The Nanny (1965 film)

The Nanny is a 1965 British suspense film directed by Seth Holt, and starring Bette Davis, Wendy Craig, and Jill Bennett. Davis appears as a supposedly devoted nanny caring for a 10-year-old boy recently discharged from a home for disturbed children. It is based on the novel of the same title by Evelyn Piper (a pseudonym for Merriam Modell), and the film was scored by Richard Rodney Bennett. The film was made by Hammer Film Productions at Elstree Studios.

The Nanny
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySeth Holt
Produced byJimmy Sangster
Written byJimmy Sangster
StarringBette Davis
William Dix
Wendy Craig
Jill Bennett
Music byRichard Rodney Bennett
CinematographyHarry Waxman
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors (UK)
20th Century Fox (USA)
Release date
7 November 1965 (UK)
27 October 1965 (U.S.)
Running time
91 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1,300,000 (estimated)
Box office$2 million (US/ Canada)[1]


The Fanes, Bill and Virginia, are about to welcome their ten-year-old son Joey back from the special school he has attended for two years, although it is not clear why he has been away. It is suggested that it was as a result of his younger sister, Susie, dying.  His mother, who appears to be a neurotic and disturbed woman (she refuses to go with her husband to meet Joey), wistfully looks at photos of herself with Susie.

Joey appears to be a very disturbed and truculent child, who pretends to have hanged himself at the special school before his father arrives to collect him, deceiving one of the staff there. He clearly hates and mistrusts the family's nanny (called simply Nanny by everyone throughout the film).  Once back home he proves himself to be sullen and almost uncontrollable, refusing any help or assistance from Nanny, whilst demanding everything be the way he wants it, including refusing to eat any food that Nanny has made or bought for him, including a 'welcome home' cake, and accusing her of trying to poison him. Joey also moves from the bedroom Nanny has prepared for him to a room with a strong lock and access to the fire escape. Although Joey wants Nanny to be dismissed his father explains that she was Nanny to his mother and aunt (Pen) and has been with the family for many years and is considered to be part of the family. Aunt Pen appears to get on well with Joey, although it is revealed that she has a very weak heart (from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever) and a shock or any undue excitement could kill her, a fact which seems to hold an unusual interest for Joey. Bill Fane is a Queen's Messenger who is away from home a great deal, and he has to travel to Beirut and will be gone a few days; after he leaves for the airport he does not reappear in the film.

One day Joey sees a 14-year-old girl, Bobbie Medman, who is the daughter of a doctor who lives in a flat upstairs, going down the fire escape and strikes up a friendship with her. He demonstrates his unruly behaviour by dropping a flower box which nearly hits a milkman; he also places a doll upside down in a filled bath and then gets Nanny to go to the bath (supposedly to turn the water off), and when she does so and sees the doll she is greatly disturbed by the sight. It is clear that this is some reference to an incident in the past, as his mother is very angry with him for playing such a trick. Joey then tells Bobbie what happened to his sister; in his version one day Nanny went out, leaving him and Susie alone, and although she was only gone a short time, during this period Susie, whilst trying to bathe her doll, lost her balance and fell into the bath, presumably banging her head and knocking herself unconscious. When Nanny returns a few minutes later, she runs the bath (without noticing the child and doll in the bath) and appears to accidentally drown Susie. Although this is Joey's version of events, there are elements of the incident that he couldn't possibly know about as he is in another room at the time.

Joey continues to defy Nanny, and is particularly insistent that she does not come in whilst he is in the bathroom having a bath, which she agrees to at his insistence. When she cooks one of his favourite dishes, he refuses to eat it, but instead she spoon-feeds Virginia (who seems incapable of doing anything for herself, and is totally reliant on Nanny). Nanny also complains that Joey has been rooting around in her medicine box. When Virginia then falls ill with food poisoning, Bobbie’s father arranges for her to go to hospital, and Nanny finds the cause of the poisoning - some medicine from her cabinet - under Joey's pillow, but he claims, rather half-heartedly and without conviction, that he didn't do it but that it was Nanny. He refuses to stay in the house alone with Nanny, so his Aunt Pen comes over to stay with him and Nanny.

Joey proceeds to barricade his room to stop Nanny entering at night; at 01:30 Pen is woken up and when she goes to the kitchen, she finds Nanny, standing outside Joey's room with a pillow in her hands. Pen remembers that Nanny always disliked pillows, and it suddenly dawns on her that Joey is right after all, Nanny is trying to kill him. This realisation however sets off a panic attack, and she clearly suffers a heart attack, but this time Nanny, instead of helping her as she did once before, watches her die as she relates what really happened on the day Susie died. She tells Pen that she received a call one day, and had to take a taxi to a poor and run-down part of town, where she found Dr Wills and a woman called Janet, who is lying dead in bed. It transpires that Janet is Nanny's illegitimate daughter, who tried to have an illegal abortion, which killed her. Nanny walks home in a daze, returning to the house, at which point her version of events matches that of Joey's earlier in the film, although in her mind she also sees Susie alive and well and having a bath, as well as drowned in the bath with her doll.

Satisfied that Pen is now dead, Nanny proceeds to try and enter Joey's bedroom, presumably to smother him with the pillow, but he is woken up as she is unable to enter quietly as he has barricaded the door. As he tries to escape through the window onto the fire escape Nanny manages to grab him by the ankle, causing him to fall and hit his head on a trunk, knocking him unconscious. Nanny then attempts to drown him in the bath, but changes her mind at the last minute and pulls him out of the water, whereupon he runs off. The film ends with Doctor Medman explaining everything to Virginia, before Joey comes in and hugs his mother, saying that he will help her now with everything.


Bette Davis Nanny
William Dix Joey Fane
Wendy Craig Virginia "Virgie" Fane
Jill Bennett Aunt Pen
James Villiers Bill Fane
Pamela Franklin Bobbie Medman
Jack Watling Dr. Medman
Maurice Denham Dr. Beamaster
Alfred Burke Dr. Wills
Angharad Aubrey Susy Fane
Harry Fowler Milkman



The Nanny has been well received by critics. It currently holds a 91% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on eleven reviews.[2]

AllMovie called it "one of Hammer Films' better non-supernatural outings of the 1960s".[3]

Box Office

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $1,300,000 in rentals to break even and made $2,175,000, meaning it made a profit.[4]

The movie screening rights were sold to American television for nearly $400,000.[5]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p230 Please note figures are rentals not total gross. See also "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  2. "The Nanny - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  3. Guarisco, Donald. "The Nanny (1965) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  4. Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 324.
  5. Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography, McFarland, 1996 p.258
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