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This is a remarkable motion picture. Its subject, mental retardation, is
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
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.
I wouldn't want to bet the rent money on it, but I think A Child Is
Waiting is probably the first film to deal with the subject of mental
retardation. In any event Stanley Kramer, John Cassavetes, Burt
Lancaster and Judy Garland all ought to be commended for the work in
My sister-in-law happens to have a mentally retarded sister and a late mentally retarded brother. They were in fact institutionalized at the time this film would have been made and later on were able to be a part of the workforce. To be sure it's menial labor, but the point is they are living independently. In fact her sister lives in a home for retarded adults now. She's closing in on 50 now.
I also had a neighbor with a mentally retarded child and she was kept locked in at home like some of the failures described by Lancaster in the film. They moved away when I was young, I never knew what became of her.
According to a recent biography of Burt Lancaster, John Cassavetes and Judy Garland did not get along at all during the making of this. Judy was going through some bad emotional problems at this time(when was she not)and working with the retarded kids in the film was pretty difficult for her. It was Lancaster who got her through the film and got her to focus on the role, channeling her own problems in life to what those kids had to deal with. Years later Cassavetes and Lancaster met up and some event and Cassavetes confessed he was green at the directing game and should have been more compassionate.
It's mentioned in the film that the president of the United States has a mentally retarded sister. Since that president was John F. Kennedy at the time, I wonder if the Kennedy family didn't have a behind the scenes role here.
I'm also glad that there was no romantic subplot going between Lancaster and Garland. Would have diverted too much from the film's impact.
And folks even today, it still has an impact.
Shortly after making the blockbuster "Judgment at Nuremberg," Judy
Garland and Burt Lancaster again teamed in "A Child is Waiting."
Ms. Garland, again takes a non-singing role, is captivating as a very sympathetic worker in a home for mentally retarded children. She encounters Lancaster, a child psychologist, whose strict methods are in reality what a child in this situation needs so that he or she can function later in life.
Garland takes an immediate interest in Reuben, whose parents left him at the institution and have never visited him. The father is an embittered worker and Gena Rowlands does well as the heartbroken mother.
Frustrated with his deficiency and wondering where his parents are, the child acts out. Garland shows sympathy but her feelings run contrary to Lancaster's methods and the two conflict.
It is not until the child runs away from the institution that the situations are resolved.
A truly wonderful movie which was under rated by critics.
A CHILD IS WAITING (United Artists, 1963), directed by John Cassavetes,
is a groundbreaking study about mentally retarded children (today
called mentally challenged), as seen through the eyes of Jean Hansen
(Judy Garland), a new music teacher. Besides the top-billed Burt
Lancaster, excellent as Matthew Clark, a strict but fair superintendent
doctor of a state institution, the central character here is a
12-year-old-boy named Reuben (Bruce Ritchey), a borderline case, who is
abandoned at the institution by his father (Steven Hill), who cannot
accept his son's state of condition, which puts a conflict on his
marriage. Although he and his wife (Gena Rowlands) also have a younger
daughter, the father is the one who tries to forget about Reuben's
existence. Two years pass with the silent and sad-faced Reuben seen
patiently waiting, in hope that one of his parents will some day come
to see him on visiting day. He fails to make friends with the other
kids and remains mostly to himself, sometimes becoming difficult in the
classroom, but after he meets Miss Hansen, he soon bonds with her. In
spite of Dr. Clark advising her to stay out of the family affair, Miss
Hansen tries to see what she can do to get one of the parents to come
to visit with him. After tense moments between Miss Hansen and Reuben's
mother, as well as with Dr. Clark, a compelling scene ensues when
Reuben's mother leaves without making an effort to see Reuben. She gets
in her car, drives away only to be spotted by Reuben, who tries to
chase after the car.
What makes this movie particularly interesting to watch is not only seeing Judy Garland, known for her musical film roles in her glory days at MGM, tasking a difficult role with warmth and conviction, but the use of retarded children, actual patients of the Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, California, where most of the movie was filmed. Baby boomers who grew up watching the 1960s TV show, LOST IN SPACE, will notice young Billy Mumy of that same program appearing very briefly as one of the patients who greet Miss Hansen at the early portion of the story after arriving at the institution.
