Born to Be Bad (1950 film)

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Born to Be Bad
Born to Be Bad (1950) cinema poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Fred Fleck (assistant)
Produced by Robert Sparks
Screenplay by Charles Schnee
Edith R. Sommer
Based on the novel All Kneeling
by Anne Parrish
Starring Joan Fontaine
Robert Ryan
Zachary Scott
Joan Leslie
Mel Ferrer
Music by Frederick Hollander
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • July 15, 1950 (1950-07-15) (US)[1]
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Born to Be Bad is a 1950 melodrama directed by Nicholas Ray, starring Joan Fontaine as a manipulative young woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. It is based on the bestselling novel All Kneeling by Anne Parrish (1928).[2]


Donna Foster works for publisher John Caine. She agrees to have his niece, Christabel, live with her in San Francisco while attending business school.

Christabel proves to be a scheming, socially ambitious woman. She flirts with Donna's fiance, the wealthy Curtis Carey, at a party for Donna's friend, painter Gabriel Broome. She also attracts the interest of aspiring author Nick Bradley.

While having her portrait done by Broome, a call from Curtis brings her eagerly to a jeweler, only to discover to her disappointment that he merely seeks her advice in buying Donna an engagement gift. After he purchases an expensive one, Christabel plants a seed of doubt in Donna's mind and makes her feel guilty by insinuating that in accepting such a lavish gift, Donna is giving Curtis the appearance of being after his money.

Christabel then turns around and cunningly does the same to Curtis by convincing him to propose a pre-nuptial agreement. Donna is offended and the couple break up, which turns out to have been Christabel's plan all along. With Curtis now available, Christabel rebuffs a marriage proposal from Nick, whose novel is about to be published by Caine.

A romance develops that leads to Christabel marrying Curtis and becoming a high society lady. However, it turns out that she is still attracted to Nick, whom she begins seeing on the side. On one occasion, she slips away from a vacation resort, telling Curtis that she is going to see her aunt Clara. Her lie is exposed by Caine, her uncle, who informs Curtis that the aunt had died while Christabel claimed to be visiting her.

Curtis reunites with Donna after sending away Christabel with nothing more than a few expensive furs. She gets into an accident and is hospitalized, but promptly begins a flirtation with her doctor, showing that she is truly incorrigible.



Film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a mixed review, writing, "Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause/Johnny Guitar) dips down a few levels from his illustrious opus to helm this trashy but stylishly entertaining melodrama. It's passable as a routine Hollywood woman's pic about bitchy social climber Christabel Caine (Joan Fontaine) ... It moves in trite soap opera circles reaching a predictable outcome; but, Ray keeps all the viciousness going at full blast, thereby drawing an ugly picture about the bankrupt emotional state of society life. Fontaine has a change of pace from her usual 'nice' image heroine role."[3]

Film critic Craig Butler in his film review suggests suspending disbelief when watching the film, writing, "Although it's hardly a great movie, Born to Be Bad is a lot of fun – if one is in the mood for a bitchy, campy, over-the-top melodrama. Bad' has little time to waste on subtlety; it's much more concerned with celebrating its 'bad girl' protagonist, and in presenting its soap in the most operatic terms possible ... Fortunately, artistic considerations are beside the point with Bad. It's really just the kind of film that one should sit back, put questions of artistry aside and just enjoy for its over-the-top fun."[4]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1973, the thirteenth episode of the seventh season of The Carol Burnett Show featured a take-off of the film called "Raised to Be Rotten", with Carol Burnett as "Christinabel", Ruth Buzzi as "Darlene", Richard Crenna as "Buck" and Harvey Korman as "Kirk".[5]


  1. ^ "Born to Be Bad: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ Born to Be Bad at the American Film Institute Catalog. Accessed: August 6, 2013.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 29, 2004. Accessed: July 10, 2013.
  4. ^ Butler, Craig. All Movie by Rovi, film review. Accessed: July 10, 2013.
  5. ^ IMDB. "The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) Episode #7.13". Retrieved August 22, 2017. 

External links[edit]