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. (****)