The Bad Seed


2h 9m 1956
The Bad Seed

Brief Synopsis

A woman suspects that her perfect little girl is a ruthless killer.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Sep 29, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 13 Sep 1956
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Bad Seed by Maxwell Anderson, as produced on the stage by The Playwrights Company (New York, 8 Dec 1954), and the novel of the same name by William March (New York, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 9m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Angelic Rhoda Penmark, an eight-year-old with blonde pigtails, seems the perfect child. An excellent student, she is extraordinarily well-mannered and never looks unkempt in the party dresses she always wears. To make her shoes last longer, she thoughtfully asked to have metal plates put on the soles, and she charms her happily married parents, Kenneth and Christine, with cloyingly sweet affection. When Kenneth, an Air Force colonel, is ordered to the Pentagon for several weeks, Christine and Rhoda stay behind, watched over by Monica Breedlove, their middle-aged landlady. Beguiled by Rhoda's quaintness and old-fashioned curtsies, childless Monica gives her many gifts, which Rhoda hoards in a "treasure box." Only Christine is aware of Rhoda's greediness, although Rhoda demonstrates it by turning angry and willful when another student, Claude Daigle, is awarded her private school's gold penmanship medal that she covets. While Rhoda attends a school picnic, Christine lunches with Monica, her brother Emory and mystery writer Reginald Tasker. Their conversation about female murderers makes Christine uncomfortable, until her interest is piqued by the name of serial killer Bessie Denker.

Intrigued, Monica, who is endlessly fascinated by psychology, convinces Christine to use "word association" to explore her feelings, causing Christine to recall that she always felt she was adopted, despite a happy childhood. While they are talking, a radio broadcast reports that Claude drowned in the bay during the picnic, and when Rhoda returns, she seems strangely unmoved by the tragedy. Her lack of compassion is noticed by Leroy, the half-witted, neurotic apartment building janitor who has never been fooled by Rhoda's pretensions. A few days later, Rhoda's teacher, Miss Fern, visits and tells Christine that Rhoda was the last to see Claude alive and was with him on the pier under which he drowned. She says Rhoda repeatedly tried to snatch away Claude's medal and, because of her lack of fair play, is no longer welcome at the school.

The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Claude's parents. Drunk and belligerent, Mrs. Daigle says the medal is missing, and wonders aloud about a moon-shaped injury to Claude's head and scratches on his hands. After Miss Fern and the Daigles leave, Christine discovers the medal hidden in Rhoda's treasure box. While questioning Rhoda about it, she remains impervious to her daughter's attempts to manipulate her with demonstrative affection. Christine then remembers that Rhoda was bequeathed a beautiful trinket from an elderly woman who died falling down some stairs when Rhoda was alone with her. On another day, Leroy, wanting to frighten Rhoda, accuses her of killing Claude and tells her that blood traces cannot be washed off a murder weapon. Rhoda later asks Christine if this is true, thus increasing Christine's suspicions.

That evening, when Christine, pretending to write a book, asks Tasker about child murderers, he tells her that the "greatest" killers often start young and come from advantageous backgrounds. The idea of inherited criminal tendencies, he explains, is popular with many criminologists and behavioral scientists. However, Christine's father, Richard Bravo, a highly respected journalist who is also present, nervously dismisses the "bad seed" theory as unsubstantiated. Tasker then suggests that Bessie Denker, about whom Richard wrote several articles years earlier, proves the theory, but Richard claims to have forgotten the articles. Tasker explains to Christine that Bessie's beauty and sweet disposition convinced jurors to acquit her of three separate indictments and that some criminals, having no capacity for guilt, present "a more convincing picture of virtue than normal folk." Tasker recalls that Bessie, who had a child, escaped to South America where she continued killing. After Tasker leaves, Christine describes her recurring dream to Richard, in which she hides from a beautiful mother who scares her.

Eventually, Richard reveals that she is Bessie's daughter, and was adopted by he and his wife after she was discovered in a field at the age of two. Christine fears that Rhoda has inherited Bessie's criminal tendencies, but Richard refuses to believe it. Later that evening, Christine catches Rhoda discarding her shoes in the incinerator chute and realizes that a steel plate made the half-moon mark on Claude's head. After Rhoda confesses that she was responsible for Claude's drowning, Christine, torn between justice and a mother's love, asks Rhoda how the elderly lady fell down the stairs and Rhoda admits that she pushed her.

The next day, Leroy notices that Rhoda is without her tap shoes and tricks her into admitting that she burned them in the incinerator. To torment her, he falsely claims that he retrieved them and, when she furiously demands them back, realizes that his malicious teasing has uncovered the truth about Claude's death. Meanwhile, Monica, who is concerned about Christine's haunted look, offers her vitamins and sleeping pills. Later, Rhoda sneaks some matches from Christine's purse, locks Leroy in the cellar after starting a fire there and sits down at the piano to practice. Although rescued by Emory and Tasker, Leroy dies from the burns.

