From Classic to Horror...Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Jessica Lange, and more famous actresses have run the gamut

Advertisement

In Hush, Jessica Lange revives the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? tradition of respected actresses who, after their mid-40s, decide to play maniacal or diabolical harridans in schlocky thrillers. Is this yet another sign of Hollywood’s rampant sexism? Or, on closer inspection, are these shrill melodramas so different from the sublime films that turned their female stars into movie legends? As Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) said to terrorized daughter Christina in Mommie Dearest: ”You figure it out.”

Bette Davis

Classic Role Strong-willed Southerner in Jezebel (1938, Best Actress Oscar)
Pivotal Scene All hell breaks loose when Davis shows up at a society ball in a red gown.
Schlock Role Deranged Southerner in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965)
Pivotal Scene All hell breaks loose when Davis shows up at a society ball in a white gown — with red bloodstains.

Joan Crawford

Classic Role Long-suffering wife newly sprung from a bad marriage in Mildred Pierce (1945, Best Actress Oscar)
Pivotal Scene Learns daughter (Ann Blyth) is a killer; Mommie tries to take the rap
Schlock Role Long-suffering mom newly sprung from the loony bin in Strait-Jacket (1965)
Pivotal Scene Learns daughter (Diane Baker) is a killer; daughter tries to pin the rap on Mommie

Olivia de Havilland

Classic Role Sweet steel magnolia in Gone With the Wind (1939, Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination)
Pivotal Scene Dies just as cousin Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) realizes what an angel she is
Schlock Role Seemingly sweet steel magnolia in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965)
Pivotal Scene Dies just as cousin Charlotte (Bette Davis) realizes what a treacherous lowlife she is

Tallulah Bankhead

Classic Role Vain journalist struggling to hold on to life in Lifeboat (1944, Best Actress, New York Film Critics)
Pivotal Scene In a weak moment, writes her initials in lipstick on a man’s bare chest
Schlock Role Religious fanatic struggling to hold on to her dead son’s memory in Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)
Pivotal Scene In a weak moment, smears red lipstick on her face

Joan Fontaine

Classic Role Delicate wife rattled by strange doings in Rebecca (1940, Best Actress Oscar nomination)
Pivotal Scene A sinister adversary (Judith Anderson) tries to control Fontaine but gets hers.
Schlock Role Delicate schoolmarm rattled by strange doings in The Devil’s Own (1967)
Pivotal Scene A sinister adversary (Kay Walsh) tries to control Fontaine but gets hers.

Jessica Lange

Classic Role A beautiful but unstable woman destroyed by an overbearing mother in Frances (1982, Best Actress Oscar nomination)
Pivotal Scene Receives shock treatments
Schlock Role An overbearing, unstable mother seeking to destroy her beautiful daughter-in-law (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Hush (1998)
Pivotal Scene Gives shock treatments

Comments