Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What ever happened to Baby Susy?

Bette Davis got some interesting roles as she aged in the 1960s; the sort of thing she probably wouldn't have done earlier in her career. But the popularity of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane put her back in demand, getting her parts in a lot of stuff that seems a bit schlocky nowadays. Such is the case with The Nanny, which is airing tonight at 11:15 PM on TCM.

Davis plays that nanny, a woman in London who used to have charge of Joey and Susy. However, Susy drowned to death in the bathtub, and Joey was sent away to an institution for a good year for having done it. He's about to get out now, and the boy's parents (Wendy Craig and James Villiers) are brining him home to the nanny who loves him just as much as they do. Except that little Joey doesn't like the Nanny, much to his parents' consternation. Even though he's been in a place for a year to reflect on his responsibility, the result is that he still protests his innocence. Not only that, but he's still claiming that it's the Nanny who is responsible. Worst of all is that he's claiming that she's out to get him!

Nobody believes him, of course. The parents aren't about to put up with this, and if the Nanny were out to get him, she sure wouldn't say anything. So Joey runs off in a sense, spending lots of time with the upstairs neighbor, teenage Bobbie (Pamela Franklin) who has just as absent a parent as Joey does. She doesn't quite believe him, but she's more sympathetic to his complaints than all of the adults. And as things progress, she (and we viewers) get more of a chance to come to the conclusion that perhaps he's not exaggerating....

I don't think that The Nanny is a great movie, although it certainly serves its function as entertainment. Bette Davis was a consummate professional, and even though she's playing roles that probably would have horrified her a generation earlier, she still handles the part with aplomb. She and the boy are both suitably ambiguous as to who the actual baddie is (and needless to say, I'm not about to give it away). Thankfully, it's on DVD, so those of you on the east coast don't have to worry about the late start time.

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