Yes, despite her sweet reputation earned from famous roles in Gone with the Wind (1939) and The Heiress (1949), De Havilland is supposedly something of a wild cat. This nature flares forth, to various degrees, in some of her latter day film projects.
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). In this semi-classic of Gothic Hag Horror, De Havilland is confused Bette Davis’ concerned cousin. Yet, her clipped control when her true intentions are revealed is chilling – resulting in one of De Havilland’s most significant, eternally nightmarish performances. Film buffs, of course, are aware that De Havilland took over this role from an ‘ailing’ Joan Crawford. Director Robert Aldrich was hoping to achieve the success of his previous collaboration with Davis and Crawford, 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? This was something that he was able to do without Dame Joan’s participation, though. This film ultimately went on to be hyped as the first horror production to receive 7 Academy Award nominations.
Lady in a Cage (1964). As a well-to-do writer trapped in a home elevator during a power outage, De Havilland gloriously revels in a bit of over acting here. Whether steamily composing poetry in her head or reverting back to her ‘cave man’ instincts, De Havilland’s grand dame is always rich with emotion. Of course, as Lady in a Cage is part social commentary, part youth revolt film and part suspenseful woman’s picture, De Havilland’s over indulgences don’t read as too out-of-the-ordinary here. The film’s director, Walter Grauman, also includes some amazing images. The shot of a young black girl carelessly running her roller skates up and the down the leg of a passed out drunk is both odd and forever poetic. A blonde, often shirtless James Caan appears here, in an early role, as well. As one of the rebellious thieves who threaten her character’s life, he ultimately feels the blinding wraith of De Havilland gone wild!
The Swarm (1978). As a Southern belle school superintendent, Lady Olivia is part of a quirky love triangle here. Demurely romanced by cowboy superstar Ben Johnson (Terror Train) and television dad Fred MacMurray (whose moral murkiness in Double Indemnity had long been overshadowed by his stint on My Three Sons), De Havilland is full of cute coyness.
Her melodramatic wail after witnessing the school yard aftermath of an attack of deadly bees is so hysterically round, though, that it is this Irwin Allen opus’ penultimate image. You have to hand it to Allen, though. This wildly ridiculed epic spares no age group – including our sticky sweet romantic trio – from its wrathful sting!
One can experience De Havilland’s cry heard ‘round the world at the link, below:
Be sure to check back often for further explorations of the mighty mistresses of terror.
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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!!!