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 ...
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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
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 this film.
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.
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