That evening, Rhoda asks for the medal, but Christine says she dropped it into the bay at the end of the pier. Christine then gives Rhoda several sleeping pills, calling them vitamins, and after Rhoda falls asleep, tells her that she is saving her from imprisonment and other indignities. Then, Christine goes to her own room and shoots herself. Two days later, the hospitalized Christine lies comatose, while Kenneth, Emory and Monica, who saved both mother and daughter from death, ponder her attempted suicide. Although Richard guesses Christine's motive, he says nothing. At bedtime, Rhoda tells Kenneth that she is to inherit Monica's pet lovebird and that she and Monica will sunbathe on the roof soon. During the stormy night, Christine regains consciousness and, by phone, tells Kenneth she must pay for her "dreadful sin," to which Kenneth says they will solve their problems together. Meanwhile, Rhoda sneaks out to search for the medal in the bay, heedless of the rain. When lightning strikes the pier, she goes up in smoke.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Sep 29, 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 13 Sep 1956
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Bad Seed by Maxwell Anderson, as produced on the stage by The Playwrights Company (New York, 8 Dec 1954), and the novel of the same name by William March (New York, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 9m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1956
Nancy Kelly

Best Cinematography

1956

Best Supporting Actress

1956
Eileen Heckart

Best Supporting Actress

1956
Patty Mccormack

Articles

The Bad Seed (1956)


"Children can be nasty, don't you think? "
Eileen Heckart as Mrs. Daigle in The Bad Seed

In 1956, Warner Bros. brought the most evil child short of the Anti-Christ to screen in the person of Rhoda Penmark, a murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below. As embodied by eleven-year-old Patty McCormack, Rhoda was a character with no precedent in film history (so much so that the censors tried to keep her off the screen). Her distinct presence coupled with the intensely emotional playing of the film's adult stars have made the film a cult favorite, with contemporary audiences see-sawing between laughter at the histrionics and stunned disbelief at Rhoda's evil ways.

Rhoda Penmark was the brainchild of writer William March, who drew on the '50s debate over whether or not evil and mental illness were hereditary to paint his portrait of a child unconsciously following in the footsteps of her serial killer grandmother. Playwright Maxwell Anderson, best known for such historical verse tragedies as Anne of the Thousand Days and Elizabeth the Queen, turned the story into a hit play that won Nancy Kelly Broadway's Tony Award for playing Rhoda's mother and started McCormack on the road to becoming a household name.

Originally director-writer Billy Wilder wanted to make the film version as an independent production, but he ran into trouble when he submitted the script to the industry's own self-censorship organization, the Production Code Administration. One of the Production Code's rules forbade "Pictures dealing with criminal activities, in which minors participate , or to which minors are related." Although juvenile delinquency had been a film subject since the '30s, when the Dead End Kids first hit the screen, Rhoda's criminal doings and the script's extended discussion of heredity were considered too strong for the screen. The implication that she wasn't really responsible for her crimes because she was, as the title suggested, a bad seed, was deemed a bad influence on the youth of America. Wilder dropped the project, only to learn that Warner Bros. had gotten approval for the material simply by offering to create a new ending in which Rhoda would be punished for her crimes. The real difference, in his view, was that Warners was a big studio while he was just an independent producer, a conclusion that led to his decision to ignore the Production Code when choosing properties in the future. Ironically, the film he chose to make instead of the The Bad Seed, The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), would be released by Warners.

Warner Bros. gave producer-director Mervyn LeRoy the chance to bring The Bad Seed to the screen. Initially, they objected to his plan to cast the play's leading players -- including Kelly, McCormack, Eileen Heckart and Henry Jones -- in place of established box-office names like Bette Davis, who had expressed an interest in the film's leading role. He also decided to stick closely to Anderson's original screenplay, working with cinematographer Harold Rosson to open the film up primarily by moving the camera around. The choice paid off by visually isolating and trapping Rhoda's mother as she discovered her little girl was a cold-hearted killer. LeRoy also decided to use a theatrical curtain call at the film's end. He recorded a voiceover introducing the film's cast and, as had been the case when the play was performed, followed the bows by having Kelly take McCormack over her knee for a good spanking. After the horror of the film's subject matter, this served to let '50s audiences off-the-hook, while adding to the film's word-of-mouth appeal.

In another move to appease the censors, Warner Bros. added an "adults only" tag to the film's advertising. As a result, the film became one of their biggest hits of the year, grossing $4.1 million (an impressive figure for the time) and landing in the year's top 20 at the box office. The film also landed Oscar® nominations for Rosson, Kelly, McCormack and Heckart, with the latter winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Over time, The Bad Seed has continued to wield its influence. It was re-made in Turkey in the '60s, then turned into a mediocre television movie starring Blair Brown in 1985. Australian singer-actor Nick Cave even named his band, The Bad Seeds, for it. None of the re-makes ever came up with a young actress who could match McCormack. Unfortunately, the child actress never came up with a performance that could match her turn as Rhoda. Although still active in the business, McCormack never got to capitalize on her child stardom. She moved into troubled teen roles in the '60s -- most ludicrously in 1968's The Mini-Skirt Mob -- moved into the soaps and currently plays character roles. Her most notable later assignments include two low-budget thrillers, Mommy (1995) and Mommy II: Mommy's Day (1997) in which she plays a character who could easily be a grown-up Rhoda, a mother who murders anyone who makes her daughter unhappy.

