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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 »
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Popularity
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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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:

One of Broadway's greatest hits...becomes powerful, adult screen drama! 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

Audrey Hepburn's final black and white film. See more »

Goofs

The position of Martha's arms changes between shots in the last scenes when she is trying to sleep in her room. See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Lily Mortar: Any day that he's in the house is a bad day. You can't stand them being together and you're taking out on me. You've always had a jealous, possessive nature even as a child. If you had a friend, you'd be upset if she liked anybody else. And that's what's happening now. And it's unnatural. It's just as unnatural as it can be.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rescued from the Closet (2001) 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

 
A touching melancholic love story
14 February 2010 | by ilpohirvonenSee all my reviews

Audrey Hepburn stars in William Wyler's film, based on Lillian Hellman's play, The Children's Hour. It's a story about a girls' school and its two teachers Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine). Things seem to be going well in their school until a trouble maker, Mary (Karen Balkin) makes up a rumor about the teachers' relationship, based on her thoughts and what she has heard. Everybody in the town start to believe in the story Mary has made up, leading Karen and Martha to despair.

If you didn't guess already, this is a survey of homosexuality. In the movie, they don't dare to say the word out loud. But we see discussions behind doors and windows, we see the gestures of the characters. We follow the events as outsiders. To which the almost expressionistic black-and-white cinematography gives a great touch. The strong grip of nature, relying on the experience of an individual and simplified milieus fit for the story better than well.

The rumor did much more harm than Mary could have guessed. It destroyed the relationship between Karen and her husband to-be Joe Cardin (James Garner). It destroyed everything they had worked hard for. But it also made Martha think about her real feelings about her good friend. The film is open for interpretation and it is not made clear whether the rumor was true or not in the first place. Or did the rumor just make Martha realize something, did it change her or did her mind change her because of the rumor. Wyler makes it clear that, actually, it doesn't matter whether the rumor is true or not. All the people are so shocked of this horrible sin that they blindly follow a child's story and drive two women into despair.

Even that The Children's Hour approaches the case of being a lesbian carefully, I found this movie very brave. The censorship of Hollywood had loosened but still they had trouble bringing this up on the screen. I'm amazed with the result and I'm sure this touched many people in the 60's and made a lot of people broaden their horizons - and it still can. Many people even today are shocked to here about homosexuality. There still are many people who just can't accept it and that's what makes this movie timeless.

The acting is superb - one of Hepburn's greatest performances but I liked the acting of Shirley MacLaine as well. Many people might know the director William Wyler as the director of Ben-hur; he's one of the greatest American filmmakers. This was another proof of his talents, The Children's Hour was very capturing, the characters were sympathetic - easy to relate to - and well built. It's no masterpiece but it is an incredibly capturing melodrama. Slightly expressionistic imagery and Wyler's calm, mature approach subject make this a remarkable film.

The film's built on strong emotional scale. People scream, yell, cry and moan. It portrays pure grand emotions, and the topic's pretty harsh. But the director has placed a satirical twist to the film. Showing the people whispering, talking quietly about it but never saying it out loud. They're so afraid of it that they can't even say the word. Perhaps all the people are so insecure and vulnerable that they try to dodge the whole subject. Not even trying to search for themselves. It's never too late to find your identity and stop pretending. If looking at the film from this angle it breaks out from being just a provocative film about an unmentioned taboo. It's reaches an universal level studying the true identity of man.


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