The Bad Seed in Context

In my last post, I gave a summary of the play, The Bad Seed and now I think I would like to tell why I chose this play as well as some context about the author and production. I watched the film adaptation of this play without knowing it was originally a play and I liked it very much. It was probably the first black-and-white film I truly appreciated. It is appealing in the same way a thriller or crime drama is and is something that could easily fit in the “Twilight Zone.” Besides nostalgia, I like it for the low dose of cathartic fear it induces – because it is realistic.

Image result for maxwell anderson

Originally adapted from a novel of the same name by William March, this play is written by Maxwell Anderson. Anderson was born on December 15, 1888 near Atlantic, Pennsylvania. His father was a Baptist minister and during the first few years of his life, his family moved frequently from parish to parish. He received an informal education from reading constantly and by the time he graduated high school he had read John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, and other great poets. Anderson began to write poetry and while attending college at the University of North Dakota he became increasingly involved in poetic and dramatic studies – even writing a class play in 1911, which was the start of his theatrical occupation. He later took a focus in poetic drama for the modern stage. Some of his more notable plays were Saturday’s ChildrenGods of the Lightning, and Both Your Houses, which won for Anderson the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1933.

“Between 1925 and 1951 Maxwell Anderson became one of the most eminent and exciting playwrights in the United States. His original productions during that period amazed his contemporaries with their versatility and poetic power. He believed that playwrights must celebrate whatever is good and worth saving from the often confusing events of their own time. His high sense of purpose drove him to try to rise above contemporary acclaim—to write plays with the power to move audiences over the ages. According to most critical opinion, the results were impressive even when Anderson fell short of his own high standards. Anderson’s moral purpose, facility with language, experimentation, and very real accomplishments across a range of dramatic forms have made him one of the preeminent American playwrights of the twentieth century.”

This information can be found at this link:

Before taking this project I never read his work, but now I am glad I did. Though I have gathered from my research that he is a well-known playwright I don’t believe The Bad Seed is one of his better-known works despite being adapted for the big screen. According to, the original Broadway production of “The Bad Seed” by Maxwell Anderson opened on December 8, 1954, and it ran for 334 performances. It was successful at the time but does not seem to have had many showings since. Anderson had a penchant for social commentary and finding out what he thought was good and worth saving about The Bad Seed is my goal.


One thought on “The Bad Seed in Context”

  1. I wonder if the iconic film has replaced the original play in public imagination. In other words, the movie was so memorable, perhaps the play seems like a mere copy of the movie!


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