How Successful Was 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'? The Film Helped Change Perceptions About Horror
On Sunday, April 23, the Feud between Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford will come to an end, as the hit FX series airs its Season 1 finale. Just because the season is wrapping up doesn't mean fans won't be left with lingering questions though, like just how successful was Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte?
The answer to that question isn't simple. While the Bette Davis led horror film didn't make the same box office splash as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, it did earn a whopping seven Oscar nominations in 1964. At the time, no horror film had ever earned that many nods from the Academy. The film was also met with near universal critical acclaim, with the only major dissenter being The New York Times' film critic Bosley Crowther. The critic took particular aim at director Robert Aldrich. Crowther wrote,
"For some unaccountable reason—maybe simply because Baby Jane was popular and successful as a sort of Grand Guignolish thing—Mr. Aldrich is being touted as a brilliant director in Hollywood. His achievements to date, as I see them, are a couple of second-rate freaks."
His sharp words were not enough to tank Davis' project though. Despite the tabloid talk about the way Crawford was replaced after barely a week on set, Davis and co-stars were not overshadowed by the gossip. Quite the opposite, reviews for their work praised the daring nature of their performances, as well as Aldrich's directing style.
Davis didn't earn an Oscar nomination for the film, but her co-star Agnes Moorehead did. Moorehead was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and went on to win a Golden Globe for her performance. The film was also nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Score, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography at the Oscars. Notably, the film's screenwriters took home the 1965 Edgar Award for best screenplay.
Despite favorable reviews and award season love, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte wasn't the universal hit that Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was. Instead, the film is more notable for helping to pave the way for horror movies to attract big stars and be taken seriously by the critical community — things the genre still struggles with today.
Ultimately, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte was a solid film, but it could never fully escape the shadow of Davis' contentious team-up with Joan Crawford in the macabre hit, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.