movie stars

Film Review: Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

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4 of 5 stars to Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, a drama released in 1964 about the eccentricities of a southern woman who has lived in a house for over 50 years, afraid to ever leave the confines of home. Full of macabre, murder, intrigue, over-the-top drama and campy cult phenomena, this movie is a must see for anyone who loves older/classic movies with a bit of fun humor.

charlotte

Why This Movie?

I began watching “Feud,” the Ryan Murphy TV series depicting the famous rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. In the second to last episode, Crawford and Davis agree to make a follow-up movie to “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?,” but Crawford later drops out due to issues with other people on the set. Olivia de Havilland steps in, at Bette Davis’ request, thus fueling the feud of whether Joan quit or was pushed out due to her antics on the set while in Louisiana. I had to see the actual movie and watched it this last Saturday evening.

I’ve been to the plantation where it was filmed in Louisiana, and it’s a pip! There is a room dedicated to Bette Davis, as well as other famous things from the time period. Plus it’s a very dog-friendly place! Go check it out here.

Image result for houmas house

Overview

When the film begins, it’s the mid-1920s at a party in a southern plantation. The audience learns that Charlotte, a 20ish girl, has been having an affair with her neighbor, but he is married. Charlotte’s cousin, Miriam, tells Charlotte’s father about the affair, and he forces the neighbor to end it. As the party comes to an end, we see someone approach the neighbor with a hatchet. And then the neighbor’s hand and head are chopped off.  In the next scene, Charlotte enters the party, covered in blood, leaving the audience to assume she is the murderess.

The movie then jumps forward 50 years when Charlotte, now a recluse living in the same house, is being forced to move off the property when the government is trying to take her property to build a highway and a bridge. She asks Miriam, who’s moved away, to come home and help fight the town and sheriff. Charlotte is a bit off-her-rocker, shooting at the workers and cops to get them off her property. Dr. Drew, her friend from childhood, is trying to keep her calm until Miriam returns. Once Miriam does, a week passes by where the 3 of them, plus Velma, Charlotte’s friend and housekeeper, work together to try find a solution. But Charlotte begins to see her former lover’s dead body and head rolling around, thinking he might be alive sometimes, dead at others. She is eventually sedated by Drew, as she’s going quite loony. All the time, the audience questions whether her imagination is running wild or if someone is playing tricks on her. And if someone is, could it be Velma, Drew or Miriam…

Rather than spoil the ending, all I will say is: You find out who murdered the neighbor. You meet the neighbor’s wife, who is still alive. A newspaper man comes snooping around to see if he can figure out who the murderer is. And someone else is killed. It is really very clever and funny.

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • Bette Davis is absolutely the star with her over-the-top performance. You really can’t tell if she’s crazy or playing crazy most of the time. You feel bad for everyone taking advantage of her. You almost want her to shoot the sheriff or workers and get away with it. And when you see her in the ending, there is still a little bit of… “what’s going on here…” momentum. Though she plays a bit of a similar role to others she’s played before, it’s still a really good performance. Her eyes are magnificent.

  • OTHERS
    • Olivia de Havilland is a close runner up to my favorite. She is also adept at playing the fine line between caring cousin or possible snake in the grass. You can’t quite tell until about 2/3 of the way thru when you know who is really behind all the drama, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers… Olivia was the second actress to play this role. Joan Crawford was originally cast and worked several weeks into the shooting before she left the set. I liked seeing the differences between Olivia in this role and in her role in Gone with the Wind, where she played another cousin, Melanie. And the actress is still alive (2017) living in France.
    • Joseph Cotton plays Dr. Drew. I’d never seen him before, but he did a fine job. He has an interesting speaking voice, and I couldn’t quite see a lot of range from him in this role. He seems to be most known for his role in Citizen Kane.
    • Agnes Moorehead plays Velma. She was a bit over-the-top, too, but quite amusing. I love her as Endora in Bewitched. She plays a little crazy in her role, but has a wonderful scene where she’s emotionally wrought and trying to get help for Charlotte.
    • Cecil Kellaway plays the interested reporter. I know I’ve seen him before, but I can’t be sure where it was. Looked it up, but nothing rings a specific bell. He’s most known for his role in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which I’ve also not seen.
    • Victor Buono plays Charlotte’s father. I saw him in “Baby Jane” and thought he was good. I was very amused at the actor portraying him in Feud. Buono’s role in this movie is relatively small, as he appears in the first 15 minutes in the early scenes before the film hops to what was then current times.
    • Mary Astor, of the famous Astor family, plays the neighbor’s wife. She was very good. I enjoyed her sarcasm, wit and portrayal of the disadvantaged wife. She has a great scene with Cecil Kellaway, when she asks him to deliver a letter to someone after her death. I knew there was more to that part of the story, and it comes back in the end when Cecil finally hands the letter to someone.

