The Children's Hour

1961

Action / Drama

The Children’s Hour (1961) download yts

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Audrey Hepburn as Karen Wright
Shirley MacLaine as Martha Dobie
James Garner as Dr. Joe Cardin
Veronica Cartwright as Rosalie Wells
720p 1080p
810.45 MB
1280*720
Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S Unknown
1.64 GB
1920*1080
Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S Unknown

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by encroisade 10 / 10

A very intriguing film.

In 2007 in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, a male teacher with seniority was politely asked to resign by the high school where he had worked for several years because his personal website (where his name did not even appear) contained suggestive photos of himself and his lover; it was somehow found and reported on to the principal. So you see, the premise of "The Children's Hour" is not at all out-of-date!

What is absolutely fascinating about this film, and what makes it unique in all the dramas which have been made on the subject of homosexuality, is the treatment of the road of self-discovery taken by these two very different women.

MacLaine wants Hepburn to buy some new clothes in an early scene, because she remembers how stylish her friend liked to be in her university days, and she even shares the memory of her first sight of Hepburn, when she said to herself, "What a pretty girl!" By the time the action of this movie begins, these two women have already lived and worked together for at least ten years. There was university together. Then, they both started teaching and accumulated several years' worth of experience; and it must certainly have taken a while to save up the money to set up the private girls' school of their dreams. That is a long relationship, a very committed relationship. Many similar career women in the 1960's, back to the 1870's (!) - famous women novelists, scientists, musicians, artists, poets - are now casually described in academia as lesbians, if they had any kind of a lengthy partnership with another woman at all. It has become a fashionable, politically correct label. But are these labels accurate?

Years ago, a sisterly friendship was accepted as just that. Now some kind of sex act is required and assumed. Nobody is supposed to be able to exist without regular orgasms. Nonsense! The culture has turned us all into Pavlovian dogs who salivate on cue. It is not true that 'everybody is doing it.' It wasn't true in past generations, and it isn't even true today.

The women in "The Children's Hour" were not 'doing it' either. But the movie is thrilling because it is not concerned with the spasms of body parts, but with the deep things of the heart.

MacLaine adored Hepburn, and always had. Hepburn was surely conscious, at some level all those years, of that adoration. Every lasting friendship between two people has unspoken dynamics, reasons why the individuals relate strongly to one another, key roles they play in each others' life story; sex may or may not be involved at all.

But, in this case, we can be sure that sex was involved, at a repressed level to start with. MacLaine came to realize that even touching Hepburn's hand was a pleasure which formerly she had chosen not to analyze too closely.

Mary, the awful, precocious schoolchild, whom we have seen reading some 'dirty book' in bed at night with a flashlight, evidently got her hands on something very graphic indeed, and this is what horrified the grandmother when she whispered what she couldn't say aloud, in the back of the rich old lady's limousine. There was more to this account than merely a story of 'kissing'.

As MacLaine says in her own great scene, somehow that monstrous little girl had sensed by intuition 'a grain of truth' to wrap her lie around. That 'grain of truth' becomes a snowball, by the end of the movie. MacLaine has confessed her love for Hepburn. Without histrionics, but with quiet honesty, Hepburn has confessed the same to her friend: "I love you, too." And Hepburn, even faced with total vindication and financial security from the libel award, never once considers contacting James Garner and putting their marriage plans back on track. Why not? The answer is that she herself has slowly come to a realization of her own need to make a life with MacLaine. She goes for her walk, ready for the future ahead.

But it is MacLaine, looking lovingly out the window at Hepburn, almost blissfully, secure for the first time that she is loved and valued by the person she cares about the most, who still knows that the future ahead for the two of them will entail a higher price for her than she is willing to pay. She cannot face the inevitable physical expression of her love for Hepburn. She is also burdened by a dysfunctional family background, with her only relative being the crazed, delusional aunt who has sponged off of her, and then let her down when she ignored those telegrams pleading for her to come back to testify for the two of them.

