The Bad Seed (1956) Poster



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Alfred Hitchcock turned down the chance to direct.
Warner Brothers production notes for the film reported that three endings were shot. According to a November 1955 article in the 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.
The book Rhoda claims to have won in Sunday School, "Elsie Dinsmore," was a story with religious themes about a pious eight-year-old who, in sharp contrast to Rhoda, was obedient to her elders to an alarming point, even enduring verbal abuse from a nasty parent. It was written by Martha Finley in 1867.
Although stage actress Joan Croydon (Miss Fern) made a few television appearances, this was her only film appearance.
The original Broadway production of "The Bad Seed" by Maxwell Anderson opened on December 8, 1954 and ran for 334 performances. Nancy Kelly won the 1955 Tony Award for Actress in a Drama for "The Bad Seed" and recreated her role in the movie. Patty McCormack, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden, Henry Jones and Joan Croydon also recreated their stage roles in the movie version.
Final film of Nancy Kelly. NOTE: Despite earning an Oscar nomination for this film, she never made another theatrical movie, only focusing on TV projects.
Henry Jones (LeRoy) also plays the radio announcer who reports the Fern School tragedy.
Billy Wilder wanted to direct a film version based on the successful play, but couldn't get permission from the Production Code Administration. They objected because in his version her crimes went unpunished.
Bette Davis had expressed interest in playing Christine Penmark, but director Mervyn LeRoy insisted on casting Nancy Kelly, who had originated the role on stage.
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 Clair de la Lune".
Paul Henreid tried to buy the rights to the play. He wanted to direct and was planning to cast Bette Davis in the role of the mother.
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Eileen Heckart's two appearances in the movie come exactly one hour apart, at 00:36 and 01:36 in the film. Both appearances last exactly five minutes.
Patty McCormack, who plays Rhoda in the film, was actually 10 at the time of shooting, two years older than the character she was playing.
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Rosalind Russell was originally considered for the role of Christine Penmark (played by Nancy Kelly), until the studio decided to go with the Broadway cast.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

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.
Christine's murderous mother Bessie Denker was invented, all the other female career killers mentioned in the novel and the film were factual.
According to Patty McCormack, the "curtain call" of actors at the end of the movie was a holdover from the Broadway production. The original ending of the play, in which Christine dies and Rhoda lives to kill again, so angered Broadway audiences that when the performance was over, "they were almost literally ready to kill someone." The "curtain call," where Christine turns Rhoda over her knee and spanks her, was a way of breaking the tension and sending the audience off with a laugh, by having Rhoda get her comeuppance.

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