Just watched this and while I used to love it in my youth for its campiness have now come to appreciate it for the performances. I found both Eileen Heckert and Nancy Kelly's performances to be, at times over the top, at other moments heartbreaking.
Any backstage stories about this film? How come Nancy Kelly wasn't bigger?
Eileen was awesome in this! She was drunk both on and off the set though....
According to the Eileen Heckart biography written by her son, Henry Jones -- who played the handyman on stage and in the movie -- tracked down a child's penmanship award at an antique store and gave it to Eileen as an opening night present. Though Eileen liked Henry personally, she found his gift to be in the worst possible taste and was very upset by it.
I think she's brilliant in a role that looks like it would be a lot of fun to play...but according to the same book, Eileen found playing the mother of a dead kid emotionally draining on stage and did not even want to do the movie.
As for Nancy Kelly, she had a nice career on stage (even won the Tony for Bad Seed) but she seems to be one of those Broadway actresses (like Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, maybe even Julie Harris) who somehow doesn't connect with movie audiences. She might have been a little harsh-looking on the big screen. Also, based on The Bad Seed, she seems to "play to the back row" instead of giving a more subtle performance.
And I'm sure you know that the play ends with mom dying and Rhoda still alive...whereas the Hollywood Production Code would not allow evil to flourish in the end, so mom lived and Rhoda ended up dying in the film.
Agree Eileen Heckart is amazing and heartbreaking in this. Watched it not long ago and she actually made me tear up a bit in her final scene. I know, MARY!
Love Evelyn Varden as the nosy neighbor. She would have made a perfect sitcom neighbor.
R2 - Nancy Kelly had been a big movie star in the 40s, playing opposite Tyrone Power and others - she went to Broadway in the 50s when her film career dried up and won a Tony for "The Bad Seed" - the movie was sort of a comeback for her. So she did connect with movie audiences at some point.
The DVD commentary track is fantastic - Charles Busch and the grown-up Patty McCormack - one of the best of any DVD....
Henry Jones, who played Leroy the janitor, went on to play Judge Dexter on PHYLLIS. He was Phyllis's step-father-in-law and the son of her elderly foil, Mother Dexter.
IN the late 70's Patty McCormack was a cast member of the 3's Company spin off The Ropers, playing the wife of Jeffrey Tambour's character, who were next door neighbors of The Ropers.
I love this movie!
Did Patty McCormack retire from show biz as a child? She didn't seem to do much of any note between The Bad Seed and The Ropers.
[quote]The DVD commentary track is fantastic - Charles Busch and the grown-up Patty McCormack - one of the best of any DVD
Agree! I can never get enough of that commentary track. Listen to it OP, it's great.
OP, I agree with you about Heckart, but not about Nancy Kelly, who gives what is truly one of the worst performances in the history of cinema. Not a moment of truth in it. Unwatchable, except for camp hilarity.
I love this movie!
She was on The Sopranos, R9. Didn't she also play Pat Nixon in some movie with Anthony Hopkins?
No, JOan Allen was Anthony Hopkins' Pat.
R14- yes, you are right. However I looked it up and she played Pat Nixon in Frost/Nixon.
Patty has worked consistently since before The Bad Seed - she even had her own series in the 50s - "Peck's Bad Girl" - which clearly was a result of her role in "The Bad Seed".
Besides playing Adrianna's mother on "The Sopranos", she did play Pat Nixon - with Frank Langella as Tricky Dick in "Frost/Nixon" - a role not in the play, but written especially for her for the film.
A great lady.
No, she sang the role of Pat Nixon in the opera NIXON IN CHINA at the Met last February.
Kelly is way over the top - she makes Joan Crawford look like a model of subtle underacting.
Heckart isn't as bad, but she overplays the big drunk scene to the point where it's almost laughable. Like Kelly, she fails to modulate her performance for the screen.
McCormack makes Rhoda so obviously phoney, all the adults come off like complete dunces.
[quote]OP, I agree with you about Heckart, but not about Nancy Kelly, who gives what is truly one of the worst performances in the history of cinema. Not a moment of truth in it. Unwatchable, except for camp hilarity.
Oh yeah? Well Miss Nancy Kelly was nominated for THE Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role! Were YOU?
I remember Peck's Bad Girl though I was just a tiny thing in 1959.
Nevertheless, how does Patty account for the 40 years between it and Frost/Nixon and The Sopranos?
Oh please, R20. Kelley's performance wasn't the first or the last ham-fisted acting job to get an Oscar nomination.
"Nevertheless, how does Patty account for the 40 years between it and Frost/Nixon and The Sopranos?"
Here you go.
I love how Charles Busch very delicately tries to get Patty McCormack to admit that Nancy Kelly was an awful ham, but she doesn't.
I find the "look! we're just nice actors and no one really died!" ending one of the silliest things in the history of film.
Patty also played Kim Stewart on AS THE WORLD TURNS for an extended period, when Kathryn Hays was unable to work.
I also used to think that McCormick was too phoney as Rhoda but after viewing it last night, I realized that she was directed that way because while she was precocious and sadistic she was still a child, a child with no comprehension of compassion who had no idea how people with feelings authentically respond in situations, so instead she always goes back to her "perfect" little girl act which works with her father, who like many fathers cannot and will not see through it.
Nancy Kelly's character, on the other hand, does see through it, but is in denial. One of the most brilliant choices that Kelly makes throughout the first half of the movie is continually making a "push away" gesture with her hand at various pieces of information as if to say "that can't possibly be," most of these aren't directly related to Rhoda's behavior, but Kelly does them so frequently throughout the first part of the film that they can't be accidental, but rather a conscious choice, the gesture serving as a coded action for her character's denial about her daughter. Kelly abruptly stops doing this gesture once she's forced to admit that Rhoda is a cold blooded killer.
I think Heckart's and McCormick's performances hold up well, but the play is very old school and stilted (which is where the camp originates, really). Kelly's work might have looked good from the rear of the orchestra of a Broadway theater in the 50s. But in 2001 it looks hopelessly fake and actressy.
In the 1990s, McCormack starred in MOMMY and MOMMY'S DAY, which were sort of unofficial sequels to THE BAD SEED ... it was implied her character was Rhoda all grown up with a daughter of her own. The plot is basically SERIAL MOM played straight.
Both movies cost about $1.98 to make and are poorly lit and miked, but McCormack still manages to be quite good.