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Film / Kathy O'

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Kathy O' is a 1958 American comedy-drama film, directed and co-written by Jack Sher and starring none other than Patty McCormack. Yes, the very same one from The Bad Seed (1956), right down to the pigtails!

As you'll probably gather from looking over at that poster image, this film is a great departure from that one. But, anyhow...

Kathy O'Rourke (McCormack) is a child actress who often portrays sweet little girls in movies, but off-screen, she is anything but and acts like a spoiled brat. Publicity agent Harry Johnson (Dan Duryea) is hired with the task to not let word out of her disagreeable behavior to his ex-wife columnist, Celeste Saunders (Jan Sterling). Meanwhile, the insistence that Kathy make an appearance at the Christmas parade has made her more irritable, so Harry and Kathy make a deal that she'll act nice for Celeste in exchange for being pulled out of said parade. The deal leads to an unexpected friendship between Kathy and Celeste... so much so that the former runs away to be with the latter, causing Harry to be suspected of kidnapping.


Provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: A very BIG one towards The Bad Seed (1956) which starred the same actress. The fact that they look very similar from the pigtails to the dresses they wore is the entire point and the movie lulls you at first into thinking that she's just as nasty as the evil little girl from the first movie. And then the movie portrays her a bit more sympathetically during the second half and most importantly, she gets her pigtails chopped off as if to drive home to the audience that Patty McCormack is NOT Rhoda Pembroke.
  • Becoming the Mask: Originally, her being nice to Celeste was all an act but the more they hung out together, the more she began to genuinely like being with her because Celeste treated her like a kid, not a star.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Kathy becomes a much happier child in the end as Harry finally understood her, found a friend in Celeste, and even more friends in the form of Harry and Helen's children.
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  • Enfant Terrible: At first, the movie and the adults working around her paints Kathy as this, especially when she stabs a poster with scissors. This is later subverted when she reveals to the few adults who tried to understand her that she's just a girl who felt alone.
  • Friendless Background: Being schooled by a private tutor in the studio, Kathy doesn't get to hang around kids her age. Hence, she never got to have friends.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Kathy, carried over from McCormack's portrayal of Rhoda, jarringly enough. This makes the important haircut she received later that much more special.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Kathy confides to Harry's wife Helen that Celeste is the only friend she had and the only person who she felt had loved her. She assures Kathy that there must be others, but she doesn't believe it or know it.
  • Important Haircut: Harry's boys cut off Kathy's pigtails, but they did so with her consent as she states she doesn't like the pigtails anymore. By the end of the film, she sports a short bob and has become much nicer than when she first appeared.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Kathy and Celeste, much to Harry's surprise.
  • Offstage Villainy: Due to lack of focus, it's not known to what extent did Kathy's aunt pressure or force her niece into projects that Kathy really doesn't want to do. It's because of her overbearing presence that Kathy ran away to be with Celeste when her aunt had forced her to be in the Christmas parade after Harry promised that she'll get her out of it. By the end, it's stated that she has softened somewhat as she let Kathy play with Harry's family and their children during the holidays.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Kathy, which the studio doesn't want to get word out of. She gets better.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kathy's Aunt Harriet states to Celeste that her parents died of an automobile accident. She is currently raised by her aunt.
  • Spoiled Brat: Kathy acts like this most of the time, especially in the studio. It's later revealed, however, that she acts like this because she doesn't get to have any fun because of her job.
  • Stepford Smiler: What little is seen of Kathy during the televised Christmas parade as she forces to wave and smile for the crowd and cameras. Understandable because her aunt just forced her to be in it even though Harry had gotten her out of it when they made the deal.