Producer-Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin
Based on the Play by Maxwell Anderson and the novel by William March
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Art Direction: Jack Bechman, Ralph S. Hurst
Music: Alex North
Cast: Nancy Kelly (Christine Penmark), Patty McCormack (Rhoda Penmark), Henry Jones (LeRoy), Eileen Heckart (Mrs. Daigle), Evelyn Varden (Monica Breedlove), William Hopper (Kenneth Penmark), Paul Fix (Bravo), Jesse White (Emory), Frank Cady (Mr. Daigle).
BW-130m. Closed Captioning.

by Frank Miller
The Bad Seed (1956)

The Bad Seed (1956)

"Children can be nasty, don't you think? " Eileen Heckart as Mrs. Daigle in The Bad Seed In 1956, Warner Bros. brought the most evil child short of the Anti-Christ to screen in the person of Rhoda Penmark, a murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below. As embodied by eleven-year-old Patty McCormack, Rhoda was a character with no precedent in film history (so much so that the censors tried to keep her off the screen). Her distinct presence coupled with the intensely emotional playing of the film's adult stars have made the film a cult favorite, with contemporary audiences see-sawing between laughter at the histrionics and stunned disbelief at Rhoda's evil ways. Rhoda Penmark was the brainchild of writer William March, who drew on the '50s debate over whether or not evil and mental illness were hereditary to paint his portrait of a child unconsciously following in the footsteps of her serial killer grandmother. Playwright Maxwell Anderson, best known for such historical verse tragedies as Anne of the Thousand Days and Elizabeth the Queen, turned the story into a hit play that won Nancy Kelly Broadway's Tony Award for playing Rhoda's mother and started McCormack on the road to becoming a household name. Originally director-writer Billy Wilder wanted to make the film version as an independent production, but he ran into trouble when he submitted the script to the industry's own self-censorship organization, the Production Code Administration. One of the Production Code's rules forbade "Pictures dealing with criminal activities, in which minors participate , or to which minors are related." Although juvenile delinquency had been a film subject since the '30s, when the Dead End Kids first hit the screen, Rhoda's criminal doings and the script's extended discussion of heredity were considered too strong for the screen. The implication that she wasn't really responsible for her crimes because she was, as the title suggested, a bad seed, was deemed a bad influence on the youth of America. Wilder dropped the project, only to learn that Warner Bros. had gotten approval for the material simply by offering to create a new ending in which Rhoda would be punished for her crimes. The real difference, in his view, was that Warners was a big studio while he was just an independent producer, a conclusion that led to his decision to ignore the Production Code when choosing properties in the future. Ironically, the film he chose to make instead of the The Bad Seed, The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), would be released by Warners. Warner Bros. gave producer-director Mervyn LeRoy the chance to bring The Bad Seed to the screen. Initially, they objected to his plan to cast the play's leading players -- including Kelly, McCormack, Eileen Heckart and Henry Jones -- in place of established box-office names like Bette Davis, who had expressed an interest in the film's leading role. He also decided to stick closely to Anderson's original screenplay, working with cinematographer Harold Rosson to open the film up primarily by moving the camera around. The choice paid off by visually isolating and trapping Rhoda's mother as she discovered her little girl was a cold-hearted killer. LeRoy also decided to use a theatrical curtain call at the film's end. He recorded a voiceover introducing the film's cast and, as had been the case when the play was performed, followed the bows by having Kelly take McCormack over her knee for a good spanking. After the horror of the film's subject matter, this served to let '50s audiences off-the-hook, while adding to the film's word-of-mouth appeal. In another move to appease the censors, Warner Bros. added an "adults only" tag to the film's advertising. As a result, the film became one of their biggest hits of the year, grossing $4.1 million (an impressive figure for the time) and landing in the year's top 20 at the box office. The film also landed Oscar® nominations for Rosson, Kelly, McCormack and Heckart, with the latter winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Over time, The Bad Seed has continued to wield its influence. It was re-made in Turkey in the '60s, then turned into a mediocre television movie starring Blair Brown in 1985. Australian singer-actor Nick Cave even named his band, The Bad Seeds, for it. None of the re-makes ever came up with a young actress who could match McCormack. Unfortunately, the child actress never came up with a performance that could match her turn as Rhoda. Although still active in the business, McCormack never got to capitalize on her child stardom. She moved into troubled teen roles in the '60s -- most ludicrously in 1968's The Mini-Skirt Mob -- moved into the soaps and currently plays character roles. Her most notable later assignments include two low-budget thrillers, Mommy (1995) and Mommy II: Mommy's Day (1997) in which she plays a character who could easily be a grown-up Rhoda, a mother who murders anyone who makes her daughter unhappy. Producer-Director: Mervyn LeRoy Screenplay: John Lee Mahin Based on the Play by Maxwell Anderson and the novel by William March Cinematography: Harold Rosson Art Direction: Jack Bechman, Ralph S. Hurst Music: Alex North Cast: Nancy Kelly (Christine Penmark), Patty McCormack (Rhoda Penmark), Henry Jones (LeRoy), Eileen Heckart (Mrs. Daigle), Evelyn Varden (Monica Breedlove), William Hopper (Kenneth Penmark), Paul Fix (Bravo), Jesse White (Emory), Frank Cady (Mr. Daigle). BW-130m. Closed Captioning. by Frank Miller

The Bad Seed on DVD


In 1956, Warner Bros. brought the most evil child short of the Anti-Christ to screen in the person of Rhoda Penmark, a murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below. As embodied by eleven-year-old Patty McCormack, Rhoda was a character with no precedent in film history (so much so that the censors tried to keep her off the screen). Her distinct presence coupled with the intensely emotional playing of the film's adult stars have made The Bad Seed (now on DVD from Warner Video) a cult favorite, with contemporary audiences see-sawing between laughter at the histrionics and stunned disbelief at Rhoda's evil ways.

