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The Children's Hour (1961)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 19 December 1961 (USA)
A troublemaking student at a girls' school accuses two teachers of being lesbians.

Director:

William Wyler

Writers:

Lillian Hellman (play), John Michael Hayes (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Audrey Hepburn ... Karen Wright
Shirley MacLaine ... Martha Dobie
James Garner ... Dr. Joe Cardin
Miriam Hopkins ... Mrs. Lily Mortar
Fay Bainter ... Mrs. Amelia Tilford
Karen Balkin Karen Balkin ... Mary Tilford
Veronica Cartwright ... Rosalie Wells
Mimi Gibson ... Evelyn
Debbie Moldow Debbie Moldow ... Student
Diane Mountford Diane Mountford ... Student
William Mims William Mims ... Mr. Burton
Sally Brophy Sally Brophy ... Rosalie's Mother (as Sallie Brophy)
Hope Summers ... Agatha - the Tilford Maid
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Storyline

Karen Wright and Martha Dobie are best friends since college and they own the boarding school Wright and Dobie School for Girls with twenty students. They are working hard as headmistresses and teachers to grow the school and make it profitable. Karen is engaged with the local doctor Joe Cardin, who is the nephew of the powerful and influential Mrs. Amelia Tilford. While the spiteful and liar Mary, who is Amelia's granddaughter and a bad influence to the other girls, is punished by Karen after telling a lie, Martha has an argument with her snoopy aunt Lily Mortar in another room. Lily accuses Martha of being jealous and having an unnatural relationship with Karen. Mary's roommate Rosalie Wells overhears the shouting and tells Mary what Mrs. Mortar had said about her niece. The malicious Mary accuses Karen and Martha of being lesbians to her grandmother and Amelia spreads the gossip to the parents of the students that withdraw them from the school. Karen and Martha lose a lawsuit ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Because of the adult nature of its theme - this motion picture is not recommended for children. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 December 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Infamous See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Broadway production of "The Children's Hour" by Lillian Hellman opened at the Maxine Elliott's Theatre on November 20, 1934 and ran for 691 performances. See more »

Goofs

At 25:41 the books the girl on the left is holding changes. See more »

Quotes

Martha: Cooking always makes me feel better... Well, I suppose I'll have to feed the duchess, even vultures have to eat. I baked a cake. And you know what, I found a bottle of wine. We'll have a good dinner. Where's Joe?
Karen: Gone.
Martha: Patient? Will he be back in time for dinner?
Karen: No.
Martha: Then we'll wait dinner for him... What's the matter, Karen?
Karen: He won't be back anymore.
Martha: You mean he won't be back anymore, tonight.
Karen: He won't be back at all.
See more »


Soundtracks

Comin' through the Rye
(uncredited)
Traditional Scottish children's song
Lyrics from a poem by Robert Burns (1782)
Included in piano medley
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Ripe for re-release!
22 September 1999 | by Chris-564See all my reviews

A 'classic' film, (whatever that may be), can almost never be re-made in quite the same way again. It's something that we've thought about for quite a while, though - and noted filmmakers (including Gus Van Sant and Sydney Pollack) have tried and failed to re-make films to jazz up their appeal, and make them more accessible to a wider audience. It's something that passed through my mind quite a few times as I watched "The Children's Hour" today. Quite clearly, this is a film that more people deserve to see and know about, and it would certainly be interesting to try and re-make it, but we would definitely lose something in the translation.

The largest reason for this is because it is a film of a definite period - the issues raised in the film are widely discussed these days, whereas in the period the film was set, homosexuality was something to be feared and despised. Similarly, we do not have the various elaborate codes of honour that are so prevalent in the film, and dictate the actions of almost all characters. It's a pity, then, that this film will be alien to lots of people today. The answer, however, is not in a re-make (the film is itself a re-make of a 1936 film by the same director called "These Three", and an adaptation of a play of the same name by Lillian Hellman), but a re-release of this fine example of moviemaking.

Boasting a terrific cast including Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner, "The Children's Hour" is the story of two teachers, Miss Dobie and Miss Wright, who found a school for young girls in an idyllic town in America. Then, out of boredom, spite and plain maliciousness, a child tells a vicious lie that will bring about the downfall of the school, the teachers, and all caught up in the horrible set of affairs. It is quite possible to see the creeping evil and hatred that stems from Mary, the child concerned (played wonderfully by Karen Balkin). Eventually, it reaches out and destroys all it touches.

The photography is great (it was nominated for an Oscar) - there are many scenes which are so wonderfully composed that each frame paints a thousand words: the climax of the movie is a great example. The relationship between MacLaine and Hepburn is delicately and sensitively portrayed, especially for a cast who didn't know what they were doing (according to MacLaine in an interview for "The Celluloid Closet"). James Garner is also good in his role as the doctor about to marry Hepburn, although the movie is clearly not aimed at giving him the best lines. There are also many, many superb supporting roles - and the film's strength comes from a great ensemble performance.

It doesn't really matter what the child accuses the teachers of (indeed we only find out a good hour into the film, although it has been strongly implied), because the film isn't really about homosexuality. As MacLaine points out in "The Celluloid Closet" (a cracking documentary about the history of homosexuality in the movies), it is about "a child's accusation". It is also about the power held by a town to bring about the downfall of two perfectly nice, perfectly ordinary young people. The are lines in the film that one should never forget and it should also make us think about the way our words shape the situations in which we live: ("unnatural" is a great example).

All in all, a lovely film from director William Wyler ("Ben-Hur", "Roman Holiday", "Funny Girl"), and one that deserves to be seen by a wider audience - re-release, please!


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