Monday, May 7, 2012

Bette Davis


In 1964 Robert Aldrich cast me as the Psychiatrist who escorts Charlotte (Bette Davis) to the nut house  in the now classic 20th Century Fox film, HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE.  Because I was handling all of the local casting on this film, I was on the set every day. Bette and I became fast friends.

One day on the set I saw this ancient looking elderly woman in a ratty print dress, a floppy sun hat, big sun shades and a Kodak Instamatic Camera tethered to her arm. I went up to her and said "Is that YOU?" She swung around with her finger over her lips and said "Shhhh, I don't want anyone knowing it's me. On my days off I love to mingle un-noticed and eaves drop." And indeed her anonymity remained protected for the duration of the shoot.
 

My scene with her involved my escorting her from the house (Houmas House) down to an awaiting car. Wes Addy was the sheriff and he would ride in the front seat while I sat in the back seat with her. At Houmas House the circular drive was about an eighth of a mile long from the house to the River Rd. It was July and with the Klieg Lighting pinned to the car's headliner, that little trip was brutally hot. Between my feet was a battery which was used to supply power to the lights. It had an ON and OFF switch. When I heard "cut", I switched off the battery.

After this first take, when the car was returned to the front of the house, an electrical grip reached in and saw that the switch was off. He said "Who switched off the battery?" to which I said "I did when I heard 'cut'". He said "You can't do that. That's my job." to which I said "I heard CUT, so I switched if off." He and I went back and forth until Bette gently grabbed my arm and said "Don't argue with him. I'll take care of it."

So on the next take, when we heard CUT at the end of the drive, she said "We're going to walk back." Remember this was about an 1/8 mile to the front of the house.  So we started a leisurely walk back.  She asked about all of the shrubs and flowers and about the history of Houmas House.   We simply engaged in small talk as we slowly returned.  Just before our arrival she said "The battery issue will be resolved. We've cost them about $10,000." On our return, Aldrich came up to me and said "Jerry, you can switch off the battery when you hear CUT."

Then Bette patted my arm and said "Told ya."




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