My movie of the week is “The Nanny,” a little known flick made in 1965 and starring Bette Davis.
But, I don’t feel like writing up a typical review, mainly because I can’t review this in typical fashion. So, with that in mind, let’s dive in.
“The Nanny” begins with a family torn apart; the son, Joey (William Dix), has been in a home for boys for two years, and his mother (Wendy Craig) is crying over his impending return. There is something not quite right about this boy; during his first screen appearance, he fakes a suicide just to torment one of the adults.
But that’s nothing compared to what he does to his Nanny (Bette Davis); he torments this woman, and his parents are slow to realize that there is more to their son’s anger than just youthful rebellion. Joey blames her for his sister’s death, which is what got Joey sent to the big house in the first place.
From there, the film is a battle of wills between a thoroughly unlikeable boy and a patient and loving servant. Guess who wins? Guess who’s right?
What’s disappointing in “The Nanny” is that I can’t see this film in 1965, with 1965 sensibilities and knowledge. I can only watch in MY head, and my head figured out what was going on fairly early. It doesn’t have a surprise ending, because, for better or for worse, there’s nothing surprising.
It’s this kind of movie that justifies the obsessive (and frakking obnoxious) need for twist endings in films today; as an audience, we’ve seen all the old tricks before, and since those filmmakers still want a job, they have to throw bigger and more shocking twists at us to keep us guessing.
“The Nanny” does offer some genuinely creepy moments, and one sequence that I, jaded film watcher extraordinaire, found incredibly disturbing, but the toothless ending and old hat story doesn’t work anymore. I bet this was quite the shocker in 1965; shame it didn’t age well.
“The Nanny” (1965)
Directed by Seth Holt
Written by Jimmy Sangster
Starring: Bette Davis (Nanny)
William Dix (Joey)