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John G. Blystone
This first film version of "The Children's Hour" uses a heterosexual triangle rather than the play's lesbian theme. The plot concerns schoolteachers Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, both of whom are in love with Dr. Joe Cardin. The malicious lie of one of their students involves all three in a scandal which disrupts all their lives. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
Before Mrs. Tilford's maid slaps Mary (Bonita Granville) in one of the final scenes of the film, she grabs the girl and says, "Bonita, come here." See more »
Dr. Joseph 'Joe' Cardin:
When three people come to you with their lives spread out on a table for you to cut to pieces, then the only honest thing for you to do is to give them a chance to come out whole.
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This version of Lillian Hellman's play "The Children's Hour" is by far more satisfying than the Audrey Hepburn-Shirley MacLaine remake in the 1960s which retained the lesbianism theme while revolving around a child's lie.
Instead, this earlier William Wyler version changes the slanderous lie to a heterosexual one--and none of the power is lost in the telling of a tale about a manipulative young girl's lie that destroys the lives of three innocent people.
The acting is all on an extraordinarily high level here--everyone, from Merle Oberon to Miriam Hopkins to Joel McCrea and especially little Bonita Granville (as a liar who even stoops to blackmail to keep her lie afloat). As the terrorized girl, Marcia Mae Jones is every bit as adept as the others in making the entire story a convincing one.
The power of a lie to destroy others has never been more effectively played out than it is here. Under William Wyler's direction, the screenplay has been expanded with enough outdoor scenes to keep the film from seeming like a filmed stage play.
Joel McCrea has never been more effective in a sympathetic role. He and Merle Oberon are impressive and wholly believable as the young lovers. Miriam Hopkins has a difficult role and she handles it brilliantly. Bonita Granville fully deserved her Oscar nomination as the monstrous girl, sparing nothing to make her one of the most hateful brats in screen history.
Well worth watching for some brilliant performances and a compelling story.
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