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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>
In the scene following that in which he hijacks the cab driver to help rearrange the load of lumber on a far-too-small trailer, Dr. Cardin (McCrae) is leaning against his car. For no apparent reason the car buffets the good doctor as if it had been struck on the opposite side. See more »
Despite the changes to Miss Hellman's play, the movie is grand!
In Lillian Hellman's original play, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, the scandal involved lesbianism--certainly NOT a topic they were allowed to address in Hollywood in the strengthened Production Code era. Starting around 1935, Hollywood bowed to pressure to clean up the movies and feature more wholesome images. While today some see this as a totally negative thing, you must understand that nudity, violence, crudeness and very adult topics were frequently used in films and there was no rating system. So, kids might go to the theaters and see rather graphic nude swimming scenes (TARZAN AND HIS MATE and BIRD OF PARADISE are good examples) or Frank McHugh giving someone "the finger" (PARATROOPER). As a result, SOME sort of system needed to be created, though I will admit some of the resulting products from Hollywood were a bit bland. In regard to THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, there was no way the studios would be allowed to discuss homosexuality during this era, so they changed the allegations to promiscuity between a man and a woman. This did NOT appreciably alter the play nor its impact and reportedly Miss Hellman was happy with the film despite this minor change--minor in that it resulted in only minor alterations to the script and kept the overall message intact.
The resulting film, THESE THREE, was produced by David O. Selznick, directed by William Wyler and starred Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea. With this terrific combination of talents and the Hellman script, it certainly isn't much of a surprise that the film was excellent throughout--and one of the better pictures of the 1930s. About the only negative at all about the play was the performance of young Bonita Granville. While generally very good (earning her an Oscar nomination), it was at times also a tad over-the-top--and she acted so histrionic that you wonder what sane person would believe all of her lies!!! If this had been toned down just a bit (making her a little more subtle), the film would have earned a 10. As it is, it's still a terrific film with an original and wonderful script.
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