The Nanny
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FAQ Contents

A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Nanny can be found here.

Yes, The Nanny (1964) is also a novel by American author Merriam Modell (under the pen-name Evelyn Piper). The book was adapted for the screen by English screenwriter and producer Jimmy Sangster of Hammer Film Productions.

Definitely not. While both the movie and the TV series, 'The Nanny' (1993-1999), feature nannies, there is no relationship between the two. The TV show is a comedy centering around a whiny New York cosmetics saleswoman-turned-nanny (played by Fran Drescher). The movie is a thriller centering around 10-year old Joey Fane (William Dix), who was accused of drowning his 3-year old sister and placed in a home for disturbed children. Joey returns home after two years, refusing to eat anything prepared by his Nanny (Bette Davis), to sleep in a bedroom prepared for him by Nanny, to bathe in the presence of Nanny, or even to be touched by Nanny. His parents Bill (James Villiers) and Virgie (Wendy Craig), think he's just being willful and nasty, but Joey knows that there's more to Nanny than meets the eye.

Back in the 1960s, nitroglycerin and amyl nitrite were commonly prescribed for patients with heart conditions because they both tend to lower blood pressure. Nitroglycerin is usually injected or swallowed. The fact that Pen (Jill Bennett) is shown inhaling her medication suggests that it is amyl nitrite. As shown in the movie, amyl nitrite comes in small capsules that are broken just prior to use.

During a period when Nanny is away from home tending to personal business, Suzy (Angharad Aubrey) decides to give her doll Amanda a bath. She sets Amanda on the edge of the bathtub and goes to get soap and a washcloth. Amanda falls into the tub and out of Suzy's reach, so she pulls over a stool and climbs up to the rim of the tub. She is then shown falling into the tub. When Nanny returns home visibly upset because she has just learned about the death of her own daughter, she proceeds to ready the bathwater for Joey and Suzy's bath. Because the shower curtain is closed, she reaches around it and absent-mindedly turns on the faucet to start filling the tub. She returns a few minutes later and finds Suzy and her doll lying in the water. In what appears to be a fugue state, Nanny visualizes Suzy happily playing in the water and does not lift her out. Most viewers conclude that Suzy's drowning was accidental, and some even argue that Suzy may have already been dead at that point, having fallen into the tub and hit her head. What bothers many viewers is why Suzy's death was blamed on Joey.

How does the movie end?

Joey has barricaded himself in his bedroom, pushed a chest of drawers in front of the door, and secured it to the wall with rope. Only then does he fall asleep. Nanny pushes open his door, moving the chest and waking up Joey. Nanny trips on the rope and Joey makes a run for the window, but Nanny grabs his foot, causing him to fall down and hit his head on the sill. Nanny carries the unconscious boy into the bathroom where she has started filling in the tub. She slides him into the water and holds his head under. Suddenly, she starts visualizing Suzy in the tub. Apparently coming back to reality, Nanny calls out Joey's name and lifts him from the water. Joey comes to, breaks free, and runs out of the room. Nanny collapses into tears, goes into her bedroom, and begins to collect her photos of the children. Cut to the hospital room where Virgie is speaking to a doctor. He tells her that Nanny has been sent away and is a very sick woman. Virgie asks to see Joey, who is waiting outside her door. Joey apologizes for Nanny, but Virgie says that she knows all about it now. In the final scene, Virgie hugs Joey, while he promises to take care of her from now on as well as do the cooking, shine his father's shoes, and make the beds.

Those who have both seen the movie and read the book say that there have been substantial alterations between page and screen. Some minor changes include moving the setting from New York to London (no doubt because that's where Hammer's film studio was located), Joey's younger brother becomes a younger sister in the movie, Joey's neighbor is older in the novel, and Joey's father is having an affair with his secretary, who is the one who recommends Nanny to the Fanes. Some major differences include the fact that the main characters are less sympathetic in the novel than in the movie, the battle of wills between Nanny and Joey are more pronounced in the movie, the infantilized mother begins to stand up for herself at the end of the book, and Nanny's motivations and ultimate fate in the book is handled differently than in the movie. Added to the movie is a subplot about Nanny's daughter that is not in the book. All in all, readers/viewers report that this is one case where the movie is actually better (e.g., more suspenseful and easier to follow) than the novel.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 2 years ago
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