Audrey Hepburn - The Children's Hour (1961) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
The Children's Hour (1961).rtf
The Children's Hour (1961)
Best friends Karen Wright and Martha Dobie are headmistresses at a successful private school for girls in New England. Mary Tilford, a spiteful, angry child, is caught in a lie and punished. In retaliation she tells her grandmother, a matriarch in the town, that Martha was "jealous" of Karen's relationship with Dr. Joe Cardin, and tells that Martha's Aunt Lily thought those feelings were "unnatural." Grandma believes her and pulls Mary out of school. The word quickly spreads and within days Karen and Martha are faced with empty classrooms. Joe is fired from the hospital for siding with the teachers. Karen and Martha sue for slander in a case that makes national headlines.
William Wyler's atmospheric drama has two teachers (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) be accused of lesbianism by a guileful schoolgirl, and then have that rumour ruin their job, their lives and their friendship.
Somewhat of a taboo for the 60s, Wyler bravely tackles the subject with honesty and integrity, and his cast work well to bring the tense atmosphere to us. As the engaged, straight, Miss Wright, Audrey Hepburn suffers commendably, fighting always for the truth – as she sees it, and as a result, losing her fiancée. Shirley MacLaine is the more ambiguous character of the two. It is not on whether the allegations were true (it is clear from the off that they are just slander of the worst kind from a bored, vindictive little girl) that the mystery of the film lies, but in whether her character does secretly love Hepburns', as more than a friend.
The children are less apt in their roles. None of them have names worth remembering, but the main one who spreads the rumours does it with such exaggerated facial expressions that it is difficult at times of most intense drama not to laugh, and the other girl, who aids her in the spreading of lies, is also laughable in her "fear." However, if the intention was to make us dislike the children as much as possible, then they have succeeded.
But the message is clear – lies of such a powerful decree – even if they are spawned off what is guessed to be the truth, will damage others. It's a hefty topic, and one that lacks slightly, due to the censorship of the time, no doubt, but the behaviour and actions of the characters still ring true today – the hypocrisy of the kind aunt, the spreading of cruel lies just for fun, the boyfriend's abandonment, and how, at the end of the day, it is always the innocent that suffer, yet some, like Hepburn's character, are brave enough to walk out in the public, with their head held high in the air, because they know they were innocent.
A 'classic' film, (whatever that may be), can almost never be re-made in quite the same way again. It's something that we've thought about for quite a while, though - and noted filmmakers (including Gus Van Sant and Sydney Pollack) have tried and failed to re-make films to jazz up their appeal, and make them more accessible to a wider audience. It's something that passed through my mind quite a few times as I watched "The Children's Hour" today. Quite clearly, this is a film that more people deserve to see and know about, and it would certainly be interesting to try and re-make it, but we would definitely lose something in the translation.
The largest reason for this is because it is a film of a definite period - the issues raised in the film are widely discussed these days, whereas in the period the film was set, homosexuality was something to be feared and despised. Similarly, we do not have the various elaborate codes of honour that are so prevalent in the film, and dictate the actions of almost all characters. It's a pity, then, that this film will be alien to lots of people today. The answer, however, is not in a re-make (the film is itself a re-make of a 1936 film by the same director called "These Three", and an adaptation of a play of the same name by Lillian Hellman), but a re-release of this fine example of moviemaking.
Boasting a terrific cast including Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner, "The Children's Hour" is the story of two teachers, Miss Dobie and Miss Wright, who found a school for young girls in an idyllic town in America. Then, out of boredom, spite and plain maliciousness, a child tells a vicious lie that will bring about the downfall of the school, the teachers, and all caught up in the horrible set of affairs. It is quite possible to see the creeping evil and hatred that stems from Mary, the child concerned (played wonderfully by Karen Balkin). Eventually, it reaches out and destroys all it touches.
The photography is great (it was nominated for an Oscar) - there are many scenes which are so wonderfully composed that each frame paints a thousand words: the climax of the movie is a great example. The relationship between MacLaine and Hepburn is delicately and sensitively portrayed, especially for a cast who didn't know what they were doing (according to MacLaine in an interview for "The Celluloid Closet"). James Garner is also good in his role as the doctor about to marry Hepburn, although the movie is clearly not aimed at giving him the best lines. There are also many, many superb supporting roles - and the film's strength comes from a great ensemble performance.
