This melodrama about a child with an inbred talent for homicide is pretty unpleasant stuff on its own. Taken from Maxwell Anderson’s stage play, adapted from William March’s novel, the film remains more of the theatre than of the motion picture field. Nonetheless, it is well done within that qualification.
With the possible exception of the Production Code-conscious ending, the screenplay varies little from the Anderson legit piece. Some of the casting is from the stage success, too, with young Patty McCormack as the innocent-looking murderess, and Nancy Kelly as her distraught mother. Both are outstanding.
Scoring also is William Hopper, the father who never sees through the evil of his little girl.
It is the story of a woman who discovers that her daughter, a sweet, innocent-faced child, is a killer. Director Mervyn LeRoy mounts sequences with shocking horror as it is brought out the girl deliberately murdered a schoolmate because she wanted the penmanship medal he had won.
1956: Nominations: Best Actress (Nancy Kelly), Supp. Actress (Eileen Heckart, Patty McCormack), B&W Cinematography