Rhoda Penmark was the brainchild of writer William Archibald, who drew on the '50s debate over whether or not evil and mental illness were hereditary to paint his portrait of a child unconsciously following in the footsteps of her serial killer grandmother. Playwright Maxwell Anderson, best known for such historical verse tragedies as Anne of the Thousand Days and Elizabeth the Queen, turned the story into a hit play that won Nancy Kelly Broadway's Tony Award for playing Rhoda's mother and started McCormack on the road to becoming a household name.

Originally director-writer Billy Wilder wanted to make the film version as an independent production, but he ran into trouble when he submitted the script to the industry's own self-censorship organization, the Production Code Administration. One of the Production Code's rules forbade "Pictures dealing with criminal activities, in which minors participate , or to which minors are related." Although juvenile delinquency had been a film subject since the '30s, when the Dead End Kids first hit the screen, Rhoda's criminal doings and the script's extended discussion of heredity were considered too strong for the screen. The implication that she wasn't really responsible for her crimes because she was, as the title suggested, a bad seed, was deemed a bad influence on the youth of America. Wilder dropped the project, only to learn that Warner Bros. had gotten approval for the material simply by offering to create a new ending in which Rhoda would be punished for her crimes. The real difference, in his view, was that Warners was a big studio while he was just an independent producer, a conclusion that led to his decision to ignore the Production Code when choosing properties in the future. Ironically, the film he chose to make instead of the The Bad Seed, The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), would be released by Warners.

Warner Bros. gave producer-director Mervyn LeRoy the chance to bring The Bad Seed to the screen. Initially, they objected to his plan to cast the play's leading players -- including Kelly, McCormack, Eileen Heckart and Henry Jones -- in place of established box-office names like Bette Davis, who had expressed an interest in the film's leading role. He also decided to stick closely to Anderson's original screenplay, working with cinematographer Harold Rosson to open the film up primarily by moving the camera around. The choice paid off by visually isolating and trapping Rhoda's mother as she discovered her little girl was a cold-hearted killer. LeRoy also decided to use a theatrical curtain call at the film's end. He recorded a voiceover introducing the film's cast and, as had been the case when the play was performed, followed the bows by having Kelly take McCormack over her knee for a good spanking. After the horror of the film's subject matter, this served to let '50s audiences off-the-hook, while adding to the film's word-of-mouth appeal.

In another move to appease the censors, Warner Bros. added an "adults only" tag to the film's advertising. As a result, the film became one of their biggest hits of the year, grossing $4.1 million (an impressive figure for the time) and landing in the year's top 20 at the box office. The film also landed Oscar® nominations for Rosson, Kelly, McCormack and Heckart, with the latter winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Over time, The Bad Seed has continued to wield its influence. It was re-made in Turkey in the '60s, then turned into a mediocre television movie starring Blair Brown in 1985. Australian singer-actor Nick Cave even named his band, The Bad Seeds, for it. None of the re-makes ever came up with a young actress who could match McCormack. Unfortunately, the child actress never came up with a performance that could match her turn as Rhoda. Although still active in the business, McCormack never got to capitalize on her child stardom. She moved into troubled teen roles in the '60s -- most ludicrously in 1968's The Mini-Skirt Mob -- moved into the soaps and currently plays character roles. Her most notable later assignments include two low-budget thrillers, Mommy (1995) and Mommy II: Mommy's Day (1997) in which she plays a character who could easily be a grown-up Rhoda, a mother who murders anyone who makes her daughter unhappy.

The Warner Video DVD of The Bad Seed looks just fine - the image is sharp and the audio is crystal clear with Alex North's dramatic score an added plus. The extras include a short interview with Patty McCormack entitled "Enfant Terrible" and a running commentary by the actress and playwright/actor Charles Busch which is a much more straightforward affair than you'd imagine. After all, by today's standards, the film is much closer to pure camp than serious drama but neither commentator makes this distinction obvious.

For more information about The Bad Seed, visit Warner Video. To order The Bad Seed, go to TCM Shopping.

