Born to Be Bad (1950 film)

Born to Be Bad is a 1950 drama, 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]

Born to Be Bad
Born to Be Bad (1950) cinema poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNicholas Ray
Screenplay byEdith Sommer
Charles Schnee (adaptation)
Robert Soderberg (additional dialogue)
George Oppenheimer (additional dialogue)
Based onthe novel All Kneeling
by Anne Parrish
Produced byRobert Sparks
StarringJoan Fontaine
Robert Ryan
Zachary Scott
Joan Leslie
Mel Ferrer
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca
Edited byFrederic Knudtson
Music byFrederick Hollander
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • July 15, 1950 (1950-07-15) (US)[1]
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States


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) ... Ray keeps all the viciousness going at full blast, thereby drawing an ugly picture about the bankrupt emotional state of society life."[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."[4]

In popular cultureEdit

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 Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. 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 linksEdit