The Children’s Hour (1961)

WILLIAM WYLER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1961.  The Mirisch Corporation.  Screenplay by , adaptation by , based on the play by Lillian Hellman.  Cinematography by .  Produced by William Wyler.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1961.  Golden Globe Awards 1961.  

A totally misguided attempt at dealing with a social issue, The Children’s Hour is still a compelling drama even if the trappings are dated. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine play two women running a private boarding school for girls, who find their lives destroyed when one wicked little girl tells a lie that the two of them are lovers. Fay Bainter plays the concerned grandmother of the girl who quickly removes the girl from school, makes sure the other parents of the students do so as well, and proceeds to ruin the womens’ very existence in their small town. The examination of why the allegation of lesbianism can ruin a person’s life (or just be seen as so bad a thing) is never touched on here, nor is it even stated–everything is worded so carefully, it’s as if you’re being implicitly told that this isn’t something that nice people talk about. On the other hand, Wyler’s direction is tight enough and the actresses are so strong that I still find myself with my hands in tight fists by the time the story finally resolves itself. Nothing beats the scene where MacLaine finally lets auntie Miriam Hopkins know what she thinks of her, it’s worth watching the film for that alone.

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