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"The Children's Hour"

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Even today, "The Children's Hour" is not a well-regarded film.

 

And, yet, it has such masterful direction by William Wyler.

 

The objection to the film seems to be the suicide of Shirley MacLaine's character.

 

But, for Wyler, who filmed "These Three" as a heterosexual triangle, he obviously wanted to remain true to the original version (the famous Broadway play of the 30's).

 

In "The Children's Hour", you can feel MacLaine's character's self-hatred.

 

You can feel that she feels at fault - the child's "lie" mirrored her true feelings for Audrey Hepburn's character.

 

You can feel that she feels that she brought down The Dobie-Wright School for Girls.

 

What does she have to live for - losing "her love" and the school?

 

Were we that enlightened back in 1961 that Wyler should have invented "a happy ending"?

 

The film is not about LESBIANISM.

 

It's about A LIE, which contained enough "truth" to destroy three lives - Shirley MacLaine's, Audrey Hepburn's and James Garner's - and damage Fay Bainter's, Miriam Hopkins' and Karin Balkin's.

 

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Even today, "The Children's Hour" is not a well-regarded film.

 

And, yet, it has such masterful direction by William Wyler.

 

The objection to the film seems to be the suicide of Shirley MacLaine's character.

 

But, for Wyler, who filmed "These Three" as a heterosexual triangle, he obviously wanted to remain true to the original version (the famous Broadway play of the 30's).

 

In "The Children's Hour", you can feel MacLaine's character's self-hatred.

 

You can feel that she feels at fault - the child's "lie" mirrored her true feelings for Audrey Hepburn's character.

 

You can feel that she feels that she brought down The Dobie-Wright School for Girls.

 

What does she have to live for - losing "her love" and the school?

 

Were we that enlightened back in 1961 that Wyler should have invented "a happy ending"?

 

The film is not about LESBIANISM.

 

It's about A LIE, which contained enough "truth" to destroy three lives - Shirley MacLaine's, Audrey Hepburn's and James Garner's - and damage Fay Bainter's, Miriam Hopkins' and Karin Balkin's.

 

Yes,  the play by Lillian Hellman was always more about the lie and its impact than what the lie was about.  This is why what the lie was about could be changed without affecting the emotional aspects of the story, such as the pain a lie can cause. 

 

But the lesbian angle does add some very interesting sub-plots;   the bitterness the lesbian has towards her loves' boyfriend and eventual betrayal the lesbian feels towards her best friend because the type of love she is seeking can't be provided by her best friend.    In addition the boyfriend is your typical insecure heterosexual man that in order to deal with his own internal 'issues' questions the sexuality of his girlfriend.

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It's a good film, mostly for the performances of Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. The suicide is a shocking tragic turn in the story and very powerful, also true to the original play.

 

I think this version is inferior to the earlier "These Three", mostly because of the excellent performance in the early version by Bonita Granville who is chilling in her evilness as the lying school girl. The later version has some awful acting by Karen Balkin, who just seems like a brat who just sucked a lemon. Not surprisingly, she never made another film.

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Yes, Balkin is really terrible and one wonders how Wyler ever cast her in this. She really brings down the film a peg or two.

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It's a good film, mostly for the performances of Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. The suicide is a shocking tragic turn in the story and very powerful, also true to the original play.

 

I think this version is inferior to the earlier "These Three", mostly because of the excellent performance in the early version by Bonita Granville who is chilling in her evilness as the lying school girl. The later version has some awful acting by Karen Balkin, who just seems like a brat who just sucked a lemon. Not surprisingly, she never made another film.

In this second version, I think that William Wyler wanted to get away from the chilling evilness of Bonita Granville's superb performance and, instead, he wanted to show us simply A BRAT who could easily twist her elderly grandmother in any direction that she chose.  

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It could be said that the story is about lesbianism as a lie. Therefore the two ideas are linked.

 

Hasn't MacLaine's character being lying, pretending she is just Hepburn's friend when in her mind and heart she senses it can be so much more? So in a way her straight-identified friendship is a deception.

 

The child is really quite incidental to the plot. In the first film, because of the production code, the child had to be the antagonist. But if you look beneath the surface at the actual story itself, the women are their own worst enemies. Lying to oneself and lying to the world at large is the greater issue. 

 

I don't think either version actually hit the mark in capturing what Hellman intended.

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In this second version, I think that William Wyler wanted to get away from the chilling evilness of Bonita Granville's superb performance and, instead, he wanted to show us simply A BRAT who could easily twist her elderly grandmother in any direction that she chose.  

