Such a mix of camp. Nancy Kelly's playing it to the last row performance, Patty's steely eyes, Nosy neighbor Monica, Miss Fern, crazy Leroy, William Hopper ( Hedda's gay son), and the amazing Eileen Heckart, playing one of the best drunks ever put on film.
''He gave me the medal mo...ther"
I love the kitchen scene at the beginning...the denial!
I know you're an adroit liar, OP, but your post is obviously specious.
The Voice of the Night
Why of course, my dear.
Holy shit. I watched the first hour and found Nancy Kelly's performance riveting! She chewed the scenery like Joey Chestnut at a hot dog eating contest.
I always love the opprobrium for Nancy Kelly for playing it to the last row. This is grand guignol melodrama if there ever was one. The only way to play it effectively is to the last row. Those who deride her performance, this is not Ibsen, it's Maxwell Anderson at his most outlandish and high octane camp (if goofing wasn't his intention, it damn well should have been) - Kelly knew exactly what she was doing, and she scored big time. IF you watch the remake with Blair Brown playing it straight, and giving a truthful realistic performance, you will realize what a boring misfire that was.
What will you give me for a basket of kisses?
I love Leroy's bed of excelsior. The scene in which he taunts the child then retreats to his basement lair to burrow in his bed of excelsior, kicking his feet in a spasm of hatred and spite is fantastic.
They got a little blue chair for little boys and a little pink chair for little girls.
I showed it to my husband about a year and a half ago. He was kind of aghast at how over-the-top Nancy Kelly was (Oscar nominee Nancy Kelly), but he thought someone should have made a movie just about Monica.
I always thought Christine was a gentle name. Hortense sounds fat.
The Voice of the Night
I like the little expository scene they inserted into the script in which William Hopper frets over the fragile tea set he is sending Rhoda and the woman assures him that it will be packed with plenty of excelsior so it won't get broken.
The film-makers are teaching the audience what "excelsior" is so that people who never heard of it or who never knew what that packing stuff was called will know what the actors are talking about in the upcoming scenes.
I got the impression Rhoda's evilness was encouraged by her bitchy aunt.
[RE6] But it's interesting to read an interview Kelly gave years later. She says
she wishes she had taken (director) Mervyn LeRoy's advice, and toned her performance down, for the screen. Kelly says she thought she knew better, and tried to recreate what she had done on Broadway. She ends the subject by saying 'I wish I had listened to Mervyn' , implying she may have won the Oscar, if she hadn't been so over the top.
It's really something how Kelly is so techniquey, plastic, playing to the balcony, while Heckart's playing is just as "big" but feels a lot more real and conveys genuine anguish.
Henry Jones and Norma Varden were great as Leroy and Monica.
And talk about your old school playwriting. Was Max A. really aiming this for camp?
Wizard of Oz connections all over this movie. Mervyn Leroy - producer. John Lee Mahin - screenwriter. Hal Rosson - cinematography. Nancy Kelly - Dorothy in the early 1930s radio Oz show.
They should do a remake starring an adult Courtney Love.
Years ago, late 90's, not long before he died, ran into Henry Jones, at a Loves Barbecue ( anyone in LA old enough, will remember). I mentioned the film, and he got a big smile. He said he loved Patty, and thought she was an amazing little actress. Then he said " Oh, I guess she's not so little anymore, is she ?" . For a brief moment, I could see he was back to that time. I didn't have the heart to tell then, she was around 50, at that time. Nice man.
Heckart’s performance is the saddest part of the picture. She plays tragic drunk very well. What also fascinated me about that scene though is that regardless of how drunk she was, and she was as drunk as Cooter Brown, she KNEW that something wasn’t right about her son’s death and that Rhoda knew more than she was telling.
"You have some NEW vitamins to take tonight."
Who's that tap-tap-tapping away like Fred Astaire?
[quote]Heckart’s performance is the saddest part of the picture. She plays tragic drunk very well. What also fascinated me about that scene though is that regardless of how drunk she was, and she was as drunk as Cooter Brown, she KNEW that something wasn’t right about her son’s death and that Rhoda knew more than she was telling.
Exactly -- probably the best performance in the movie.
Why should I feel bad? It was Claude Daigle got drowned, not me.