MacLaine and Hepburn do know, as they reveal in one of their final conversations, that there are lesbians, someplace, out there somewhere, who do accept themselves and who do somehow make lives for themselves. But MacLaine says, "We are not like that."

Hepburn has the strength to try. MacLaine isn't strong enough.

This is what Hepburn senses as she walks back towards the house, as she has been thinking things over on her walk. The aunt's calling out, looking for MacLaine, makes her really alarmed. But by the time she breaks down MacLaine's door, it is too late.

Hepburn's second walk, after the funeral, so purposefully reminiscent of the previous walk, is the quick step of a soldier, marching to battle. She is not afraid. And she is free to make any choice she wants. The stick figures of the townspeople standing at the edge of the graveyard can never touch her again.

Reviewed by Merwyn Grote 8 / 10

More than just an ounce of truth...

The Children's Hour More than just an ounce of truth... ((((SPOILERS))))) THE CHILDREN'S HOUR has gotten a rather bad rap over the years. It has gained this reputation that it is somehow a noble effort, but nonetheless a failure. That because of its subject matter and the era in which it was made, the need to gingerly handle the subject of lesbianism makes the end result seem dishonestly incomplete at best or just cowardly at worst. The fact that it is a tragedy which ends in the death of a gay character, underscores this need by some to devalue its importance and deride its power because it doesn't meet the harsher standards of political correctness.

It is probable that if the film (or more accurately Lillian Hellman's original play) were to be filmed today, much of it would be altered. Even if a new version were set in the 1960s of the movie or the 1930s of the original play, the filmmakers would face considerable pressure to make the gay characters more defiant, the homophobic characters more transparently belligerent and the presumed nature of the lesbian relationship more explicit. And that would be the wrong thing to do. Even though the film was made on the eve of an era that saw censorship beginning to crumble, it depicts a time when homosexuality was barely mentioned, let alone something to inspire defiant pride.

It has been suggested by Hellman, director William Wyler and star Shirley MacLaine that the gay angle of the story is really secondary to the story's main concern, that being the power of lies to destroy. I think this is more than a little disingenuous, a way of sidestepping the issue. Homophobia is the point of the story, whether the "lie" in the story is really a lie or not. That's why the 1936 film version, THESE THREE (also directed by Wyler), doesn't work, despite being well made and well acted. THE CHILDREN'S HOUR rings true, despite its evasive nature.

Both films deal with two women who run a small, exclusive girls school whose lives and careers are destroyed by stories told by a couple of their pupils. In THESE THREE the story is sanitized so that it deals with accusations that one of the teachers has had an affair with the other's fiancé; THE CHILDREN'S HOUR returns to the play's original plot wherein the two teachers are accused of lesbianism. THESE THREE, though melodramatically played, has little dramatic weight: unsubstantiated accusations of an affair that everybody denies ever happened, might raise eyebrows, but hardly would carry such dire consequences, especially since the two children making the claims are shown to be so unstable and unreliable. And the film's desperate attempt at a happy ending doesn't help.

Homosexuality has to be the linchpin of THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, because little else would create such irrational fear. The "lie" of the story would have to be so very threatening in 1961, otherwise it would not be credible that parents would overreact so fiercely or that the words of three upstanding citizens would be rejected over the claims of two foolish little girls. I think the film paints a fair and accurate picture of a time when homophobia wasn't considered a bigotry, but a logically parental concern. As such the film is neither pro-gay nor anti-gay, rather a consideration of a time of ignorance.

