What an entertaining movie! It's the Southern setting that gives the film its potent flavor, with that overwrought plantation house, the Southern accents, the small town gossip, antebellum attitudes, and the music at the party in 1927. The script's dialogue also reflects this Southern tint. Mournfully reflecting on the past, Sam Hollis (Victor Buono) says near the beginning: "My daddy sat out there on that veranda; let this whole place slide to dust; when he died there was nothing but debts and dirt; I touched that dirt and made it blossom".
The story's theme is a preoccupation with the past, with ghosts not properly buried, and with family secrets, repression, and subterfuge. Charlotte (Bette Davis) is a pitiful woman because she is not rational. Like her daddy, she can't let go of the past. Living all alone in that big house with just her housekeeper Velma (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte obsesses about bygone days. But if her own delusions contribute to her misery, she at least has the presence of mind to understand that those who come to visit her may not have her best interests in mind, hence the story's conflict as she attempts to fight back.
All of the major roles are ideally cast. I would not have made a single change in casting. Acting trends a tad melodramatic at times, but that's part of the fun. Agnes Moorehead gives one of the great supporting performances of all time. And Olivia de Havilland, with her vocal inflections, shrewd smile and stylish behavior, adds elegance that contrasts nicely with the shabby and humorously uncultured Velma.
B&W cinematography also contributes to the film's high quality. Dramatic lighting, interesting overhead camera angles, lots of interior shadows, and quick zoom-ins all add visual interest.
Plot structure is okay, but the runtime is a bit lengthy. I wish they had edited out some of the campy scenes in the second half.
"Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte" is a grand movie, with grand actors and grand moments. The story contains mystery, spine-tingling suspense, and it veritably drips with Southern angst. Though the film is a tad campy in a few spots and is a bit long, nevertheless it's wonderfully entertaining.