This is the tale of a wealthy southern spinster Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) who lives with her eccentric maid (Agnes Moorehead) in a decaying southern mansion, shunned by the townsfolk after the mysterious axe-murder of her late lover. When her jealous cousin (Olivia de Havilland) and her cousin's wily husband (Cotton) arrive for a visit, the two conspire to drive Charlotte insane and have her committed so the two can sell off her estate and pocket the proceeds.
Bette Davis is an elderly Southern recluse slowly being driven mad. Fearing that her home may soon be demolished to make way for a new road, and at the same time exposing an ancient murder, her relatives start to gang up on her. What do they want? And why are they trying to convince her that she's mad?
Poor Charlotte Hollis. She's been shunned by the community for decades, ever since the fateful night in 1927 when her lover was hacked apart with an axe. Her antebellum southern mansion is slated for the bulldozer, as it stands in the way of highway construction. Charlotte's only hope lies in her cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), coming down from up north to help settle things. Miriam, however, has other designs. Together with her boyfriend Drew (Joseph Cotten), she embarks on a scheme to systematically drive Charlotte out of her mind (not a great leap) and get her mitts on the family fortune. From there, things only get more complicated. Charlotte puts the "gothic" in southern gothic, as a great showcase for completely bizarre, overwrought, and out-of-control performances from all involved. Agnes Moorehead plays Charlotte's loyal, dishevelled housekeeper to the hilt, with an odd inflection that calls to mind Amos and Andy more than southern gentility. As the drunken, conniving Dr. Drew, Cotten's accent is indeterminate at times, and seems to come and go. As great as the supporting players are, though, the crown goes to Bette Davis as the shrieking Charlotte, a portrait of isolation and decay stuck in a world of tragic delusions inside her crumbling mansion. De Havilland is a close second as the scheming Miriam; the scene where she slaps the holy snot out of a hysterical Charlotte is itself worth the price of admission. Mary Astor (in her last role) and Cecil Kellaway (as a kindly Lloyd's of London adjuster) put in the only performances with any restraint, acting as counterweights for the rest of the cast. Besides, you'll never get another chance to see Joseph Cotten playing the harpsichord and singing, or caked in mud and lily pads! With Robert Aldrich's claustrophobic direction, Charlotte is as Southern as a field of kudzu, and as subdued as a train wreck. --Jerry Renshaw
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.