The Children's Hour (1961)
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A very good movie! I've been fan of Shirley Maclaine every since (already was a fan of Audrey)! Indeed it's a bit old-fashioned but it still stands after more than 50 years.
Maybe a little old-fashioned now, but it's a pretty engrossing little drama. Three of my faves of the 60s: Audrey Hepburn, Shirley McClaine and James Garner all turn in really good performances. Also comes up with clever plot devices to keep from ever saying homosexual.
In The Children's Hour, a villainous little girl spreads rumors that her two teachers, Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine (how could I not?), are gay lovers, a rumor that destroys their livelihood and their lives. The year was 1961, but it was based on a 1934 play if you're trying to imagine scandalized audiences in your head. The film seems, in fact, extremely skittish about the subject, with unheard whispers at least initially replacing any kind of overt mention. At the same time, the women's relationship remains ambiguous. One of them is evidently queer, but I think the other is also. The attitudes of the day (whether that's 1961 or 1934) just don't allow her to fully process it, until possibly the liberating final shot. That ambiguity was undoubtedly supported by the actresses never even discussing their characters' sexuality during the process. Everyone in the production is trying to ease the audience in and working double time to make this a film about spreading rumors and lies. And yet, William Wyler, though timid, really wanted to get the original play's lesbian theme in there, because he had also directed the straight-washed 1936 version "These Three". You don't do your own remake unless you want to get it right. And so I think this is a film that, at the time, would have been understood by few, but today, resonates more clearly. What destroys these women's lives isn't gossip, it's that society considers who they are reason enough to destroy them. They cannot be themselves in the world of the film, so they repress it, turn it into something else, but once they are "outed", there's also no going back, and yet, no place for them, which is the real tragedy. It does get a bit melodramatic for me in the staging of it, but that's as powerful a statement today as it was 60 years ago. Plus, tiny Veronica Cartwright!
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!