The Voice of the Night
I've posted this before but the commentary on the DVD (Patty McCormack and Charles Busch) is a delight.I wish they could have filmed the original ending.
A friend used to nickname me Miss Fern.
I thought Joan Croyden gave a nice, understated performance as Miss Fern. Eileen Heckart is believable as a woman who lost a child (even if she also sometimes plays to the balcony, like Nancy Kelly), and Evelyn Varden is just campy fun.
I'll say this for Nancy Kelly: the script calls for her to break down about eight times, and she at least manages to do it eight different ways. They may all be histrionic, but they're different levels of hysteria.
The Voice of the Night
r8, "excelsior bed" is a running joke in our house. I often try to banish my husband to his excelsior bed when he annoys me.
If you're unfamiliar with excelsior, then check-out Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The scene where they're opening up the monster's crate they're removing the excelsior when Lou uncovers the monster's face. Also Charles Busch does a very funny commentary on the dvd of What Ever Happen To Baby Jane.
Someone mentioned Hedda Hopper's gay son, made me wonder if he and Raymond Burr ever got it on.
r17, that is a really nice story about Henry Jones. I wonder if Patty knew that Henry loved her. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Those character actors always brought the goods to the films they acted in, always adding just the right touch to make the 'stars' look even better.
I love Nancy's very theatrical line readings which point out the words in the text that the audience needs to take special note of; the care in crafting exactly how each line is read for maximum impact, so the audience doesn't have to work to understand...and also how her Broadway performance impacts her sense of how to pace the whole thing--note her very fast rate of speech when she's required to dump a TON of exposition in the story of the old lady Rhoda pushed down the stairs. Nancy knows she's got to plow through and get that audience out of there before the crew goes on overtime!
I'm amazed Nancy Kelly never made another movie after this. She was a good actress, and had been in films since the 30's . Why would this have been her swan song ? She lived another 40 years, after this movie was made.
I never had a problem with Nancy Kelly's performance. I always thought it was genuinely emotional, intense and raw. She was just as great as Heckert at expressing the deep anguish she felt about her child.
Kelly had one of those years where the 'Best Actress' category was rough :
Carroll Baker / " Baby Doll"
Katharine Hepburn / "The Rainmaker"
Deborah Kerr / " The King And I
And the winner, & sentimental favorite Ingrid Bergman / " Anastasia"
I get TCM on Comcast, but not TCMHD...why is that?
I really liked Kelly's performance...very technical and modulated. As someone else pointed out she has to breakdown multiple times which is no easy task especially without making it seem really repetitive for the audience. Anyone who has seen Sally Field work knows all about this sort of "sameness" that comes with each breakdown; and while Field might be the more emotionally honest actress, she lacks the technique that Kelly has, which is why her performances tend to get tiresome.
Was Leroy a pedophile? Did his excelsior bed have a sinister purpose?
Nancy Kelly's style of acting reminded me of Judy Garland-she even looks a bit like her.
There is no TCMHD r35. Not much point.
I adore Nancy Kelly's performance. She chews the scenery all right, but she's so compelling. Her character is a great emotional contrast to that uptight little blond pigtailed cunt. Honestly they both give performances of the highest order of camp.
[quote] note her very fast rate of speech when she's required to dump a TON of exposition in the story of the old lady Rhoda pushed down the stairs.
I've always thought that was an odd speech. She does motor through that story only to ask Rhoda again if she had anything to do with Claude Daigle's drowning. You expect her to ask what happened to the old lady but that doesn't happen until much later. Just seems like an awkward place to force that part of the story. Maybe Kelly's character is supposed to be working it out in her own mind, figuring out that Rhoda always gets these treasures after tragedy. But the delivery makes it seem like she's already figured it out and certainly the audience has. It's not a shock later when Rhoda admits to it, although the music sting indicates a dramatic revelation.
[quote]Was Leroy a pedophile? Did his excelsior bed have a sinister purpose?
The bed was just a place for him to go and sleep when he was supposed to be working.
He had a pervy sexual interest, all right, but it was in Christine.
If I ever own a home large enough to have a formal sitting room, the first thing I'm buying is a wheeled drinks cart.
The Voice of the Night
Love this movie and Eileen Heckart. It is very filmed stage play, and the play certainly hasn't aged well.