by Frank Miller

The Bad Seed on DVD

In 1956, Warner Bros. brought the most evil child short of the Anti-Christ to screen in the person of Rhoda Penmark, a murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below. As embodied by eleven-year-old Patty McCormack, Rhoda was a character with no precedent in film history (so much so that the censors tried to keep her off the screen). Her distinct presence coupled with the intensely emotional playing of the film's adult stars have made The Bad Seed (now on DVD from Warner Video) a cult favorite, with contemporary audiences see-sawing between laughter at the histrionics and stunned disbelief at Rhoda's evil ways. Rhoda Penmark was the brainchild of writer William Archibald, who drew on the '50s debate over whether or not evil and mental illness were hereditary to paint his portrait of a child unconsciously following in the footsteps of her serial killer grandmother. Playwright Maxwell Anderson, best known for such historical verse tragedies as Anne of the Thousand Days and Elizabeth the Queen, turned the story into a hit play that won Nancy Kelly Broadway's Tony Award for playing Rhoda's mother and started McCormack on the road to becoming a household name. Originally director-writer Billy Wilder wanted to make the film version as an independent production, but he ran into trouble when he submitted the script to the industry's own self-censorship organization, the Production Code Administration. One of the Production Code's rules forbade "Pictures dealing with criminal activities, in which minors participate , or to which minors are related." Although juvenile delinquency had been a film subject since the '30s, when the Dead End Kids first hit the screen, Rhoda's criminal doings and the script's extended discussion of heredity were considered too strong for the screen. The implication that she wasn't really responsible for her crimes because she was, as the title suggested, a bad seed, was deemed a bad influence on the youth of America. Wilder dropped the project, only to learn that Warner Bros. had gotten approval for the material simply by offering to create a new ending in which Rhoda would be punished for her crimes. The real difference, in his view, was that Warners was a big studio while he was just an independent producer, a conclusion that led to his decision to ignore the Production Code when choosing properties in the future. Ironically, the film he chose to make instead of the The Bad Seed, The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), would be released by Warners. Warner Bros. gave producer-director Mervyn LeRoy the chance to bring The Bad Seed to the screen. Initially, they objected to his plan to cast the play's leading players -- including Kelly, McCormack, Eileen Heckart and Henry Jones -- in place of established box-office names like Bette Davis, who had expressed an interest in the film's leading role. He also decided to stick closely to Anderson's original screenplay, working with cinematographer Harold Rosson to open the film up primarily by moving the camera around. The choice paid off by visually isolating and trapping Rhoda's mother as she discovered her little girl was a cold-hearted killer. LeRoy also decided to use a theatrical curtain call at the film's end. He recorded a voiceover introducing the film's cast and, as had been the case when the play was performed, followed the bows by having Kelly take McCormack over her knee for a good spanking. After the horror of the film's subject matter, this served to let '50s audiences off-the-hook, while adding to the film's word-of-mouth appeal. In another move to appease the censors, Warner Bros. added an "adults only" tag to the film's advertising. As a result, the film became one of their biggest hits of the year, grossing $4.1 million (an impressive figure for the time) and landing in the year's top 20 at the box office. The film also landed Oscar® nominations for Rosson, Kelly, McCormack and Heckart, with the latter winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Over time, The Bad Seed has continued to wield its influence. It was re-made in Turkey in the '60s, then turned into a mediocre television movie starring Blair Brown in 1985. Australian singer-actor Nick Cave even named his band, The Bad Seeds, for it. None of the re-makes ever came up with a young actress who could match McCormack. Unfortunately, the child actress never came up with a performance that could match her turn as Rhoda. Although still active in the business, McCormack never got to capitalize on her child stardom. She moved into troubled teen roles in the '60s -- most ludicrously in 1968's The Mini-Skirt Mob -- moved into the soaps and currently plays character roles. Her most notable later assignments include two low-budget thrillers, Mommy (1995) and Mommy II: Mommy's Day (1997) in which she plays a character who could easily be a grown-up Rhoda, a mother who murders anyone who makes her daughter unhappy. The Warner Video DVD of The Bad Seed looks just fine - the image is sharp and the audio is crystal clear with Alex North's dramatic score an added plus. The extras include a short interview with Patty McCormack entitled "Enfant Terrible" and a running commentary by the actress and playwright/actor Charles Busch which is a much more straightforward affair than you'd imagine. After all, by today's standards, the film is much closer to pure camp than serious drama but neither commentator makes this distinction obvious. For more information about The Bad Seed, visit Warner Video. To order The Bad Seed, go to TCM Shopping. by Frank Miller

TCM Remembers - Eileen Heckart


TCM REMEMBERS EILEEN HECKART, DAVID SWIFT & PAUL LANDRES

Eileen Heckart, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Butterflies Are Free (1972), died December 31st at the age of 82. Heckart was born in 1919 in Columbus, Ohio and became interested in acting while in college. She moved to NYC in 1942, married her college boyfriend the following year (a marriage that lasted until his death in 1995) and started acting on stage. Soon she was appearing in live dramatic TV such as The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One. Her first feature film appearance was as a waitress in Bus Stop (1956) but it was her role as a grieving mother in the following year's The Bad Seed that really attracted notice and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Heckart spent more time on Broadway and TV, making only occasional film appearances in Heller in Pink Tights (1960), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) and Heartbreak Ridge (1986). She won one Emmy and was nominated for five others.

TCM REMEMBERS DAVID SWIFT, 1919-2001

Director David Swift died December 31st at the age of 82. Swift was best-known for the 1967 film version of the Broadway musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (he also appears in a cameo), Good Neighbor Sam (1964) starring Jack Lemmon and The Parent Trap (1961), all of which he also co-wrote. Swift was born in Minnesota but moved to California in the early 30s so he could work for Disney as an assistant animator, contributing to a string of classics from Dumbo (1941) to Fantasia (1940) to Snow White (1937). Swift also worked with madcap animator Tex Avery at MGM. He later became a TV and radio comedy writer and by the 1950s was directing episodes of TV series like Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90 and others. Swift also created Mr. Peepers (1952), one of TV's first hit series and a multiple Emmy nominee. Swift's first feature film was Pollyanna (1960) for which he recorded a DVD commentary last year. Swift twice received Writers Guild nominations for work on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Parent Trap.