 

I agree that Granville gave a superb performance (she was a first rate child \ teen actress),  but what you say here does make sense.

 

Wyler was a great director (he directed many of my favorite films),  so it is hard to believe he was clueless about the differences in the performances between the two child actresses and that it was a deliberate bit of casting done to create a different affect as you mentioned.

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Even today, "The Children's Hour" is not a well-regarded film.

 

And, yet, it has such masterful direction by William Wyler.

 

The objection to the film seems to be the suicide of Shirley MacLaine's character.

 

But, for Wyler, who filmed "These Three" as a heterosexual triangle, he obviously wanted to remain true to the original version (the famous Broadway play of the 30's).

 

In "The Children's Hour", you can feel MacLaine's character's self-hatred.

 

You can feel that she feels at fault - the child's "lie" mirrored her true feelings for Audrey Hepburn's character.

 

You can feel that she feels that she brought down The Dobie-Wright School for Girls.

 

What does she have to live for - losing "her love" and the school?

 

Were we that enlightened back in 1961 that Wyler should have invented "a happy ending"?

 

The film is not about LESBIANISM.

 

It's about A LIE, which contained enough "truth" to destroy three lives - Shirley MacLaine's, Audrey Hepburn's and James Garner's - and damage Fay Bainter's, Miriam Hopkins' and Karin Balkin's.

 

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When I see this wicked kid....

 

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...all I can think of is..

 

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I might prefer the original "These Three" from 1936, mostly because of cast and style.  I like MacLaine, and Garner is OK, but I've never been a fan of Audrey Hepburn.  I've always liked Bonita Granville, Joel McCrea, Merle Oberon, and Miriam Hopkins.

 

That said, "The Children's Hour" is a good watch.  The story seems to make more sense than in the 1936 version.  But it doesn't have Bonita Granville.

 

As for how "The Children's Hour" was thought about on release, 1961 was way before my time so can't say but I've known many in LGBBT community and doubtful they wouldn't relate to the film today.

 

 

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It's a good film, mostly for the performances of Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. The suicide is a shocking tragic turn in the story and very powerful, also true to the original play.

 

I think this version is inferior to the earlier "These Three", mostly because of the excellent performance in the early version by Bonita Granville who is chilling in her evilness as the lying school girl. The later version has some awful acting by Karen Balkin, who just seems like a brat who just sucked a lemon. Not surprisingly, she never made another film.

 

I swear I've seen Karen Balkin in other stuff - maybe just TV?  Totally agree about Bonita Granville - excellent actress and makes THESE THREE work in spite of all the Code restrictions.  I think I like the earlier version better due to Granville and the lead actors.  I saw the second version first and remember feeling so sad because Shirley hanged herself.  I thought it was because of unrequited love but maybe it was something more from reading some of the comments here.  Thanks for the "food for thought."

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I swear I've seen Karen Balkin in other stuff - maybe just TV?  Totally agree about Bonita Granville - excellent actress and makes THESE THREE work in spite of all the Code restrictions.  I think I like the earlier version better due to Granville and the lead actors.  I saw the second version first and remember feeling so sad because Shirley hanged herself.  I thought it was because of unrequited love but maybe it was something more from reading some of the comments here.  Thanks for the "food for thought."

 

Yeah Christine. I also would've sworn I've seen this child actress guest on a number of other television series over the years, but just now after checking her filmography on the IMDb website, she only has four credits in total, one for this feature film and only three others on TV series. And, of those three, none do I ever recall seeing.

 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0050318/

 

(...maybe she just had one of those faces that resembled some other little actress or actresses, eh?!) 

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Yeah Christine. I also would've sworn I've seen this child actress guest on a number of other television series over the years, but just now after checking her filmography on the IMDb website, she only has four credits in total, one for this feature film and only three others on TV series. And, of those three, none do I ever recall seeing.

 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0050318/

 

(...maybe she just had one of those faces that resembled some other little actress or actresses, eh?!) 

 

You got my curiosity going so I looked at that IMDb website, too.  I guess I saw her in HENNESSEY and LUCY when I was a kid.  It does seem she was in more things but  I think you're right about "one of those faces."

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  James Garner though he wasn't really a moviefan himself, always rated "Americanization of Emily" as his best work, thought he'd outright win the Oscar for "Children's Hour"

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Could the play by Lillian Hellman be revived today?

 

Probably not, because a lot of people would see it as a dated treatment of lesbianism.

 

And the casting of little Mary would be crucial.

 

Also, the casting of Karen and Martha could approach a style of acting that would allow a more subtle approach to the text.

 

Should Karen be that oblivious to Martha's "devotion"? 

