The play was partly inspired by an actual case in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1810, "Miss Pirie and Miss Woods vs. Dame Cumming Gordon." Two school teachers, Jane Pirie and Marianne Woods, were falsely accused of having a lesbian affair by a pupil, Jane Gordon. Under the influence of Jane's grandmother, Dame Cumming Gordon, the school's students were removed by their parents and the school was shut down. Pirie and Woods filed a libel suit against Dame Cumming Gordon, and won the case, but given the destruction of their lives and standing in the community, it was considered a hollow victory.
Because of the lesbian theme of the play, the Hays office refused to allow the original title to be used, nor any mention of it onscreen or in publicity materials. Hence, Lillian Hellman is credited only for original story and screenplay. The movie was briefly titled "The Lie", before it was changed to "These Three."
In the original Broadway production of "The Children's Hour" in 1934 starred Katherine Emery and Anne Revere. Before Willam Wyler remade his 1936 "These Three" with its original theme restored in 1962, there was a 1952 Broadway revival with Kim Hunter and Patricia Neal. Prior to rehearsals playwright Lillian Hellman hosted a formal dress party where Neal first met future husband Roald Dahl. They were married nine months later.
The play opened on Broadway, New York City, New York, USA on 20 November 1934 and had 691 performances. In the cast was Anne Revere as Martha Dobie, Katherine Emery as Karen Wright and Robert Keith as Dr. Joseph Cardin.
William Wyler originally wanted Leslie Howard as the male lead, because he thought Joel McCrea was too lightweight for the role. McCrea heard about this and his relationship with Wyler on the set suffered because of that.