The Children's Hour Reviews
I don't know why this film doesn't get more press. Maybe the taboo nature of the material got it swept under the proverbial rug? It was certainly ahead of its time in terms of social statement and point-of-view. Or maybe it's just that schmucks like me don't shout its praises loudly enough. Whatever the reason, this is a film that should not be missed.
"What Made These Women Different?"
The Children's Hour was a risky film to make when it was released. The subject matter was extremely controversial for that time period. Today, the only people who care about a person's sexual orientation is ironically the same people that meet every week to preach how God loves everyone. So watching this movie 50 years later, it is hard to see how this could ever be seen as controversial. It does, however, hold up as a well made film on intolerance and a pretty powerful one at that.
William Wyler made a risky choice to direct this movie and he did a really good job with making a movie with a theme of lesbianism under the strict guidelines of the time. The movie is about two teachers running an all girl school. There is a girl named Mary who is constantly in trouble and decides to tell he grandma a lie about the two teachers, in an attempt to not have to go back. When her grandma believes her, the rumor flies and soon all the girls are taken out of the school and the two women lives are totally destroyed.
Never have I watched a movie and have hated and been more annoyed by a character as I was with this little Mary bitch. The child actress was perfect who played her too. She had an annoying little voice and was ugly as all he'll and when you add those things to an obnoxious and downright despicable little girl, you get a character that is really easy to hate. There's many wise casting decisions in this one though. The three leads are amazing. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClain as the two teachers and James Garner as one of the teachers fiancé. All three excel with the subject matter and are really good at getting the emotions of the characters across.
The movie overall was really powerful, but the ending just cemented how powerful it was. For the time period, with how subtle they had to be with this subject; the movie was astonishingly well made.
Beautifully shot in black and white, I appreciated the naturalistic style of shooting. I found myself enjoying many of the choices made, from the longer continuous shots, to the close-ups. The final two scenes are especially artistically done, not what I would expect from a film based on a play.
For those of you who love Audrey Hepburn (as I know many do) this film does her talent, beauty and dignity justice. Shirley MacLaine got to display her burgeoning talent, her off-beat beauty and charm, They made quite a pairing.
Brave and heartfelt, quite daring for its time, the film stays away from making a broad statement on discrimination and smartly focuses on a specific, devastating story.
William Wyler's stellar direction forces Hepburn and MacLaine to give us some of their best dramatic performances. Karen Balkin (who never pursued a career in film) is perfect in the role of the child villain. The movie received 5 Oscar performances in its time and won two Laurel Awards for McLaine and Fay Bainter, an already acclaimed actress, who had a long and important career in early film and won an Oscar for her supporting performance in Jezebel (1938).
This is well worth a look, and recommended for fans of a nice downbeat drama.