The Nanny (1965)

Never have the words “time for your bath” been so frightening as when uttered by the legendary Bette Davis.

Master Joey really doesn't want a bath.

Master Joey really doesn’t want a bath.

She plays the titular nanny to the Fane family, whose ten year-old son, Joey, has just returned home from a two-year stint at a ‘special school’. A school Joey was sent to following the accidental killing of his little sister. So far so light-hearted, right? Anyway, Joey’s behaviour doesn’t get any better just because he’s back in the bosom of his family: he refuses to eat, doesn’t want to sleep and gives his poor old nanny all sorts of attitude, in fact he’s certain that she means to kill him. But is he ill, deluded or just plain bad? Or is there more to nanny than meets the eye?

That’s enough about the plot, as usual you can find the details easily on IMDB or myriad other places online. If you are going to watch The Nanny, and I can recommend that you do, it’s best not to know too much in advance.

I can tell you that the performances are excellent. Bette Davis is a legend for a reason, and her turn here as the down-trodden nanny is understated yet effective, showing her amazing versatility. Wendy Craig’s fragile Mrs Fane, struggling to cope with the loss of one child at the hands of the other, is precisely right for the role and as for Joey himself? Well, the little kid really is the star of the show and I’m surprised he wasn’t a huge child star. He appeared in Dr Dolittle two years later but that’s it! Given the tragic trajectory the lives of child stars can take (just Google ‘tragic child stars’ for a plethora of drug overdoses, suicides and misery) perhaps he had a lucky escape.

The Nanny is a taught, intelligent thriller with strong performances and an exciting climax.

Score: 7/10

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