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Aisle Seat: “The Bad Seed” Plants Evergreen Memories

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

Patty McCormack as diabolical Rhoda Penmark in the 1956 classic, “The Bad Seed”
Patty McCormack as diabolical Rhoda Penmark in the 1956 classic, “The Bad Seed”

Guilty confession:

Being quarantined wasn’t all bad.

Maybe 79% bad.

The remaining 21% was tolerable.

Mostly because I indulged in a favorite activity,

bingeing movies.

Sometimes I’d watch virtually with my daughter


whose tastes sync with mine,

except for her horror proclivities.

Reading Stephen King’s It when she was 10

tipped me off what to expect from my drama queen.

Which is ironic, since Emmy signed a pledge

not to ever watch scary movies

after one particularly nightmare-producing flick

freaked her out.

So it goes.

Coincidentally, around the same time,

a plethora of cable sign-up promotions

diabolically appeared on my laptop,

designed to lure the likes of me.

It worked.

I signed up for as many free trial subscriptions

as I could wrangle

for access to even more flicks!

Of course, it helps to cancel

said subscriptions before being charged

the regular price.

Easier said than remembered.

Even when placed on the calendar.

Nearly all genres were in the mix:

indies, noir, international,

psychological thrillers and comedy.

Plenty of comedy.

Notice there was no mention of horror.

Saw my fill as a child, not by choice.

My oldest brother thought it would be appropriate

to bring his 10-year-old sister

to a matinee of Blood Beach.

Feel free to visualize that epic.

Psychological thrillers are more my speed.

Especially Hitchcock movies with

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

I’m still charmed by Twilight Zone episodes

involving old-timers discovering the pleasures

of childhood games like Kick the Can.

Or stepping off the train

into the old-fashioned town named Willoughby.

But the thriller that still packs a campy wallop

is an unforgettable, 1956 black-and-white film

you may know:

The Bad Seed, about a sociopathic, murderous


The anti-Pollyanna.

On a mission.

Adapted from a smash Broadway play

with the original cast,

the film starred the adorable psychopath Rhoda Penmark,

portrayed by Patty McCormack,

and her long-suffering mother,

played by Nancy Kelly.

When I learned that Patricia McCormack was appearing

in an off-Broadway production

of Paul Osborne’s play, Morning’s at Seven,

the die was cast.

I knew we had to connect.

Unfortunately, one of the principals, Judith Ivey, was injured

and the opening was pushed back.

So I wasn’t able to attend a performance

before chatting with Patricia.

Patricia McCormack in 2021–a far cry from the braided brat of 1956
Patricia McCormack in 2021–a far cry from the braided brat of 1956

McCormack’s storied career has spanned decades

since she first terrified millions

in her star-turn role.

She’s been on Playhouse 90,

worked with the likes of

Ossie Davis, Teresa Wright, William Shatner,

was the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,

and featured in scores of

familiar television series and movies.

McCormack was a precious nugget

During the Golden Age of Television.

Now she hears audiences laugh instead of gasp.

The unanticipated opportunity to play off-Broadway

came along because her fellow actor/friend

Dan Luria suggested her for the part.

“I swear it was a surprise,”

McCormack said in a recent phone interview.

“I’ve lived in L.A. for a long time

And not been on a New York stage for a while.

“Dan said they were looking for somebody

and he threw my name in.”

Patricia McCormack sparkles in Paul Osborn’s revival of “Morning’s at Seven”
Patricia McCormack sparkles in Paul Osborn’s revival of “Morning’s at Seven”

The opportunity came

Towards the tail end of the quarantine.

“I’m not young,” she laughed.

“When is this going to happen again?”

Four sisters and significant (or insignificant) others

squabble, compete with and eventually

come to terms with…no spoilers here!

The schedule is intense, tough on everyone’s

body clocks, McCormack added,

regardless of age.

The play is an uplift,

Especially valued in this age of

Covid uncertainty, she said.

Her favorite Manhattan activities

(when she has a breather)

include browsing Macy’s and

mindfully appreciating her New York moment.

She credits her family of origin with

easing her navigation through early fame.

“I’ve always had a positive outlook,

and got lucky with having

a really grounded upbringing,” she said.

The Bad Seed was mistakenly categorized

as a horror movie.

Au contraire!

When first seen, the movie shocks.

Subsequent viewings have provide ample


to notice foreshadowing.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a

must-see for cinephiles.

The Bad Seed may not have

as many Rocky Horror quotable moments,

but what it has is choice.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



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