“The Bad Seed” (1956)
With her blonde pigtails and ladylike manners, Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) seems to be the perfect little girl. But her mother, Christine (Nancy Kelly), realizes Rhoda isn’t the innocent child she appears to be. Instead the 8-year-old is cold, calculating and manipulative. Does that make her a bad seed capable of murder?
When people close to Rhoda begin having deadly mishaps, Christine wonders if her daughter played a role in their demise. If Rhoda is indeed a psychopath, how did she get that way given that she’s grown up in a loving home? Based on the William March novel of the same name, the film debates what’s responsible for the bad seeds among us—nature or nurture?
“The Bad Seed” received four Oscar nominations, including for the performances of Kelly and McCormack. Supporting actress Eileen Heckart won a Golden Globe for her role as a grieving mother determined to get answers about her son’s “accidental” demise. Next “The Birds.”