TCM REMEMBERS PAUL LANDRES, 1912-2001

Prolific B-movie director Paul Landres died December 26th at the age of 89. Landres was born in New York City in 1912 but his family soon moved to Los Angeles where he grew up. He spent a couple of years attending UCLA before becoming an assistant editor at Universal in the 1931. He became a full editor in 1937, working on such films as Pittsburgh (1942) and I Shot Jesse James (1949). His first directorial effort was 1949's Grand Canyon but he soon became fast and reliable, alternating B-movies with TV episodes.. His best known films are Go, Johnny, Go! (1958) with appearances by Chuck Berry and Jackie Wilson, the moody The Return of Dracula (1958) and the 1957 cult favorite The Vampire. His TV credits run to some 350 episodes for such series as Adam 12, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and numerous others. Landres was co-founder in 1950 of the honorary society American Cinema Editors.

BUDD BOETTICHER 1916-2001

When director Budd Boetticher died on November 29th, American film lost another master. Though not a household name, Boetticher made crisp, tightly wound movies with more substance and emotional depth than was apparent at first glance. Instead of a flashy style, Boetticher preferred one imaginatively simple and almost elegant at times. Because of this approach films like The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Ride Lonesome (1960) have withstood the test of time while more blatantly ambitious films now seem like period pieces.

Budd was born Oscar Boetticher in Chicago on July 29th, 1916. With a father who sold hardware, Boetticher didn't come from a particularly artistic background. In college he boxed and played football before graduating and heading to Mexico to follow what's surely one of the most unusual ways to enter the film industry: as a professional matador. That's what led an old friend to get Boetticher hired as a bullfighting advisor on the 1941 version of Blood and Sand. Boetticher quickly took other small jobs in Hollywood before becoming an assistant director for films like Cover Girl. In 1944, he directed his first film, the Boston Blackie entry One Mysterious Night. Boetticher made a series of other B-movies, like the underrated film noir Behind Locked Doors (1948), through the rest of the decade.

Boetticher really hit his stride in the 50s when he began to get higher profile assignments, including the semi-autobiographical The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951 which resulted in Boetticher's only Oscar nomination, for Best Writing. Sam Peckinpah later said he saw the film ten times. Other highlights of this period include Seminole (1953) (one of the first Hollywood films sympathetic to American Indians), the stylishly tight thriller The Killer Is Loose (1956) and the minor classic Horizons West (1952). In the late 50s, Boetticher also started directing TV episodes of series like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.

In 1956, Boetticher started a string of films that really established his reputation. These six Westerns starring Randolph Scott are known as the Ranown films after the production company named after Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Actually the first, Seven Men from Now (1956), was produced by a different company but all of them fit together, pushing the idea of the lone cowboy seeking revenge into new territory. The sharp Decision at Sundown twists Western cliche into one of the bleakest endings to slip through the Hollywood gates. The Tall T examines the genre's violent tendencies while Ride Lonesome and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) have titles appropriate to their Beckett-like stories. The final film, Comanche Station, appeared in 1960.

That was the same year Boetticher made one of the best gangster films, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, before watching everything fall apart. He and his wife decided to make a documentary about the famous matador Carlos Arruza and headed to Mexico. There Boetticher saw Arruza and much of the film crew die in an accident, almost died himself from an illness, separated from and divorced his wife (Debra Paget), and then spent time in various jails and even briefly a mental institution. This harrowing experience left him bankrupt but he still managed to complete the film, Arruza (1968), which gathered acclaim from the few who've been able to see it.

Boetticher managed to make just one more film, My Kingdom For... (1985), a self-reflexive documentary about raising Andalusian horses. He also made a cameo appearance in the Mel Gibson-Kurt Russell suspense thriller, Tequila Sunrise (1988). He died from complications from surgery at the age of 85.