While the movie itself was a commercial failure when released, mainly due to its sensitive subject matter, I find that it was ahead of its time, and only Stanley Kramer, who produced this, could challenge such a project and make it work so well. Yes, there are moments when a viewer will try to refrain from getting all teary-eyed, but be warned, it's impossible not to do, especially before the fadeout. The scene with Miss Hansen directing a Thanksgiving play with the children performing for the audience, their parents, is also moving, as is the scene where Reuben, after appearing in the show, stepping down from the stage and being surrounded by a crowd of people only to look up and find that special person there to greet him. A CHILD IS WAITING, available on video, can also be seen occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. When last aired on that station, host Robert Osborne has mentioned that the movie was originally a 1957 television play. But as for the 1963 screen adaptation, done tastefully with conviction, it should be seen and studied, for that a movie such as this only comes around once. And let's not forget young Bruce Ritchey as Reuben in a great performance of his short-lived acting career. (****)
I saw this movie when I was 11 years old as part of the Million Dollar
Movie when Channel 9 in NY would play a movie for an entire week. I was
in 6th grade and I had the flu and stayed home all week, and watched
this film every one of those days - discovering new emotions every time
I watched it.
This is truly one of the finest, most honest and beautiful films you are ever likely to see. It's incredibly well written and directed, and the acting is nothing short of perfect. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. John Cassavetes nailed it perfectly. If your local Blockbuster doesn't carry it, INSIST they buy it.
I saw this movie because many said Judy Garland was excellent in it. I thought, though, it'd be boring or stupid because it was going to be more artistic, like Audrey Hepburn's "A Nun's Story" (major dissappointment) but I couldn't have been more wrong. Judy stars is this with Burt Lancaster of course but the real star of the movie is Bruce Ritchey, who plays a mentally challenged boy. Jean Hansen (Garland) wants more in her life and gets the job as a music teacher for the mentally challenged children at an institution. Dr. Clark (Lancaster) is a physchologist with very controversial methods of getting the children to behave. Hansen falls in love with one of the boys, not romantically but more on a nurturing basis. He returns her love and they become the best of friends and inseperable. This worries Dr. Clark. He doesn't want to see the boy get hurt...Or more Ms. Hansen get hurt. He knows that "Love isn't enough" and in a very compelling, tear jerking scene, he shares this little tip with Ms. Hansen. This movie is wonderful. I think that Ms. Garland became more beautiful with each passing year. She was fantastic. Mr. Lancaster, too, was excellent as was the woman who playe Reuban's mother. This got an 8/10. I suggest that any Judy Garland fan see it. It took a lot for her to do this picture.
This movie is really an absolute marvel, it shows such a variety of emotion. Judy Garland plays her part wonderfully and also her musical talent is extraordinary. The way she interacts with the children in this movie, is extremely moving. You can tell she really does care for them, and the performance at the end of the movie really is one of the most touching moments I have seen in a film. A++ for Garland, and Lancaster is an outstanding character as well, Gena Rowlands also makes a great effort in this film. The children who acting this movie could not be closer to your heart, the way it is done you can actually still feel for them to this day, they did a wonderful job casting for this movie. I could not say enough of how the film was done, along with all of the talent put into it, especially by Judy.
This was one of the most moving films I have ever seen. The cast is exceptional, the direction sure-footed and matter of fact, and the screenplay rarely pontificates. The inclusion of real handicapped children adds to the realistic atmosphere. Should be seen by everyone, especially young people. Judy Garland is perfect in one of her last roles.
One of John Cassavetes earlier directed classics, it is one of the very few times we get to see Judy Garland the actress and not Judy Garland the little girl. There is not sweet eye candy in this movie. Everything hits you in this movie! One hard hitting blow after another. Its personal direction, the original story, and some of the best acting from both Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster. A relic of a movie, you don't see too many classic like these. An enjoyment, a true taste of the human soul. It is forever an amazing film for the simple reason in the story's message of hope.
A Child Is Waiting is definitely a breakthrough movie, not only to showcase
the unique gift for straight acting of Miss Judy Garland, but also to
dramatize the dynamics and ramifications of working with people who are
today called 'mentally challenged'.
Much has changed since the release of this movie. And while mentally challenged individuals are living more productive lives and being partially, if not fully, assimilated into general society, there is still quite a ways to go in preparing them for a productive life in society.
I am grateful that A Child Is Waiting was made, if only to educate the moviegoing public about mental challenges.
I think this movie is worthy of a remake.
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