Monday, August 3, 2009
The Divine Feud
After the success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Robert Aldrich hoped to recreate the magic of pairing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford together in his next film, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Crawford agreed to the role, on the condition that she, and not Davis get the better lines and most flattering camera angles. Aldrich agreed. The stars both reported to work and publicity shots were taken (above) and some opening scenes filmed.
However on the fourth day of production Crawford bowed out of the film claiming illness. This left Aldrich in a pickle - how do you torment Bette Davis bat shit insane without Ms. Crawford? After it was ascertained that Crawford wouldn't be returning, her role of Miriam was offered out to several Hollywood's "red giants" with Hepburn, Stanwick and others all turning down the chance to play second fiddle to Davis. When asked if she would consider playing Miriam, Vivian Leigh said that "I can just about stand to look at Joan Crawford at six in the morning, but not Bette Davis." At this point even Gary Merrill couldn't pull that off.
In the end Olivia DeHaviland landed the role of Miriam. However this raises the specter of what the film would have been like if Aldrich could have dumped Davis at this point and signed Joan Fontaine instead? Now that would have been something.