Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Film ArticlesRecommended Movies Lady in a Cage (Movie 1964): Superior ‘Aging Actress’ Chiller

Lady in a Cage (Movie 1964): Superior ‘Aging Actress’ Chiller

Lady in a Cage 1964 Olivia de HavillandLady in a Cage (1964) with Olivia de Havilland, who by then had taken home two Best Actress Academy Awards: For Mitchell Leisen’s To Each His Own (1946) and William Wyler’s The Heiress (1949).
  • Lady in a Cage (movie 1964) review: Veteran Olivia de Havilland delivers a tour de force in Walter Grauman’s horror cult classic offering a side of scathing social commentary.

Lady in a Cage (movie 1964) review: Olivia de Havilland shines as the titular character in this 1964 exemplar of the ‘aging actress horror movie’ genre

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland jumped on the “aging-actress horror movie” bandwagon with two 1964 releases: Robert Aldrich’s box office hit Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, opposite Bette Davis (de Havilland was a last-minute replacement for Joan Crawford), and Walter Grauman’s lurid shocker Lady in a Cage.

Written and produced by veteran screenwriter/playwright Luther Davis (The Hucksters, Broadway’s Kismet), the latter title is far better than most entries in the genre.

Indeed, Lady in a Cage is a chilling indictment of our decadent, post-modern society where indifference and self-indulgence rule.

Unhappy Fourth!

The film begins on a long Fourth of July weekend, when an invalid woman, Cornelia Hilyard (Olivia de Havilland), finds herself stuck in her house elevator.

She sets off an alarm for help, but all she gets are society’s miscreants and social outlaws, among them Randall O’Connell (newcomer James Caan), Essie (Rafael Campos), and Sade (former RKO and MGM star Ann Sothern).

Sothern, in particular, is a delight as the dumpy slattern who comes to ransack the house, only to become a victim herself. Admittedly, there’s one thing that’s bothers me about her role: At one point Sade gets locked in a closet and is never seen again. I keep wondering whether she’s still in there.

Social unraveling

Elsewhere, a series of disturbing images illustrate the unraveling of our social structure.

Examples include a young girl sliding her roller-skates up and down the leg of a man who is passed out in the gutter, and the fact that nobody seems to notice or care when other people are in distress.

That is, not until Randall stumbles out into the street and stops traffic when his head is run over by a car.

And let’s not forget Cornelia’s remark as she watches in horror the debauchery going on before her: “We built cities and towns and we thought we had beaten the jungle back … not knowing we had built the jungle in.”

In another scene, she responds to Randall’s taunting with, “Oh, I see…. You’re one of the many bits of offal produced by the welfare state. You’re what so much of my tax dollars goes to the care and feeding of!”

Still impactful after all these years

What I also find fascinating is the relationship between Cornelia and her son, Malcolm (future All My Children actor William Swan). It’s almost incestuous the way they smooch on the lips and call each other “darling.”

In all, Lady in a Cage retains its impact even after more than 40 years. Our dependence on electric power (and energy in general) – and our social ills – are just as severe. If not worse.

So, forget It’s A Wonderful Life! Lady in a Cage is the much more memorable Holiday Movie.

Lady in a Cage (movie 1964) cast & crew

Director: Walter Grauman.

Screenplay: Luther Davis.

Cast: Olivia de Havilland, James Caan, Jennifer Billingsley, Ann Sothern, Jeff Corey, Rafael Campos, William Swan, Scatman Crothers.

Cinematography: Lee Garmes.

Film Editing: Leon Barsha.

Music: Paul Glass.

Production Design: Rudolph Sternad.

Producer: Luther Davis.

Production Company: American Entertainment Corp.

Distributor: Paramount Pictures.

Running Time: 94 min.

Country: United States.

Lady in a Cage (Movie 1964): Superior ‘Aging Actress’ Chiller” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes © Alt Film Guide.

Lady in a Cage (Movie 1964): Superior ‘Aging Actress’ Chiller” notes

Lady in a Cage movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.

Olivia de Havilland Lady in a Cage movie image: Paramount Pictures.

Lady in a Cage (Movie 1964): Superior ‘Aging Actress’ Chiller” last updated in April 2023.

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

1 comment

Gussie -

Lurid, way-out-of-left-field interpretation of “Suddenly, Last Summer”.


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More