Nancy Kelly is best remembered for her award-winning role as the suicidal mother in "The Bad Seed."
The versatile actress won both a Tony Award and a Sarah Siddons Award for her leading role in "The Bad Seed" on Broadway. She was also nominated for an Academy Award as best actress for the 1956 film version of the play.
Kelly later portrayed the guilt-ridden mother of the deadly malicious child when the stage show toured the country.
Her mother, silent film actress Nan Kelly, served as her manager and dramatic coach. During the awkward adolescent years, her mother put her on radio, where she would be heard but not seen. Kelly was the first ingenue in the popular "March of Time" radio programs and showed remarkable versatility by putting her deep, throaty voice into male as well as female radio parts.
Past the ugly-duckling stage by 1938 when she was 17, Kelly descended on Hollywood. She quickly impressed critics by playing emotional roles of older heroines such as the weeping mother of the outlaw's child in "Jesse James."
Kelly's early work included "Submarine Patrol" and "Tailspin" in 1938, and "Stanley and Livingstone" as well as "Jesse James" in 1939. In the 1940s, she was in "Parachute Battalion," "Tornado," "Show Business," "Woman in Bondage," "Betrayal From the East," and "Friendly Enemies."
By the mid-1950s, the aging leading lady switched to character roles—and won her greatest success in "The Bad Seed."
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