Faye Bainter's Mrs. Tilford is what we would now call homophobic, but she is not an evil person. She is foolish to the extent that she can't see how manipulative and dishonest her grandchild is, but her actions against the school and its teachers are based on the prevailing social outlook of the time. She acts out of genuine concern, not hysterical outrage. Indeed, her view of homosexuality is not all that different from that of MacLaine's Martha Dobie, one of the accused teachers. It is Martha's suicide, upon admitting her true romantic feelings toward Audrey Hepburn's Karen Wright, that disturbs many who criticize the film. Martha is no more comfortable with homosexuality than Mrs. Tilford, but her fear of homosexuality is intensified and internalized. But Martha's death is not mandated to appease the moral atmosphere of the time, as some have suggested, nor because of her own self-hatred, but because that is the unfortunate logical path the story has to take. In a tormented confession, Martha reveals the contempt and shame she has for her feelings, but this is not meant to represent the honesty of homophobia, but rather the dishonesty of traditionally accepted mores. Pride and defiance are not options to Martha; she has neither the understanding nor the strength to endure the battle between her feelings and the moral convictions that society has taught her. As a tragic figure she is more than an appropriate symbol of her time. As a character, she is beautifully and sympathetically embodied by MacLaine in one of her finest performances.

The film's message is not that homosexuality destroys Martha, but that ignorance poisons the waters. Martha's death is undeserved, but not a punishment of her lesbianism. Martha is a good person, a person who has our sympathy, not our pity. The injustice of her death confirms the film's empathy for the homosexual character. Unlike the faux happily-ever-after conclusion of THESE THREE, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR forces the viewer to question conventional morality.

The film ends on a strangely ambiguous note. Martha confesses her feelings to Karen, but Karen evolves into an enigma. Even before Martha reveals her true feelings, Karen finally rejects her fiancé (played by James Garner), by forcing him to express the doubts about their relationship that she herself has apparently being harboring all along. But she accepts Martha's confession of love, yet makes no attempt to reciprocate. The film hints, but won't confirm that the "lie with the ounce of truth" is as true about Karen as it was about Martha. Karen seems to have gone from denying her feelings toward Martha to accepting them and then repressing them. The film ends with Karen leaving Martha's funeral, apparently strong-willed and defiant, but it is not clear just why. It's not likely that Karen feels vindication over Mrs. Tilford's apology, yet it is equally unlikely that Martha's death could possibly have inspired feelings of pride and defiance. The final shots of Hepburn possess an undeniable power, perhaps foreshadowing the changes in the way society would eventually view homosexuality. Martha's martyrdom makes Karen a stronger person, whatever her sexual inclination. It's not a happily-ever-after ending, but it is a promise of better endings to come.

Reviewed by jotix100 8 / 10

The L word

William Wyler showed he wasn't afraid to tackle again this Lillian Hellman's play. He had directed the film years before, but the tone had been changed during the first version of "The Children's Hour". In fact, there is no gayness to speak of in the previous adaptation, "These Three".

Even for 1961, when the film was released, lesbianism, was not treated, or seen, in the same fashion one encounters it everywhere today. In fact, the dialogue of the film doesn't include the word "lesbian" at all! Lillian Hellman was a woman committed to show the ills in society she lived in. Hypocrisy is dealt with in most of her work. In this film, she emphasizes the fatal consequences of how a lie can destroy lives, as it's the case here. Because of a brat's hatred for authority and discipline, Karen's and Martha's reputation suffer greatly because the adults are so bent into condemning them without much of an investigation to see if the accuser is lying, or not.

Martha at the end reveals her feelings for Karen, which we suspected all along. There were no indications or tell tell signs between these two young women of any kind to substantiate the charges. In fact, Karen is extremely hurt by just being accused of being a lesbian, when she, for all appearances, is in love with young and handsome Dr. Cardin.

When the truth is realized, we see how things change, but it's too late for Martha, who has taken things in her own hands. At the last scene we watch most of the people that have been instrumental in accusing Karen and Martha at the cemetery as they all feel guilty of what they have done to ruin these women.

William Wyler got good acting in general of his small cast. Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn make good contributions as Martha and Karen. Miriam Hopkins is the self-centered aunt Lily. Fay Banter is Amerlia Tilford, the woman who is instrumental in ruining the women. James Garner is good as Dr. Cardin, and Karen Belkin makes an impression with her evil Mary Tilford.

The film seems today as somehow dated. Mr. Wyler finally was able to do justice to Ms. Hellman's play.

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