The Voice of the Night
What is the story saying regarding gender roles? All the main characters are strong, well-defined females. The male characters are either neutered (Monica's brother, Mr. Daigle, Reginald Tasker), frequently absent (Col. Penmark, Christine's father), or dead (Claude.) The most well-developed male character in the story is emotionally immature and conniving Leroy, the unpolished yang to Rhoda's yin.
Is there meant to be an attack on matriarchal culture? Something about castrating females? Or am I reading too much into it?
Why hasn't the play ever had a Broadway revival? It would be perfect for The Roundabout.
Voice of the Night: read the book...it's certainly implied that Leroy has a thing for Rhoda.
The imdb.com site lists a dozen credits or more for Nancy Kelly after THE BAD SEED. All are for work on television. She appeared in five Broadway flops after THE BAD SEED, but she was also one of Uta Hagen's replacements as Martha in the original production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (the other two being Elaine Stritch and Mercedes McCambridge.)
I'm not really surprised she stopped making films after THE BAD SEED. She was thirty-five which was a ripe old age for even the biggest female stars. Her scratchy and squeaky voice clearly indicate that she was a smoker. A fact that may have contributed to her firmly-lined face. She also had bags under her eyes and the skin on her strong jawline was beginning to sag. I'll wager she was willing to be filmed harshly at times to contribute to the veracity of her outward decline.
I had never heard that she later regretted the theatricality of her screen performance. Interesting - but count me among those who adore her tour de force performance. Rhoda's too - I love hearing Patty M. describe how her performance evolved over the months on stage, even adopting the style and manners of Nancy Kelly.
I was surprised on the audio commentary that neither McCormack nor Charles Busch knew that Christine Penmark was required to survive her suicide attempt because the Production Code forbid the depiction of suicide as a means of escaping one's problems. Alas, the script change makes the already hapless Christine look moronically incompetent.
How about the ridiculous curtain calls and the spanking at the very end?
The curtain calls are fun and fit the "stage-y" nature of the film.
The spanking is awkward, though.
God love Monica Breedlove. She is such a fun character. The way she kind of presides over the entire drama, casting everyone in their "role" to play including her gay-ish brother. And that way she has of being almost totally immune to Rhoda's machinations (even though she's, most likely, her next victim). And I absolutely love that first moment when Christine hears the name 'Bessie Denker' and immediately kind of checks in to the fact that it means something to her in some distant way.
I was always mesmerized by Nancy Kelly's mole.
My favorite bits in the film (among a film chockablock full of amazing bits)involve the unmentioned work done by the cocktail cart which Christine wheels out at a moment's notice. It is the unsung hero of the film. Subtle, understated and haunting.
A tall and cool gin and tonic
I don't think you're reading too much into it at all, R46. In fact, I actually wrote an entire research paper in grad school arguing that Rhoda Penmark as a supreme child killer is the ultimate literalization of Lee Edeleman's "sinthomosexual" (from his book "No Future") a queer or queered agent who is a threat to the sanctity and reproductive future enshrined in the idea of the collective "Child."
There is something almost operatic about the lead performances. And there is a definite musicality in the way the lines are delivered. Loop any line and it sound sung.
In the curtain call everyone appears in the same archway except Leroy who comes in through the back door, like an obedient servant, to take his bow. It was probably done that way on stage and they decided to retain it for the film.
Funny you should mention the gay-ish brother, R52. The group scene where Monica describes her psychoanalysis (and makes a silly joke about the name Breedlove) is a re-write of a speech they couldn't include the film. In it, Monica declares her belief that Emory is a "larvated" homosexual. ("It means concealed, as with a mask," she says.) The embarrassed Emory then attempts to butch it up by asking the guests if they mind if he smokes a cigar to which Monica replies, "who are you trying to fool?"
I think the playwright uses Monica to poke fun at his own dime-store psychology.
[quote]And that way she has of being almost totally immune to Rhoda's machinations (even though she's, most likely, her next victim).
To me, that's the ironic part of the story. Monica, the armchair psychiatrist, is the one most completely fooled by Rhoda. Drunken, grieving Hortense knows. Uptight spinster Miss Fern knows. The grandfather figures it out, but Monica is just cheerfully, blissfully ignorant.
There's a line Monica has where she tells the grandfather that she's a large fan of his, and then follows it up a few lines later with "As I said, I'm large," and Evelyn Varden's reading of the line never fails to crack me up.
