Dubious Tribute to Olivia De Havilland

DATELINE: Worst Movie of Her Career

Caged Lady!

Leave it to Amazon Prime to honor the memory and career of Olivia De Havilland with the worst movie she ever made.  Long forgotten, Lady in a Cage,  is one of those 1960s hag horror movies made after Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

This features Miss De Havilland who recently passed as age 104 in her attractive, dignified middle-age as a poet trapped in her million-dollar mansion in a private elevator. She is beset upon by a gaggle of horror creatures called in the trailer: the psycho, the wino, the hustler, the weirdo and the wildo.  No kidding. These low-lifes do not rescue Miss DeHavilland, but torment, torture, and drive her to the edge of insanity.

This passed for entertainment.

The following year De Havilland replaced Joan Crawford in the Bette Davis murder horror called Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,a truly dignified and marvelous murder horror. This warm-up is a cold turkey.

In Ryan Murphy’s miniseries, Feud,about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, there is a scene where Miss De Havilland tosses the script for Lady in a Cage into her trash. Apparently, she changed her mind and agreed to contractual terms. Did she need the money? Was the limelight as star so great that she tossed away all semblance of taste?

All we know is that she chose to make this horror, which horrified us.

The supporting cast is equally shocking: there is Ann Sothern, who had just come off ten years as a TV comedy sit-com star. She apparently had no scruples and appears as a fat, middle-aged prostitute. Another wasted actor was Rafael Campos whose career was playing Puerto Rican slimeballs in movie after movie. His talent was never treated properly, and in his movie debut, there is James Caan as the head monster, looking and acting like Marlon Brando. He is a young lookalike here, and ten years later ended up playing Brando’s son in The Godfather.

We do not recommend this travesty of movie shocks. If you are curious, watch the preview in which demure, attractive De Havilland as herself, talks about the message of the movie: apparently under the surface we are all animals.

Yikes.

Round Three: Bette & Joan Battle to a Draw

DATELINE: More Juice and Sauce

sarandon as davis

Sarandon as Bette Davis

With the principal photography on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane completed by the end of the third episode of the series Feud, you might wonder where the show goes from here.

During the third episode both women Davis and Crawford seem to miss working together, no matter how difficult and painful they are to each other.

Their lives off the screen became increasingly empty and lonely, alienated from their rebellious daughters, and wallowing in self-pity over growing older with little happiness to show for it.

Along the way, there are still plenty of laughs when it comes to their association. They never had a female friend of the same peerage, and however hard they knock heads, there is some respect for the other.

If anyone is the villain in this series, it is the dreaded dragon Hedda Hopper – the venomous gossip columnist who suckers in Joan repeatedly, but never Bette. She prints vile gossip wheedled out of Mommy Dearest.  Joan begins to regret most of it.

Along the way that Bette becomes quite attached to obese and gay actor Victor Buono (Dominic Burgess) and even bailed him out of jail when he’s caught in a police sting operation with a young man.

Suffering constant dyspepsia, Alfred Molina seems trapped in Robert Aldrich’s character, feeling self-loathing for his cruel misuse of the star actresses at the behest of Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci).  Aldrich’s assistant tells him that he is directing a war movie after all, though he loathed to take on such projects.

The lead performances are luminous in every case of the show, and Sarandon and Lange seem to fit into their classic star counterparts with increasing ease. The moments when Joan and Bette socialize highlight their wish for need for friends. By the end of the episode, they’ve gone to neutral corners.

Aldrich is surprised and astounded that his great actresses both were filling with energy and youth in all their final scenes, they were so enjoying the creative opportunities.

Still to come is the Oscar fight and the attempt to make another movie together that will end in utter failure. Every scene has been filled with pathos and hilarity, but surely may only resonate with those knowing Hollywood history.