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A Child Is Waiting (1963)

Approved | | Drama | 11 May 1963 (Italy)
Psychologist Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of the Crawthorne State Training Institute, one of the first boarding schools for developmentally challenged children. Dr. Clark is sympathetic ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (story)
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Sophie Widdicombe
Ted Widdicombe
Gloria McGehee ...
Douglas Benham
Bruce Ritchey ...
Boy Counting Jean's Pearls
Miss Fogarty


Psychologist Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of the Crawthorne State Training Institute, one of the first boarding schools for developmentally challenged children. Dr. Clark is sympathetic but demanding of his teachers and students. His approach of tough love is controversial. He takes a chance at hiring former aspiring concert pianist Jean Hansen as the school's music teacher, Miss Hansen who has no background in nursing, teaching or dealing with the developmentally challenged. She herself is trying to find her own place in life. She immediately bonds with autistic student Reuben Widdicombe, who she sees as needing special attention in light of his parents having not visited him since they enrolled him in the school two years earlier. The Widdicombes divorced shortly thereafter because of the pressures their relationship faced in dealing with Reuben. Dr. Clark sees Reuben as the type of child the most difficult with which to deal: Reuben understands just enough to realize that he is ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Only Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland could tell this untold story... and make your heart tell it over and over again! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 May 1963 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Un niño espera  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director John Cassavetes and Producer Stanley Kramer had many creative / economic differences and during the editing phase, Cassavetes was fired. See more »


The narrator tells us Reuben was placed in the State Mental Hospital 6 September 1959, but the automobile in which he arrives bears very visible 1962 New York license plates. See more »


Dr. Matthew Clark: I think you can find what you're looking for here, Miss Hansen. Because it's not what you can do for these children; it's what they can do for you.
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Crazy Credits

Following the last name in the cast list (Elizabeth Wilson) are the words "and The Children". See more »


Version of Studio One in Hollywood: A Child Is Waiting (1957) See more »


Written by Marjorie D. Kurtz
Performed Judy Garland
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

One of the most extraordinary filmgoing experiences you'll ever have.
2 November 1999 | by See all my reviews

This is a remarkable motion picture. Its subject, mental retardation, is one that most of us avoid as much as possible. But it's a fact of life for millions--those diagnosed with it, their families and friends, and the people who work with them. If they have the courage to face up to it every day, we should at least have the nerve to do something as easy as watch a film. It turns out to be a much more rewarding experience than many might expect.

Judy Garland plays Jean Hansen, an over-thirty woman "drifting" through her life. To give it some purpose, she applies for work at an institution for mentally retarded children, though she has no expertise in the field. Dr. Clark (Burt Lancaster), who runs the place, has doubts about her altruism, but gives her a chance. Miss Hansen soon becomes attached to one young boy in particular--too attached for Dr. Clark's liking. He's a proponent of a modified "tough love" approach, one that calls for the students to do whatever they can for themselves to the best of their abilities.

Unlike the popular style of today, the children aren't played by actors who try to imbue their characters with a Forrest Gump-like "wisdom." They are real children who play themselves and in doing so bring a power to this film that a cast of the world's greatest actors couldn't hope to equal. At the movie's conclusion the students are seen performing a Thanksgiving play before an assembly and the effect on the viewer is staggering. We like to think that in our present-day society we deal much more openly with subjects that were taboo in the past, but no one else to my knowledge has had the courage to take such an unflinching look at mental retardation as this 1963 film does. For that we can thank producer Stanley Kramer for bringing it to the screen and to director John Cassavetes for making it tangible. I can't imagine that there is anyone who wouldn't benefit from watching this movie. I also can't recommend it strongly enough.

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