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The Bad Seed (1956)

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A housewife suspects that her seemingly perfect eight year-old daughter is a heartless killer.


Mervyn LeRoy


John Lee Mahin (screenplay), Maxwell Anderson (play) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Nancy Kelly ... Christine Penmark
Patty McCormack ... Rhoda Penmark
Henry Jones ... Leroy Jessup
Eileen Heckart ... Hortense Daigle
Evelyn Varden ... Monica Breedlove
William Hopper ... Col. Kenneth Penmark
Paul Fix ... Richard Bravo
Jesse White ... Emory Wages
Gage Clarke ... Reginald 'Reggie' Tasker
Joan Croydon Joan Croydon ... Claudia Fern (as Joan Croyden)
Frank Cady ... Henry Daigle


Christine Penmark seems to have it all: a lovely home, a loving husband and the most "perfect" daughter in the world. But since childhood, Christine has suffered from the most terrible recurring nightmare. And her "perfect" daughter's accomplishments include lying, theft and possibly much, much worse. Only Christine knows the truth about her daughter and only Christine's father knows the truth about her nightmare. Written by A.L.Beneteau <albl@inforamp.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What would you do if you were cursed with "The Bad Seed"? See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

12 September 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bad Seed See more »

Filming Locations:

Burbank, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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. See more »


When Rhoda and Leroy are talking outside, she is working on a puzzle. When Rhoda is facing Leroy, the pieces to the puzzle are on the table, but when Leroy is facing Rhoda, the pieces are not there. When it goes back to Rhoda, the pieces are again outside the puzzle. See more »


Hortense Daigle: [drunkenly] I just want to have a talk with your little girl. She was one of the last to see my Claude alive.
Christine Penmark: I know.
Hortense Daigle: Where do you keep the perfect little lady who was the last to see Claude? I thought I'd hold her in my arms and we'd have a little talk where maybe she'd remember some little thing... any little thing.
Christine Penmark: She's out playing, I think.
Hortense Daigle: Well, I'm unfortunate, that's all. Drunk and unfortunate, ladies and gentlemen.
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Crazy Credits

After the finale, a narrator tells the audience "One moment please. And now our wonderful cast." Then, the principal cast members are introduced one by one, like they would be at the end of a play. After that's done with, there's a brief scene in which Nancy Kelly spanks Patty McCormack. See more »


Au clair de la lune
Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Lully
Played on the piano by Patty McCormack and whistled by Henry Jones
Played often in the score
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

16 October 2011 | by zetesSee all my reviews

Probably the first ever evil child movie. Patty McCormack plays Rhoda, a sweet little child with a penchant for murder. On a school field trip, a boy drowns. McCormack's mother, Nancy Kelly, begins to suspect that her daughter may have played a part in it. This subject must have been exceptionally shocking back in 1956. It had to have been really hard to accept. I'm guessing this because the writers overexplain every detail down to the bone. It drags the film out interminably. McCormack is actually excellent. Yeah, she overacts a little, but compared to most child actors of the era, she's very good. The only other performance in the film I really liked was Henry Jones, who plays the Cajun maintenance man who is, at first, the only one smart enough to see that McCormack is evil. Everyone else in the film overacts so badly that the film often becomes hard to sit through. Of course, based on a play, the film is overly stagey (it even ends with a curtain call). The final scene in the movie is also pretty unintentionally hilarious. The film was hugely popular in its time, and was nominated for four Oscars, three for acting. The McCormack nomination is understandable. Kelly's nomination is sort of embarrassing, but Eileen Heckart, who plays the constantly drunken mother of the murder victim, is one of the truly unbelievable nominations in the history of the Academy.

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