The Good or The Bad

  • Only Agnes Moorehead was nominated for an Oscar, but she didn’t win. No other awards, which is sad… but I haven’t see any of the films that were produced that year… so I can’t quite say if it was a good decision. Will get back to you!
  • Bette Davis calls someone a “bitch” in the movie. I didn’t think they said those things back in the ’60s in regular movies. Shocking! But great scene.
  • It borders on being campy, which was kinda fun. It was a little too silly with the rolling head, but I totally understand they had limits back then on what they could show and how good productions were. Today, it would be all gore… It was considered a “B” movie at the time.

  • Some of the gas-lighting scenes were so silly, I couldn’t hold the laughs in. That’s why I felt it bordered on camp. But it wasn’t as prevalent back then as it is now, so it probably added to the suspense more than looking at it 50 years later.
  • The fall down the stairs for the second murder victim was good camera work. But always leaves me wondering… would someone really die immediately from that? It didn’t look like the victim had a neck injury. But drama is drama…
  • I tried to picture Joan Crawford in Olivia’s role. I could see it for part of the time, but I’m not sure Joan could have played the full-on subtlety that was needed.
  • As far as it being 50+ years old… it kept my attention the entire time. Never any slow parts. Never any unwatchable parts. That makes it top notch in my book.
  • The only reason I didn’t give it a 5 was due to the slight campy nature and the over-played scenes when it came to deaths or murders. It’s more of a comedy than a drama to me, but I know Hollywood wouldn’t have called it that in the 1960s.
  • If you love old Hollywood or fun intrigue, give it a chance. If you pick things apart too much, avoid it.

What’s Next?

  • Olivia de Havilland was a surprise for me. I liked her in Gone With the Wind, but now that I’ve seen a second movie with her, with different range, I’m curious… so I plan to look up her filmography and pick something. Any suggestions?
  • I hadn’t realized Agnes Moorehead was in films as well as TV Shows. I might take a look at her credits, too.

  • It reminded me of Hitchcock… and someone I follow on here published her monthly biography which was focused on Hitchcock. Will probably pick one of them.
  • I need to write up a review of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud,” probably later this week.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

 

Film Review: All About Eve

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4+ of 5 stars to All About Eve, a drama about an aspiring actress and her obsession with a famous star set in NYC in the 1950s, starring many famous actors and actresses of the decade. The film is also highly praised and considered one of the best movies of the 20th century, which makes it a classic everyone must enjoy.

Why This Movie?

Several weeks ago, I began watching “Feud,” Ryan Murphy’s TV series about the famous feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’m a big fan of Ryan’s shows, and I’d also seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” many years ago, enjoying Bette Davis’ performance. And then there’s that time I took a a trip to visit Houmas House, the Louisiana plantation where “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” the follow-up to “Baby Jane” also starring Bette Davis, was filmed.

It was Saturday night, last night, and we had plans for an old movie and some friends. And by friends, I mean drinks. Started with Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale. Later switched over to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon to go with the skirt steak chimichurri I made. I was searching for “Rebecca,” but couldn’t find it, so we settled on continuing the Bette Davis experience; hence, we chose “All About Eve.”

Film Overview

Margo Channing is a famous Broadway actress dating her director, Bill Simpson, and currently starring in “Aged in Wood.” Her playwright, Lloyd Richards, writes the parts for her, but most of the time, the main character is mid-20s, despite Margo recently turning 40. Margo’s best friend, Karen Richards, stumbles upon a beautiful young girl, Eve Harrington, standing outside the theatre, claiming she likes watching Margo leave each evening. Karen likes her and brings her inside to meet Margo, and they all quickly become friends. Eve moves in with Margo as her second personal assistant, as Margo already has right hand woman, Birdie.

Over a few months, Eve becomes an essential part of Margo’s life, handling everything from remembering Bill’s birthday to dealing with all Margo’s fans. Birdie suspects something is funny about Eve, but no one believes her. Soon after, Margo finds Eve starting to get too close to Margo’s life and tries to put up a few road blocks. Margo’s friends, Bill, Lloyd and Karen, start seeing the jealous side of Margo and set up a trap to teach her a lesson. Unfortunately, Eve ends up the winner as a result, suddenly finding herself as Margo’s understudy and starring for Margo one evening when Margo’s stuck in the country. Eve’s popularity quickly rises with the help of a critic, Addison DeWitt, and Addison later catches on to Eve’s tricks.

The movie closes with Eve winning an award for her performance in Lloyd’s newest play, finally starring an “age-appropriate actress” according to DeWitt’s newspaper column. But Eve realizes not everything she’s gone after is worth the trouble it’s caused her, leaving her open to another young ingenue who begins to play the same game with Eve — now in the role of woman blind to someone clearly ready to pounce.