It doesn't really matter what the child accuses the teachers of (indeed we only find out a good hour into the film, although it has been strongly implied), because the film isn't really about homosexuality. As MacLaine points out in "The Celluloid Closet" (a cracking documentary about the history of homosexuality in the movies), it is about "a child's accusation". It is also about the power held by a town to bring about the downfall of two perfectly nice, perfectly ordinary young people. The are lines in the film that one should never forget and it should also make us think about the way our words shape the situations in which we live: ("unnatural" is a great example).
All in all, a lovely film from director William Wyler ("Ben-Hur", "Roman Holiday", "Funny Girl"), and one that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
William Wyler showed he wasn't afraid to tackle again this Lillian Hellman's play. He had directed the film years before, but the tone had been changed during the first version of "The Children's Hour". In fact, there is no gayness to speak of in the previous adaptation, "These Three".
Even for 1961, when the film was released, lesbianism, was not treated, or seen, in the same fashion one encounters it everywhere today. In fact, the dialogue of the film doesn't include the word "lesbian" at all! Lillian Hellman was a woman committed to show the ills in society she lived in. Hypocrisy is dealt with in most of her work. In this film, she emphasizes the fatal consequences of how a lie can destroy lives, as it's the case here. Because of a brat's hatred for authority and discipline, Karen's and Martha's reputation suffer greatly because the adults are so bent into condemning them without much of an investigation to see if the accuser is lying, or not.
Martha at the end reveals her feelings for Karen, which we suspected all along. There were no indications or tell tell signs between these two young women of any kind to substantiate the charges. In fact, Karen is extremely hurt by just being accused of being a lesbian, when she, for all appearances, is in love with young and handsome Dr. Cardin.
When the truth is realized, we see how things change, but it's too late for Martha, who has taken things in her own hands. At the last scene we watch most of the people that have been instrumental in accusing Karen and Martha at the cemetery as they all feel guilty of what they have done to ruin these women.
William Wyler got good acting in general of his small cast. Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn make good contributions as Martha and Karen. Miriam Hopkins is the self-centered aunt Lily. Fay Banter is Amerlia Tilford, the woman who is instrumental in ruining the women. James Garner is good as Dr. Cardin, and Karen Belkin makes an impression with her evil Mary Tilford.
The film seems today as somehow dated. Mr. Wyler finally was able to do justice to Ms. Hellman's play.
* The cover blurb on both the video/DVD packaging reports that Katharine Hepburn and Doris Day were originally considered for the lead roles of the school teachers.
* Audrey Hepburn's final black and white film.
* Miriam Hopkins who played Martha in the original film These Three (1936) played the part of Martha's Aunt Lily. Merle Oberon, who played Karen in the original film, turned down the part of Mrs. Tilford.
* Screenwriter John Michael Hayes was so faithful to Lillian Hellman's play that large chunks of the dialogue are identical to the dialogue in These Three (1936), the 1936 film version of The Children's Hour, for which Lillian Hellman herself wrote the adaptation and screenplay - this, despite the fact that These Three (1936) was a watered-down, censored version of The Children's Hour.
* William Wyler cut several scenes hinting at Martha's homosexuality for fear of not receiving the seal of approval from the Motion Picture Production Code. At the time, any story about homosexuality was forbidden by the production code.
* The film gets its name from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
* Shirley MacLaine, in the documentary The Celluloid Closet (1995), said that nobody on the set of The Children's Hour (1961) discussed the ramifications of the issues regarding homosexuality that are implied, but never spoken about outright, in the film. She said, "none of us were really aware. We might have been forerunners, but we weren't really, because we didn't do the picture right. We were in the mindset of not understanding what we were basically doing. These days, there would be a tremendous outcry, as well there should be. Why would Martha break down and say, 'Oh my god, what's wrong with me, I'm so polluted, I've ruined you.' She would fight! She would fight for her budding preference. And when you look at it, to have Martha play that scene--and no one questioned it--what that meant, or what the alternatives could have been underneath the dialog, it's mind boggling. The profundity of this subject was not in the lexicon of our rehearsal period. Audrey and I never talked about this. Isn't that amazing. Truly amazing."