is waiting off stage with Blanche and their mother. He is rallying her with encouragement from the wings while the wife looks solemnly at him, simultaneously young Blanche is looking at him with resentment. Both figures are feeling left out. Young Blanche is played by Julie Allred who was marvelous as little Priscilla in the Boris Karloff Thriller episode Mr.George.

Mr Ray Hudson played by Dave Willock comes out to a cheering audience holding a banjo, and tells the crowd okay folks one final request. A little freckle faced boy stands up and requests “I’ve Written A Letter To Daddy” And so the lights dim and father sits at the piano to accompany his little girl on this very popular tune.The voice has such a warbling vibrato that it makes little Jane sound bizarre and incongruous (no offense to the singer Debbie Burton) as a child’s voice. She sings with such a sugary exaggeration. Jane’s got the affected style of performer down to all the over reaching body gestures indicative of a ham. Holding the letter to her heart, kissing it, looking upward toward the ceiling sky. “And wish you were here with us to love” as she sings this line she wraps her arms around herself clinging as if the embrace a lover but meant for her father.

Mr Hudson, Jane’s daddy comes out from behind the piano and joins his daughter in a dance,which make them appear as if a romantic couple. From the side of the stage we see the expressions on Mrs Hudson’s face and young Blanch , there is obviously no room in the father and Jane’s relationship for either sister Blanche or the mother.

After the performance a little boy runs on stage and hands Jane a replica Baby Jane doll of her very own. Jane’s daddy is a showman all the way, “folk’s have you ever seen such a lovely doll” (he in fact has objectified his daughter, as well as exploited her for profit “a genuine Baby Jane” doll. “And kids remember you can tell your moms that each and every one of these genuine beautiful great big dolls is an exact replica of your own Baby Jane Hudson.” Continue reading “Grande Dames/ Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema “But you *are* Blanche, you *are in that chair” Part I”