By Lang Thompson

TCM Remembers - Eileen Heckart

TCM REMEMBERS EILEEN HECKART, DAVID SWIFT & PAUL LANDRES Eileen Heckart, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Butterflies Are Free (1972), died December 31st at the age of 82. Heckart was born in 1919 in Columbus, Ohio and became interested in acting while in college. She moved to NYC in 1942, married her college boyfriend the following year (a marriage that lasted until his death in 1995) and started acting on stage. Soon she was appearing in live dramatic TV such as The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One. Her first feature film appearance was as a waitress in Bus Stop (1956) but it was her role as a grieving mother in the following year's The Bad Seed that really attracted notice and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Heckart spent more time on Broadway and TV, making only occasional film appearances in Heller in Pink Tights (1960), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) and Heartbreak Ridge (1986). She won one Emmy and was nominated for five others. TCM REMEMBERS DAVID SWIFT, 1919-2001 Director David Swift died December 31st at the age of 82. Swift was best-known for the 1967 film version of the Broadway musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (he also appears in a cameo), Good Neighbor Sam (1964) starring Jack Lemmon and The Parent Trap (1961), all of which he also co-wrote. Swift was born in Minnesota but moved to California in the early 30s so he could work for Disney as an assistant animator, contributing to a string of classics from Dumbo (1941) to Fantasia (1940) to Snow White (1937). Swift also worked with madcap animator Tex Avery at MGM. He later became a TV and radio comedy writer and by the 1950s was directing episodes of TV series like Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90 and others. Swift also created Mr. Peepers (1952), one of TV's first hit series and a multiple Emmy nominee. Swift's first feature film was Pollyanna (1960) for which he recorded a DVD commentary last year. Swift twice received Writers Guild nominations for work on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Parent Trap. TCM REMEMBERS PAUL LANDRES, 1912-2001 Prolific B-movie director Paul Landres died December 26th at the age of 89. Landres was born in New York City in 1912 but his family soon moved to Los Angeles where he grew up. He spent a couple of years attending UCLA before becoming an assistant editor at Universal in the 1931. He became a full editor in 1937, working on such films as Pittsburgh (1942) and I Shot Jesse James (1949). His first directorial effort was 1949's Grand Canyon but he soon became fast and reliable, alternating B-movies with TV episodes.. His best known films are Go, Johnny, Go! (1958) with appearances by Chuck Berry and Jackie Wilson, the moody The Return of Dracula (1958) and the 1957 cult favorite The Vampire. His TV credits run to some 350 episodes for such series as Adam 12, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and numerous others. Landres was co-founder in 1950 of the honorary society American Cinema Editors. BUDD BOETTICHER 1916-2001 When director Budd Boetticher died on November 29th, American film lost another master. Though not a household name, Boetticher made crisp, tightly wound movies with more substance and emotional depth than was apparent at first glance. Instead of a flashy style, Boetticher preferred one imaginatively simple and almost elegant at times. Because of this approach films like The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Ride Lonesome (1960) have withstood the test of time while more blatantly ambitious films now seem like period pieces. Budd was born Oscar Boetticher in Chicago on July 29th, 1916. With a father who sold hardware, Boetticher didn't come from a particularly artistic background. In college he boxed and played football before graduating and heading to Mexico to follow what's surely one of the most unusual ways to enter the film industry: as a professional matador. That's what led an old friend to get Boetticher hired as a bullfighting advisor on the 1941 version of Blood and Sand. Boetticher quickly took other small jobs in Hollywood before becoming an assistant director for films like Cover Girl. In 1944, he directed his first film, the Boston Blackie entry One Mysterious Night. Boetticher made a series of other B-movies, like the underrated film noir Behind Locked Doors (1948), through the rest of the decade. Boetticher really hit his stride in the 50s when he began to get higher profile assignments, including the semi-autobiographical The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951 which resulted in Boetticher's only Oscar nomination, for Best Writing. Sam Peckinpah later said he saw the film ten times. Other highlights of this period include Seminole (1953) (one of the first Hollywood films sympathetic to American Indians), the stylishly tight thriller The Killer Is Loose (1956) and the minor classic Horizons West (1952). In the late 50s, Boetticher also started directing TV episodes of series like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip. In 1956, Boetticher started a string of films that really established his reputation. These six Westerns starring Randolph Scott are known as the Ranown films after the production company named after Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Actually the first, Seven Men from Now (1956), was produced by a different company but all of them fit together, pushing the idea of the lone cowboy seeking revenge into new territory. The sharp Decision at Sundown twists Western cliche into one of the bleakest endings to slip through the Hollywood gates. The Tall T examines the genre's violent tendencies while Ride Lonesome and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) have titles appropriate to their Beckett-like stories. The final film, Comanche Station, appeared in 1960. That was the same year Boetticher made one of the best gangster films, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, before watching everything fall apart. He and his wife decided to make a documentary about the famous matador Carlos Arruza and headed to Mexico. There Boetticher saw Arruza and much of the film crew die in an accident, almost died himself from an illness, separated from and divorced his wife (Debra Paget), and then spent time in various jails and even briefly a mental institution. This harrowing experience left him bankrupt but he still managed to complete the film, Arruza (1968), which gathered acclaim from the few who've been able to see it. Boetticher managed to make just one more film, My Kingdom For... (1985), a self-reflexive documentary about raising Andalusian horses. He also made a cameo appearance in the Mel Gibson-Kurt Russell suspense thriller, Tequila Sunrise (1988). He died from complications from surgery at the age of 85. By Lang Thompson

Quotes

They got a little blue chair for little boys and a little pink chair for little girls.
- Leroy
Rhoda, what happened to old Mrs. Post in Witchita?
- Christine Penmark
There was some ice on the stairs and I tripped and fell into her, that was all.
- Rhoda Penmark
Was that all, Rhoda?
- Christine Penmark
No, I tripped on purpose.
- Rhoda Penmark
You hit him with the shoes didn't you, you hit him with the shoes that's how he got those half moon marks on his forehead and his hands, answer me Rhoda, ANSWER ME!
- Christine Penmark
Who's that tap tap tapping across the floor like Fred Astaire?
- Monica Breedlove
Children can be nasty, don't you think?
- Hortense Daigle

Trivia

The original ending had Rhoda surviving, and her mother dying. The Motion Picture Production Code in effect at the time, however, required that "Crime shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and order." The usual interpretation of this was that criminals weren't allowed to "get away with it." Because of this, the ending was changed: Rhoda's mother survived being shot in the head, and Rhoda herself was killed by a bolt of lighting by a lake.

