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The Quiet One (1948)

A documentary account of the rehabilitation at the Wiltwyck School of an emotionally disturbed Black boy who is unwanted, misunderstood, and inwardly tortured.


Sidney Meyers


James Agee (commentary and dialogue)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Gary Merrill ... Narrator (voice)
Donald Thompson ... Donald Peters
Clarence Cooper Clarence Cooper ... The counselor
Sadie Stockton Sadie Stockton ... The grandmother
Estelle Evans ... The mother
Paul Baucum Paul Baucum ... The stepfather


The story of a lonely young boy growing up in Harlem. Using a semi-documentary technique, the film-makers realistically capture the hostile environment which leads the boy to delinquency. The youth is sent to Wiltwyck School for rehabilitation, where a psychiatrist and counselor try to break through the wall of silence which the boy uses to hide his fear and bitterness. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Drama


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As of 2021, remains the only documentary to ever receive an Oscar nomination in the Best Screenplay category. See more »

User Reviews

Haunting, shadowy tale of child neglect
29 December 2017 | by FalconeerSee all my reviews

Haunting and atmospheric cinematography compliment this sad tale of a young black kid, neglected and pushed aside by everyone in his life. Harlem, circa 1948, is the backdrop for the story, and the vintage footage of New York City is reason enough to see this forgotten docudrama. Little Donald spends his days running in the streets, feeling utterly lost, as he observes a world where everyone has a purpose and a place to go and things to do, while he can't figure out why he exists and where he belongs. Even though the film is 70 years old, the subject matter and how it is handled, feels completely current. I can't recall any film that really gets inside the mind of how a child this age feels, and so perfectly conveys it to the audience. I personally felt a strong wave of nostalgia as the movie forced me to recall just how it feels to be that age. Absolute gem of a film, that is valuable on so many levels. It's an amazing time capsule as well as a brilliant study of ghetto life and of growing up without the basic things that all children should have.

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Release Date:

1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Den tavse See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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