If someone were to revive it, I wonder if Monica, Christine, or Rhoda would be best played by a drag queen.
Scratch that, of course the answer is "All of the above."
The Voice of the Night
I think the curtain call, the spanking and the light-hearted music are there because the ending might have seemed just too grim for audiences of the time. Remember that the ending had to be changed for the film. In the play, Rhoda lives, but the Code required that criminals be punished in films.
I know the Production Code said that crime had to be punished, but did they have any rules about suicide? I wonder if they couldn't have gotten away with Christine successfully shooting herself AND Rhoda's bolt of lightning. That way preserving at least a smidge of the original ending.
The Voice of the Night
Christine knew something was wrong with Rhoda even in the earliest parts of the movie when she was uneasy about her husband leaving her to go wherever it was he was headed, she was tense from the beginning.
Mind if I come in and drink your liquor?
No William Hopper & men news ? He was not my type, but the fact his mom was Hedda H. must have been a cursed burden, if he really was into the homosex. She must have warned him ( if she knew) that if he ever got caught, he be X'd right outa her will.
Is that the tv movie where the little girl pushed the fat old bag down the stairs while the camera pans to the hissing cat?
I thought the scene when Christine Penmark confronted her father about being adopted and finding out about her evil mother Bessie Denker was well played by Kelly, she seemed genuinely devastated and agonized and overwhelmed by the knowledge that she brought this monster into the world but still loves her and has to protect her.
[quote]If someone were to revive it, I wonder if Monica, Christine, or Rhoda would be best played by a drag queen.
It's been done, and I had the pleasure of seeing it. (Although I saw Mo Collins as Mrs. Daigle instead of Melissa Peterman, who was reviewed.)
[quote]My favorite bits in the film (among a film chockablock full of amazing bits)involve the unmentioned work done by the cocktail cart which Christine wheels out at a moment's notice. It is the unsung hero of the film. Subtle, understated and haunting.
Watch how quickly Christine refills everyone's drink when her father arrives. Her dad must have been a bigger lush than Hortense...
And why didn't Frank Cady get a curtain call - he had lines...
It's on TCM at 5:45 PM
Rhoda Penmark was based on my friend Julie, before she became a real cunt.
I love Paul Fix in this. I watch him every day in repeats of The Rifleman.
[quote]Mind if I come in and drink your liquor?
Mind if I drink in and lick your cummer?
[quote]There is no TCMHD [R35]. Not much point.
OH WHAT are you TALKING about R35? Well OF COURSE there is TMCHD. WHY, WHY would you say such a mean thing? Oh R35, many many cable stations broadcast TMC in High Definition and the films look glorious, simply glorious, especially the wide screen Technicolor ones! Oh if only you wonderful, wonderful people could have seen my Rhoda's beautiful blonde hair in Technicolor!
Thanks for this thread because it made me watch it thoroughly enjoyed it. Kinda was a bummer Christine was probably going to prison for trying to kill Rhoda. I agree the curtain call was a reminder to audience its only a movie...
I loved the end card that advised the audience not to spoil the ending for others.
Great film. The commentary with Patty and Charles Busch on the DVD is worth a listen. I do wish that the censors would have allowed them to go with the original ending from the stage play.
Kinda was a bummer Christine was probably going to prison for trying to kill Rhoda. I agree the curtain call was a reminder to audience its only a movie...
Oddly, censorship made the film even more grisly than it was on stage. Seeing Christine walk off then, after a few seconds of silence, hearing the BANG! of the gunshot and allowing her to die was far less graphic and less distressing than seeing her in the hospital with her head all bandaged, alive and in the mortifying position of having to defend the attempted murder of her child.
On the bright side, you can imagine that after Rhoda's grisly demise Christine no longer has to protect the girl. That way, she can tell the world what a monster Rhoda was. The medal might have even been found with Rhoda's body at the pier. Christine would be exonerated and incarcerated for a while in a mental hospital before being quietly released.
I saw Kelly recently on a Alfred Hitchcock episode even though it was only 5 years since Bad Seed she looked 20 years older..
On the DVD commentary, Patty and Charles Busch both agree that, in that hospital scene, Nancy Kelly looks like she had just had a bit of cosmetic surgery instead of a bullet to the head.