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Born to Be Bad

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Born to Be Bad (1950) starring Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott, Joan Leslie
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Born to Be Bad (1950) starring Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott, Joan Leslie

Synopsis of Born to Be Bad

In Born to Be Bad, a manipulative gold digger sets her sights on a wealthy man. A man who’s already engaged. She ignores the advances of a rugged writer who loves her despite her flaws.


  • Joan Fontaine (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) … Christabel Caine Carey. John Caine’s niece, who comes to live with Donna. And promptly begins scheming to break Donna’s engagement to the wealthy Curtis. And steal him for herself.
  • Robert Ryan (Clash by Night) … Nick Bradley. Aspiring author, who has his first novel published by Caine. He falls in love with Christabel, and she with him. But, her affection isn’t enough … For her. She starts seeing him on the side, after she’s married to Curtis.
  • Zachary Scott (Mildred Pierce) … Curtis Carey. The wealthy man, who has his engagement undercut by Christabel. She later manipulates him into proposing to her. Although she doesn’t actually love him. Only his money, and social position.
  • Joan Leslie (Sergeant York) … Donna Foster. The young woman, truly in love with Curtis. She has her life ruined b y Christabel …. Until Christabel’s lies are unfurled.
  • Mel Ferrer (Lili) … Gabriel ‘Gobby’ Broome. A painter friend of Donna’s. It’s at a party in his honor that Christabel meets both Nick and Curtis.
  • Harold Vermilyea … John Caine. Christabel’s uncle, who accidentally exposes Christabel’s lie. She told her husband that she was visiting her aunt …. While she was actually off cheating with Nick. But Aunt Clara had dies previously …
  • Virginia Farmer … Aunt Clara Caine

Editorial review of Born to Be Bad

One of the most oft-revived of the pre-Technicolor Nicholas Ray efforts, Born to Be Bad offers us the spectacle of Joan Fontaine portraying a character described as “a cross between Lucrezia Borgia and Peg O’ My Heart”. For the benefit of her wealthy husband Zachary Scott and his family, Fontaine adopts a facade of wide-eyed sweetness. Bored with her hubby, she inaugurates a romance with novelist Robert Ryan. All her carefully crafted calculations come acropper when both men discover that she’s a bitch among bitches. She might have gotten away with all her machinations, but the censors said uh-uh.

Originally slated for filming in 1946, with Henry Fonda scheduled to play the Robert Ryan part, Born to Bad was cancelled, then resurfaced as Bed as Roses in 1948, this time with Barbara Bel Geddes in the Fontaine role. RKO head Howard Hughes’ decision to replace Bel Geddes with the more bankable Fontaine was one of the reasons that producer Dore Schary left RKO in favor of MGM. Based on Anne Parrish’s novel All Kneeling, Born to be Bad is so overheated at times that it threatens to lapse into self-parody; though this never happens, the film was the basis for one of TV star Carol Burnett‘s funniest and most devastating movie takeoffs, Raised to be Rotten.; 

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