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE (in this movie)
    • Bette Davis plays Margo Channing. Bette was fantastic. Now seeing her in two movies, and Susan Sarandon’s performance of Bette in Feud, it seems like Bette always plays the same roles. She’s fantastic at them, but it makes me wonder if she was typecast. I remember Madonna’s song “Vogue” mentioning Bette Davis, and there was the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” which had a number of popular versions by various singers in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, Bette didn’t win the award for this role, but she was nominated for a Best Lead Actress Oscar. Rumor has it, the results were impacted because her co-star, Anne Baxter, was also in the category and split the votes. I’m gonna have to look that up…

  • OTHERS
    • Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington. She’s really good and I could very easily see the line she toed playing obsessed but sane, loving but a charlatan, coy but venomous. Was nominated for the Lead Actress Oscar.
    • Celeste Holm plays Karen Richards. Good performance. First exposure to her. Was nominated for the Supporting Actress Oscar.
    • Gary Merrill plays Bill Simpson. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • George Sanders plays Addison DeWitt. Good performance. First exposure to him. Won Best Supporting Acting Oscar.
    • Hugh Marlowe plays Lloyd Richards. Good performance. First exposure to him.
    • Thelma Ritter plays Birdie. She was funny. I liken her to Joan Crawford’s assistant, Mamacita. Was nominated for the Support Actress Oscar.
    • Marilyn Monroe has a small role — nothing to really comment about.

The Good and The Bad

  • All About Eve is based on a short story, ‘The Wisdom of Eve’, written by American author Mary Orr [1910-2006]. Thanks IMDB!
  • It’s in black and white, so you have a certain amount of charm and imagination.
  • For a film nearly 70 years old, it had tons of drama and caustic dialogue.

  • The plot was very strong, and it had a few side-stories which kept everything moving along. Never felt bored. Had a few moments of “are you serious,” but then I realized it was 70 years old… so it was a bit of a pioneer.
  • The whole “Eve wins an award” plot seemed a little far-fetched, as well as why Addison chose to support her, knowing she was playing a game the whole time. I thought he had more honesty about him.
  • I’d have liked to see what happens to Margo afterwards… did she have more plays? Did she move to a different playwright? Did she and Bill get married? Why was she OK with Bill working on the play with Eve?
  • I thought we should have seen a fight between Margo and Karen, especially since Karen’s the root of all the evil: Karen brought Eve to meet Margo, Karen told everyone to trust Eve and Karen setup the situation which led to Eve starring in Margo’s play.

What’s Next?

  • Since I’m on a Bette Davis kick, I think I’ll take a look at another film she starred in, “Dark Victory.” And of course, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”
  • Anne Baxter’s performance was also really strong. I will probably see what other movies she made…
  • This is a movie with powerful and strong women, especially for the 1950s. I think it’s got lots of chutzpah.
  • It’s not about crying when someone takes something that belongs to you. It’s about standing up and fight for yourself. I like it!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I watch TV A LOT. I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. This site, https://thisismytruthnow.com, is where you’ll find TV & Film reviews, book reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

Review: I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball

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I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball
I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball by Lee Tannen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Lee Tannen‘s I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball. After reading mostly fiction for the last few months, I took a right turn towards memoirville and settled on reading about a star whose many TV series are among my favorites. Who hasn’t watched an episode that’s nearly 65 years old and not fallen in comedic love? It was power of Lucy that healed me when I stayed home sick from school as a child. Tannen helps give readers and fans alike insight into a woman who was known by all but perhaps really known by little.


Summary

Tannen’s memoir explains his interactions with Lucille Ball over a 30 year period. As a child, he met her a few times when post-Desi Arnaz, she married into Tannen’s extended family; however, it was when he was older, and Lucy was in her 60s, that they rekindled their relationship. Tannen describes how they spent time in LA, NY and Palm Springs over holidays and vacations. He provides good examples of how a star held her private life close while still staying popular in the headlines. And he reveals why Lucy stopped talking to him for a few years over what he thought was just a small little tiff.


Strengths

Tannen digs deep and talks about many of the people (stars and regular folk!) who passed through his time with Lucy. Some of it makes you laugh, some of it makes you cry. I never realized how many other stars Lucy socialized with or acted with in her later years — ranging from Shirley Maclaine to Roseanne Barr to Sigourney Weaver! And when Lee talks about Lucy’s friendship with Tommy Tune, I couldn’t help but smile. Tommy Tune lives on my block in NYC and I often see him walking about!


Weaknesses

While I wouldn’t call it a weakness (perhaps just a suggestion), I think the book could use a better timeline. From the start, you know Lee met Lucy when he was a young child where he became fascinated with her life and career. And you know he grew up while Lucy became a big star; however, the years when they weren’t friends are left too blank. It may have been helpful to add in a little background — even though it wouldn’t actually be a memoir during that chapter — as it would round out the experiences they each had throughout the 50 years of life they shared the planet together, especially while they were apart. It isn’t necessary but might give the reader a little more sense of Lucille Ball’s full life as opposed to just the later years.


Final Thoughts

For anyone who wants to see a different side of a star, discover a few bizarre habits or read about someone they admired on TV for years, this is a definite read. You’ll hear names of stars you never knew or hadn’t realized lived so closely to Lucy. It’ll make you smile and reach for the TV remote control to find an all-day I Love Lucy marathon.

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