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At age 11, Patty McCormack made Oscar history on February 18, 1957 by being the youngest actress to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
Before her, Bonita Granville had been the youngest nominated at the age of 14 for These Three.
The honor was well-deserved as McCormack had played the cute yet criminal Rhoda first on stage at the age of eight and then in the film adaptation of The Bad Seed at the age of ten.
Along with McCormack, three other Bad Seed cast members received nominations – Nancy Kelly, who played Rhoda’s mother, and Eileen Heckart, who played a distraught mother, and Harold Rosson for cinematography.
1957 was an especially competitive year as Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind), Mercedes McCambride (Giant), Mildred Dunnock (Baby Doll), and Heckart were all up in the Best Supporting Actress category – each with noteworthy performances.
While the prospect of winning was exciting, McCormack was nervous about giving an acceptance speech. It was then that her mother, who had been by her side since the first Bad Seed audition, gently said she could relax because she wouldn’t win.
“I was more of a tomboy and didn’t enjoy dressing up for the ceremony,” Patty recalled.
While she may not have enjoyed getting gussied up, she did enjoying seeing the other stars, including Elizabeth Taylor.
“She had on bright red lipstick and with her dark black hair looked like a princess – just gorgeous,” McCormack said.
Another highlight was presenting the Short Subject category, where Patty read off the winner: “Mister Magoo's Puddle Jumper”.
In the end, The Bad Seed didn’t take home any golden statues. However, Patty held the title for the youngest nominee in her category until 1963, when Mary Badham was nominated for To Kill a Mockingbird. But perhaps the greatest win has been the enduring impact of the film on viewers after more than fifty years.
“I could never have imagined that The Bad Seed and Rhoda would live on this way,” she said, “The joy good work has brought me in the past still holds true today.”
While McCormack handled it with class, you can only imagine what Rhoda would have done if she didn’t win the award…