It’s A Superstar “Feud!”
My wife Alex and I are loving the new FX series “Feud”, highlighting the Hollywood battle between screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The show is currently airing, and showcases these legendary Actresses trying to make a comeback in 1962 with the horror film “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?”
Their feud while making the movie was legendary, and led to the new FX series called “Feud”, starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange…who are phenomenal in the roles…
The surprise success of the film led to a string of “old lady horror” films, including another from Bette Davis, who discarded Crawford and made the smash hit “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte”:
Davis was on a roll, chewing up the scenery – and her co-stars! Take a look at this terrific movie trailer from that time:
This was another smash hit – and over the next decade, some great Hollywood Actresses jumped on the bandwagon – let’s take a look!
Hey, Old Ladies! Calm Down!
Hey, it’s two crazy old ladies fighting! What’s up? And how does it lead to THIS???
Wait, Debbie Reynolds? In a horror film? What’s going on here? Oh, and can someone PLEASE calm Shelley Winters down?
Introducing Classic Old Lady Horror!
If you have not seen any of these movies – and these performances, you are missing out on some of the most entertaining “B” movies ever made – and great opportunities for America’s finest Actresses to bare their teeth! It was a fascinating trend in film in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Let’s look at some classic “old lady horror”!
First, the question:
“What Makes Her Garden Grow? Wouldn’t You Like To Know?”
Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?
Oh, it’s EXACTLY what you think! I mean, in a world where “Soylent Green” is people, what do YOU think makes her garden grow? Oscar winners Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon team up for a gem of a horror film – check out the trailer:
As “Aunt Alice”, Ruth Gordon applies for the job of housekeeper in the Arizona home of widow Claire Marrable in order to find out what happened to a missing widowed friend.
As you can see, a very whacked out Geraldine Page plays widow Claire. The crazed Page, left only a stamp album by her husband, takes money from her housekeepers, kills them, and buries the bodies in her garden. A perfect setup for a classic horror film!
Remember that Page later won an Academy Award as Best Actress in 1987…and here she gets the chance to showcase her scenery chewing ability…
Claire Marrable: You are the only mistake I made.
Alice Dimmock: Didn’t you ever think you’d be found out?
Claire Marrable: No and I won’t be.
Alice Dimmock: Giving yourself away like that…
Claire Marrable: To you? You are a dead woman.
Alice Dimmock: Oh no, I’m alive. See, I’m very much alive. And I’m not gonna be your next victim!
This is a terrific poster as well – memorable imagery for classic horror! And remember, Ruth Gordon ALSO WON AN OSCAR – doing a horror film – for “Rosemary’s Baby” – check out my story on that film here!
Shelley Winters Bites Down HARD!
Now, time to move on to a classic “scenery chewer!”
“Aunt Roo is a witch!”
She sure is! Shelley Winters stars in this little-seen horror film, and she doesn’t leave a single scene unchewed!
Who Slew Auntie Roo?
Shelley Winters is evil Aunt Roo in this take on “Hanzel and Gretel” – note that the poster says “Who Slew Auntie Roo?” but the trailer says “Whoever Slew Auntie Roo”…whoever, whatever, check it out!
This is a retelling of the old tale of Hansel and Gretel, but set in England in the 1920s. To the children and staff at the orphanage, Auntie Roo is a kindly American widow who gives them a lavish Christmas party each year in her mansion.
In reality, she is a severely disturbed woman, who keeps the mummified remains of her little daughter in a nursery in the attic. Of course she does! I mean, look at crazy Shelley Winters!
To paraphrase The Doors, “The men don’t know but the little boy understands…”
Katy Coombs: You said she was going to eat us.
Christopher: She was, later.
Again, classic poster art sells this as another “crazy old lady” horror film!
Finally, let’s check out a film that offers a chance for Debbie Reynolds to get into the horror game!
“I offered you my blessing. You refused it. Now move along!”
What’s The Matter With Helen?
Yep, it’s crazy Shelley Winters again, but this time she tangles with “America’s Aging Sweetheart” Debbie Reynolds!
Set in the 30s, Helen and Adelle are two women whose sons commit a gruesome murder. After their conviction, they move to Hollywood change their names and open a dance school for girls. Adelle is looking for a good life and when one of the parents of her students who is wealthy takes a liking to her she thinks she’s got it made.
Calm Down, Shelley!
Helen is the crazy one, and she thinks that someone who blames them for what their sons did is stalking them. But Debbie Reynolds, as Adelle – thinks it’s all in her mind. Time for some blood to flow!
According to Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Winters’ psychiatrist advised her not to portray a woman having a nervous breakdown because, at the time, she was having a real-life nervous breakdown. “She’s the kind of actress who becomes the part she’s playing…” said Reynolds, “so all through the film she drove all of us insane!”
Shelley Winters decided that after they came in from the rain, her Helen character should have a moment when she kissed Debbie Reynolds Adelle character on the lips. This unscripted moment was filmed but removed from the final print of the movie to avoid attaining an R-rating.
Another classic movie poster – and a fun movie once again starring two of Hollywood’s classic movie stars, in roles you don’t think of them for!
And thanks to MGM, you can get two of these gems on one double bill DVD!
The tragic deaths of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher make the HBO documentary on their lives even more poignant…see more about it here:
Let me know what you think of “granny horror!”
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