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
Lilliam Hellman was a modern female writers and ahead of all of the female writer of her time (except for my fave Zora Neale Hurston). The film "The Children's Hour" based on Hellman's play tells the story of two young women whose lives and reputations are destroyed after a horrible little girl tells everyone that the two young women are lesbians. In a time period from which the play was set does not use the words "lesbian" or "homosexual" and are substituted with "unnatural." Homosexuality in the play/film was treated the same way as it was back then: a tragic and horrible disease punishable by death for certain. It is a painful film to watch. Audrey Hepburn is lovely as always as Karen and she was also one of the few actresses who was not afraid to take on a role that was avaunt garde. She has tender and sweet moments with James Gardner, who is also wonderful as Dr. Joe Cardin, Karen's fiancée. And then there is my favorite: Shirley MacClaine who steals scenes with such agony as Martha, a young woman who realizes that she is in fact different and is a lesbian, but lives in a time and place that would not never allow her to be free to express her feelings. In a touching and agonizing scene, Martha reveals her true feelings for Karen. MacClaine breaks your heart and many can relate to her. She wins us over and breaks our hearts. Other supporting actors included are Fay Bainter as Mrs. Tilford, the rich and powerful woman who is made the pawn of spreading the lies told by her granddaughter; the wonderful Miriam Hopkins is Martha's judgmental and hypocritical Aunt Lilly Mortar; Veronica Cartwright is sweet and innocent as the young girl tortured into confirming the lie. And of course, the little girl we all love to hate: Mary played by Karen Balkin. Mary is a nasty little girl and throughout the film all you want to do is strangle her. Why the character of Mary Tilford didn't make the AFI list of 100 Greatest Villains I will never know because here is an "innocent" child telling a horrible lie without realizing the consequences of her actions. "The Children's Hour" is a very hard film to watch at times, but one of the most important films pivotal to the 1960s.
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