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Nasty Habits (1977)

In a Philadelphia convent, two nuns battle it out to be elected to the position of head abbess, and neither is about to let anything stand in the way of getting what she wants.


Robert Enders (screenplay), Muriel Spark (novel)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Glenda Jackson ... Alexandra
Melina Mercouri ... Gertrude
Geraldine Page ... Walburga
Sandy Dennis ... Winifred
Anne Jackson ... Mildred
Anne Meara ... Geraldine
Susan Penhaligon ... Felicity
Edith Evans ... Hildegarde
Jerry Stiller ... P.R. Priest
Rip Torn ... Maximilian
Eli Wallach ... Monsignor
Suzanne Stone Suzanne Stone ... Bathildis
Peter Bromilow ... Baudouin
Shane Rimmer ... Officer I / C
Harry Ditson ... Ambrose


The Watergate scandal is used as the basis to tell the story of corruption within a Philadelphia convent. The Abbey of Philadelphia is a wealthy, little known order of nuns loosely associated to the Catholic church. Its Mother Abbess, Sister Hildegarde, is on her deathbed. She admits to Alexandra (the Richard Nixon character) that she has always been her favorite of the nuns, and sees her as her heir apparent, while Hildegarde also admits to Alexandra that she has never trusted hard working Sister Felicity (the George McGovern character) and her liberal ideas. Among Felicity's ideas is wanting to turn the abbey into a love abbey, as she is secretly carrying on with a Jesuit priest, Father Thomas. Power hungry Alexandra also sees being Abbess of Philadelphia as her destiny. But Hildegarde dies before her intention of signing the documentation of her official endorsement of Alexandra as Abbess, which would have more than sealed Alexandra's ascension to the position. Alexandra, using her... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The outrageous comedy!




PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The film boasts Oscar winners Glenda Jackson, Geraldine Page, Sandy Dennis, and Oscar nominees Melina Mercouri, Edith Evans, and Rip Torn. See more »


References All the President's Men (1976) See more »

User Reviews

The Nuns Are Brilliant Actresses
24 April 2018 | by Kopelson-GroupSee all my reviews

It may not be perfect not for a long shot but, it is based on a Muriel Spark novel as a sort of parody for Watergate but instead of The White House in Washington Dc, we have an Abbey in Philadelphia. The pleasures that the film offers are mostly centered on a cast of extraordinary actresses from different parts of the world and from different schools of acting. Glenda Jackson plays the Nixonian Abbess and Glenda Jackson now in 2018 is making a phenomenal return to acting after 25 years of total commitment to her Country as a vociferous Member of Parliament. Last years he gave us a stage rendition of King Lear that by all accounts it was magnificent and at the moment she's on Broadway at 81 years of age in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women. I found her performance in Nasty Habits devoid of tricks or frills, spot on and a lot of fun to watch. Asif all this wasn't enough, Geraldine Page, Melina Mercouri, Sandy Dennis even Edith Evans. They alone make this movie compulsive viewing.

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Release Date:

10 October 1977 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

The Abbess See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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