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Shall We Get Our Grande Dame Guignol On?
We do not talk enough about Shelley Winters' contribution to the genre
Hello and happy weekend!
Since it’s October, I figured I should keep it spooky! So this week … you’re getting some Grande Dame Guignol.
Not this kind of Grand Dame, mind you.
Just pretend you get that, okay?
Grande dame guignol is my all time favorite horror genre, best exemplified by the classic Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford …
As well as practically all of their other work from their later years, including Joan’s William Castle period and Bette’s Hammer Films period.
But we, as a society, do not talk enough about Shelley Winters’ grande dame guignol period — largely, I assume, because many of her movies from this era were all or mostly “made for TV.” This does not mean, however, that they were not awesome and fabulously campy. So I thought I’d bring you a few that you can watch later, for free, at your own leisure.
First we have, actually, one of the many (lesser known) spiritual sequels to Baby Jane, and also written by Henry Farrell — What’s The Matter With Helen? It also stars Debbie Reynolds and Agnes Moorehead, includes a super creepy version of “Goody, Goody,” and a child doing a Mae West impersonation and is generally just awesome.
Next, we have one of the TV movies she was in — The Devil’s Daughter (available for free on Vimeo, which doesn’t load in Substack, apparently!). In this, she plays the leader of an evil Satanic cult, trying to play matchmaker with her estranged cult friend’s daughter.
And, of course, there is The Initiation of Sarah, in which Winters plays the highly sus den mother of a college sorority that just so happens to have just admitted a girl with magic psychic powers. Morgan Fairchild also stars (in this and in the remake!)
I just really do think Winters was shockingly good at being convincingly creepy while still doing high camp and in fact like her work from this period better than I like some of her work from her heyday (although obviously Night of the Hunter is a jam, as is A Place in the Sun).
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