Notes

As noted in a May 20, 1956 Los Angeles Times article, an epilogue in which cast members are identified appears immediately following "The End" title card. The voice-over announcer, producer-director Mervyn LeRoy, begins the epilogue by saying, "One moment, please.... and now, ladies and gentlemen, our wonderful cast." All actors who were listed in the opening onscreen credits, except Frank Cady, who played "Mr. Daigle," appear individually in a doorway of the Penmarks' apartment to take a stage bow, beginning with "Mr. Gage Clark as `Tasker.'" Each actor is introduced formally with his repective name as character. Actor William Hopper, whose first name is written as "William" in the opening title cards, is introduced as "Mr. Bill Hopper" during the epilogue. "Miss Patty McCormack" curtsies in the same exaggerated style as her character, followed by "Miss Nancy Kelly as `Christine Penmark'" who is introduced last. Kelly then enters the living room set, points to McCormack, and says, "As for you...," then pulls the child over her knees to spank her. According to the Los Angeles Times article, which also provides a brief history of screen credits, the epilogue was added to "remove some of the bad taste... left by this horrific shocker."
       Possibly, to further mollify the audience, screenwriter John Lee Mahin assured potential viewers in a November 1955 Los Angeles Times article that the "bad seed" theory was "specious," and only important to the film because of its effect on Christine, "who is upset enough to believe anything when she discovers her daughter is a murderess." Although several of the characters, among them, "Rhoda Penmark," spoke with a slight southern accent, the location of the story was not made clear in the film. According to a plot synopsis found in the copyright record, the story is set in the "deep South" and Maxwell Anderson's play states that the Penmarks live in "a suburb of a southern city." The piano piece that "Rhoda" plays and sings and is heard as a theme throughout the film is the traditional French children's song Au Claire de la Lune. The book Rhoda claims to have won in Sunday School, Elsie Dinsmore, was a story with religious themes about a pious eight-year-old; it was written by Martha Finley in 1867.
       A November 6, 1955 Los Angeles Times article erroneously states that Rhoda's father was said to be dead in William March's original novel; however, in the novel it was Christine's father, "Richard Bravo," who was dead. The character of Bravo was added to the stage play and the film, which, in general, remained very similar until the story's conclusion. In the play, Christine succeeds in killing herself, leaving her husband and "Monica Breedlove" confused about Christine's motive and unaware of the danger posed by Rhoda. The cloying endearment, "What will you give me for a basket of hugs? I will give you a basket of kisses," that is heard throughout the film, is spoken by Kenneth and Rhoda at the end of the play and the novel. Bravo does not appear at the end of the play, as he did in the film. In the play, during the lunch scene, the psychology fanatic Monica mentions that she believes her brother is a "larvated homosexual" and that she has a "subconscious incestuous fixation" on him. These lines do not appear in the film.
       March's novel was published in 1954. As early as December 14, 1954, the date of a letter to Jack L. Warner which was found in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Geoffrey M. Shurlock of the PCA stated that "the property violated the spirit and letter of the Code." Another letter in the collection, dated December 30, 1954, stated that director Billy Wilder was interested in producing the story as an independent film. According to a January 15, 1955 memo in the PCA file, Shurlock's office sent letters to several studios, among them, Paramount, Columbia and Universal, even though they had not inquired about the property, to caution them against it. Despite the PCA's objections to the film, the files indicate that Buddy Adler, Frank McCarthy and Dore Schary had expressed interest in producing the film and, according to a January 28, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, several companies bid for the property, which Warners bought for $300,000.
       An April 8, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the "deal" agreed upon was in abeyance pending the approval of the PCA and that Milton Sperling and his United States Pictures would produce the work for Warner Bros. only if the code problems were worked out. In a letter from Adler to Shurlock dated October 17, 1955, Adler demanded to know why another company was given approval to make the film, as he believed that he had had "the inside track" in January 1955, but was told in a meeting that a film about a child murderer would never receive sanction. A week letter, Shurlock wrote a response to Adler stating that, at the time, "in good faith," the office "could not envision any treatment" that would make the property acceptable, but had retracted when signed director Mervyn LeRoy came up with a treatment that seemed to do what the office thought was impossible.
       Warner Bros. production notes for the film reported that three endings were shot. According to a November 1955 Los Angeles Times, the end of the film was kept secret and the last five pages of the script were not distributed until ready to shoot. In addition to Kelly, who won a Tony award for her performance, Evelyn Varden, Henry Jones, Joan Croyden and Eileen Heckart and ten-year-old McCormack also reprised their Broadway roles for the film. The film marked the motion picture debut of Croydon. Although Broadway actress Croydon also appeared on television, The Bad Seed May have marked her only feature film appearance.
       Although onscreen credits read "and introducing Patty McCormack," McCormack had previously appeared in the 1951 film Two Gals and a Guy (see below), as well as various roles on stage and on television. A November 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Robert Alderett to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Kelly was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, but lost to Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia. Nominees McCormack and Heckart lost the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award to Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind. Hal Rosson was also nominated for an Oscar for Achievement in Cinematography (Black and White).
       A television adaptation of the story, also titled The Bad Seed, aired in 1985. That version starred Blair Brown, Lynn Redgrave and Christa Denton as Christine, Monica and Rhoda, respectively, and was directed by Paul Wendkos.




Miscellaneous Notes

1956 Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Heckart).

Released in United States Fall October 1956

Released in United States September 1956

Mervyn LeRoy narrated the trailer for the film.

Released in United States September 1956

Released in United States Fall October 1956