The Children's Hour - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Children's Hour Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 5, 2015
From a moral point of view, this is a terribly outdated drama (even if daring for then) that serves as a portrait of an ugly time when it would be considered a danger for children to be "exposed" to lesbian teachers - which the film sometimes also seems to agree as being "unnatural".
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2010
Thrillers like this, with this amount of tension and political incorrectness, don't get made anymore. Maybe it's because the subject matter is so intense, polarizing, and prejudicial, but sadly, this film still has impact and social significance even fifty years later. Even though it's dealing with homosexuality in a negative light, it is the closest thing to an iconic gay film up to that point. The story deals with a school, run by former college friends, who are working towards the goal of taking on more girls and having a flourishing business. They are very close, and Martha (MacLaine) becomes jealous when Karen (Hepburn) finally sets a date for her wedding to Joe (Garner). A comment, a look, and a shadow lead to a lie, perpetrated by an arrogant child, and leads to both the women being singled out as gay. They lose a libel trial and every one of their students. It's not a story about two women overcoming the lies of a small child, but the destruction that gossip and lies have on the lives of the innocent. Though there are hints that Martha actually is gay, the story deals far more with their descent into bankruptcy, ruin, and depression. It's definitely an actor's film. Hepburn is cool and collected throughout the ordeal, which you can believe because she is the first lady of austere resoluteness. MacLaine acts her younger age, by being emotionally uninhibited at all times. Martha doesn't think through her words before speaking them, and nearly has temper tantrums when the news breaks that she and Karen have been accused of being lesbians. Garner gives his regular stone stiff performance, which works for the film. The real joy to watch in this film is child actor Karen Balkin as Mary, the one who tells the lie. The cunning maneuvers she pulls in blackmailing another little girl to keep perpetuating the lie, can be linked to Salieri bringing down Mozart in the third act of "Amadeus". Though lesbianism isn't given any positive light in this film, it's still a terse thriller that holds up even now.
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2009
Director William Wyler is known for getting the best from his actors and The Children's Hour is certainly no exception. James Garner, Audrey Hepburn and (especially) Shirley MacLaine are at the top of their game.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 19, 2011
Martha: But why this lie? She found the lie with the ounce of truth. Don't you see? 

"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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 12, 2007
Originally this was a moderately well-received play by Lillian Hellman, which director William Wyler filmed in 1937 (as These Three). Not satisfied with his first attempt, Wyler directed this remake about When two teachers of girl's school, Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine) and Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn), are accused of lesbianism, they're entire world comes crashing down. Karen loses the man she loves and so happens to have been engaged to for two long years, Joe (James Garner). Martha loses her life, basically, and everything that she's ever had. And this is all because of a vicious little brat that anyone with common sense wants to slap when they watch this movie, Mary Tilford (played by Karen Balkin). To say in the least, the end in completely unexpected. It makes you think that the world is over, and it takes time to adjust to the fact that this is "just a movie". Heart breaking and wonderfully filmed, the The Children's Hour is a terrific movie with outstanding actresses. Hepburn and MacLaine light up the screen!
Super Reviewer
½ September 12, 2007
This film really made an impression on me. Not just because it dealt with a lesbian relationship during a time when that sort of thing just wasn't talked about in Hollywood, but because of the lesbian character's (don't want to give anything away) revulsion to her own orientation. It must have been so difficult back than for someone to come out of the closet and not take a beating, both emotionally and sometimes physically as well, over it. And what's worse is that things haven't really changed all that much since 1961.
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2009
a brave film for all involved, especially miss hepburn. always nice to see miriam hopkins, who also appeared in the hetero film version of hellman's play with merle oberon, these three. and shirley maclaine owns...
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2007
dated in its attitudes but with that taken into account a good film.
Super Reviewer
December 12, 2006
A great film in all aspects. Wonderful story.
Super Reviewer
½ November 25, 2009
This is most definitely a "wow" film. The writing, direction and performances are outstanding. The film is based on a play by Lillian Hellman who wrote it upon hearing of 2 Scottish teachers were accused of lesbianism by a student and the subsequent destruction of their lives.
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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2009
There was a time when even the allusion of homosexuality would drive a whole society to punish and marginalize people until they were irrevocably stripped of their self-respect. This film presents a painful reminder of these times of cruelty.

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).
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2007
Really good dramatic performances all around.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2008
Really good film showing the destruction lies can cause. Shirley MacLaine's performance is particulary impressive.
March 25, 2013
What happens when a child mistakes tough love for bullying? tragedy. Among the best performances by each of the 3 leads.
January 15, 2013
Audrey Hepburn has many great films under her belt, but I personally think that this film is among her all-time greatest. This film tackles what is still a very touchy subject matter, when a vicious little girl spreads a rumor that the two women running her school are lesbians, which then tears their lives apart, as well as revealing secrets between the lifelong friends. I've read some comments from people who view this film as dated or that didn't like how the character Martha Dobie deals with such an issue, which baffles me because this film came out in 1961, making it fit perfectly with a time that didn't agree with such subject matter and it also makes the film more emotional and gripping. Perhaps I identified more with this film than the average viewer since I'm gay, but I think this film resonates effectively even today's more tolerant society since the gay issue is still a very touchy subject. Overall though, The Children's Hour serves as a superb parable about how lies can destroy lives in an instant, and how no amount of apologies can fix the resulting damage. The Children's Hour is gripping, emotional, and heartbreaking. If you love a good drama dealing with touchy subject matter, then you have to see this film because it packs one hell of a punch.
April 25, 2012
Another film that surrounds a child's lie and the consequences; I found this film to be very frustrating to watch because of the blackmailed and bullied Rosalie, the devil's child Mary, and even Mary's Grandmother Mrs. Tilford. Your heart just breaks for how society has made Martha (MacLaine) feel about herself, and when Karen finds Martha in the end; Hepburn's performance caused tears to boil up: she went from thoughtfulness, to fear, to shear panic and urgency. Those final moments of the movie make you realize that it doesn't quite matter what our relationships are, just as long as we are free to love and to be loved.
December 14, 2011
This is an amazingly well-acted film, though it was absolutely maddening due to the subject matter. Two young women open a school together, only to have a shitty little spoiled brat begin to spread rumors about them being lesbians, which eventually ruins their lives.

This is well worth a look, and recommended for fans of a nice downbeat drama.
½ October 31, 2011
Audrey Hepburn is so great in this. The first act is really slow going, but, man, is the climax powerful. It really reminded me of a lower-key version of the end of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" William Wyler proves once again that he's a terrific director--especially in how he times and blocks things here.
½ January 24, 2011
Some really terrible acting, some half and half directing, some shitty directing. BUT, a great story (read the play) with some great acting and some great scenes. Go see it.
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