Little Rhoda Penmark Has Everyone Fooled For A While

“The Bad Seed” has had a couple of adaptations over the years, and is probably one of the earlier movies with a creepy kid at the center of the tale.  The 1956 version is directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stems from a 1954 play written by Maxwell Anderson, which actually is an adaptation of a novel by William March.  The cast includes Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Evelyn Varden, and surprisingly William Hopper, who will be come better known for his role as Paul Drake in the “Perry Mason” television series.  Hopper was the only one I really knew on sight, so I was kind of excited to see him.

McCormack plays the little girl, Rhoda Penmark, who just knows how to lay on the charm until her mother, played by Nancy Kelly, starts figuring out that her precious little eight year-old daughter has a bit of a murderous streak.  The father is deployed as part of his military obligations so he is out of the loop for much of the movie.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I had to forgive some moments of atrocious dialogue and over the top acting.  The film took on some tough subject matters for that era of cinematic entertainment, so my respect and appreciation for the courage exhibited putting this thing out ticked up quite a bit.

There were times when mother and daughter could get a little too shrill for my taste. I could understand that some kind of hysteria was warranted at times considering how the story unfolds.

McCormack did have some genuinely creepy moments, but she could sometimes have utilized a bit more subtlety when Rhoda is back into charming the socks off everyone mode.  If course, this is a young kid having to deal with sometimes clumsy writing, so I could forgive some lapses in her ability to be entirely convincing.  There were moments where I could see a talented young actress lurking throughout this piece.

I found the movie to be very interesting in many ways in spite of what could often be fatal flaws.  It apparently did well at the box office at the time of first release, and it was not that hard to see why.  I would still recommend for anyone with interest in classic films to add this to the viewing list.

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