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.


  1. As much as I think Joan would have been fab as Miriam, she was clearly ill at ease and off her game during the filming - you can tell it from the photos taken on the set, wardrobe tests, etc. She also looked surprisingly frumpy in her "glamorous" outfits, which was completely out of character for J.C. Davis and Aldrich must have completely worn her down, because for an old fighter like Crawford to basically bow out and wave the white flag is also tremendously out of character.

    Having said all that, I adore Olivia in the finished film. She strikes the ideal note of silken bitchery, of piss and vinegar bubbling underneath all the honey.

  2. Agreed. Aldrich gave up a lot to get Crawford on the set. And if she hadn't been ill, there would have been a nasty drawn out airing of dirty laundry. But I love this picture.