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Could the play by Lillian Hellman be revived today?

 

Probably not, because a lot of people would see it as a dated treatment of lesbianism.

 

And the casting of little Mary would be crucial.

 

Also, the casting of Karen and Martha could approach a style of acting that would allow a more subtle approach to the text.

 

Should Karen be that oblivious to Martha's "devotion"? 

 

Is it dated?  I'm not so sure.    I had a similar encounter only a few years ago.    I was very close to a gay couple,  but mainly one of the guys since he is my financial advisor and we are both musicians.   In addition we just gelled on many intellectual topics as well as hiking and outdoors stuff.   His boyfriend is a fairly well known fashion designer and his circle of friends are 99% in the fashion industry.  He isn't much into outdoors stuff.      I'm not into fashion (and that is an understatement).   My wife and her brother, who is gay and in the fashion industry became close friends with this guy;  e.g. he made some very nice gowns for her.    The other guy and I played jazz often and become closer.   But all was well in this circle.    

 

Well after a few years I could tell the fashion boyfriend was giving me the cold shoulder  (e.g. kind of like the early scene in TCH where Shirley gets on James' case about the milk etc...).      Little hints were being throw out here and there.   Well one day the fashion boyfriend gets too drunk and out comes the jealously.    To me this aspect of TCH storyline isn't dated.   The circle was broken.

 

What is somewhat dated is how outsiders view gays and lesbians,  but even there,  I sadly often find that many people outside the 'community' (which I know I'm NOT a member of),   are just barely tolerating the openness  (verses fully accepting \ loving).   

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Could the play by Lillian Hellman be revived today?

 

Probably not, because a lot of people would see it as a dated treatment of lesbianism.

 

And the casting of little Mary would be crucial.

 

Also, the casting of Karen and Martha could approach a style of acting that would allow a more subtle approach to the text.

 

Should Karen be that oblivious to Martha's "devotion"? 

 

If the setting were kept in the 30s, yes. Couldnt really fly if updated to current times...

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  James Garner though he wasn't really a moviefan himself, always rated "Americanization of Emily" as his best work, thought he'd outright win the Oscar for "Children's Hour"

 

Are you serious about this or were you making a joke?  Can you provide your source if true?  I never heard this story.  Garner did get a nomination for MURPHY'S ROMANCE but he really thought he'd win for CHILDREN'S HOUR?

 

I think you could do a revival of CHILDREN'S HOUR but it would have to be set in the past and casting would be crucial, especially the little girl.

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Are you serious about this or were you making a joke?  Can you provide your source if true?  I never heard this story.  Garner did get a nomination for MURPHY'S ROMANCE but he really thought he'd win for CHILDREN'S HOUR?

 

I think you could do a revival of CHILDREN'S HOUR but it would have to be set in the past and casting would be crucial, especially the little girl.

 

 

Maybe in a parallel universe. Even Garner thought he wasnt that good in Children's Hour and I agree. LOL.

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The play was revived in London in 2011 as a period piece with Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss. Ran for about 4 months and I think got good reviews.

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The play was revived in London in 2011 as a period piece with Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss. Ran for about 4 months and I think got good reviews.

 

Interesting.    By 'period piece' do you know what period?  E.g. the 1930?

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I'd like to see a second, truer version of Robert Anderson's "Tea and Sympathy" - one that tells us, like the play, that it isn't Tom Lee who is "homosexual" - it's Laura's sports-obsessed husband.

 

In leaving this unexpected revelation out of the film version, the film version was considerably weakened. 

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Just think of all the movies/plays that could be remade as they were originally intended to be, like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, which is often mentioned because of the censorship of the times.

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This discussion brings to mind The Women which has been criticized for its outdated female stereotypes. However, it has been revived on Broadway, set in the 1930s,dialogue intact,successfully. The Women is about a very specific milieu in a specific time. Audiences, I think, can accept that.

 

The cinematic attempt to "update" it was appallingly atrocious; it wasn't The Women...

 

I've read The Children's Hour but have not seen it staged. It's a terrifically well crafted and well-written work; I'd like to see it revived, not re-done.

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I'd like to see a second, truer version of Robert Anderson's "Tea and Sympathy" - one that tells us, like the play, that it isn't Tom Lee who is "homosexual" - it's Laura's sports-obsessed husband.

 

In leaving this unexpected revelation out of the film version, the film version was considerably weakened. 

 

We should note that neither THE CHILDREN'S HOUR nor TEA AND SYMPATHY are scheduled to air during TCM's upcoming 'Gay Hollywood' spotlight in June.

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