It’s not necessary to be an astute student to guess that Bette Davis as a middle-aged Mary Poppins in a fairly fraught household will eventually be up to no good. Which immediately sets the odds against screenwriter Jimmy Sangster and director Seth Holt. But, in fairness, the balance of power between Davis, posing as a devoted nanny, and William Dix as a knowing youngster who hates Davis’ innards, is so skillfully portrayed to make The Nanny a superior psycho-thriller.
It’s an added plus to the pic [from the novel by Evelyn Piper] that neither writer nor director teeters over the edge into hysterics, and the cast has cottoned on and helped to build up the suspense gently but with a steely pricking of the nerve ends.
Yarn, briefly, concerns the relationship between nanny Davis and Master Joey (Dix) which is less than cordial. He comes out of a school for the unstable to which he has been sent when his baby sister is found drowned in the bath. He insists it was nanny’s fault, but, of course, the adults don’t believe him.
Davis handles her assignment with marked professionalism, and copes with plenty of knowhow competition. Wendy Craig is fine as a weak, fond young mama whose nerves are shot to pieces by the household happenings.