Search - The Children's Hour on DVD


The Children's Hour
The Children's Hour
Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins, Fay Bainter
Director: William Wyler
Genres: Drama
NR     2002     1hr 47min

A child's lie has life-shattering consequences in this OscarŽ-nominated* daring adaptation of Lillian Hellman's celebrated play from legendary director William Wyler. Starring Academy AwardŽ winners** Audrey Hepburn and Sh...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins, Fay Bainter
Director: William Wyler
Creators: Franz Planer, William Wyler, Robert Swink, Robert Wyler, John Michael Hayes, Lillian Hellman
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/03/2002
Original Release Date: 12/19/1961
Theatrical Release Date: 12/19/1961
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 47min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 27
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
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Movie Reviews

Devastating Drama
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 11/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Written and first staged in the 1930s, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR was master playwright Lillian Helman's first great success. It also provoked a scandal: the story concerned two women who run a school for girls--and who suffer scandal and personal tragedy when an unruly student accuses them of having a lesbian affair. The play was such a success that Hollywood wasted little time in buying the film rights, but the material was too hot for the 1930s film industry; the story was significantly rewritten into a fairly insipid love-triangle melodrama and was released under the title THESE THREE. It would be another thirty years before American film was ready to tackle the play head on.Many critics have noted that THE CHILDREN'S HOUR is not about lesbianism, but about the power of a lie. There is some truth to this, for the entire plot rests on the child's lie and its devasting effect. But Helman was not a superficial writer: once the knife goes in, she twists it several times, first in a series of emotional revelations between the leading characters and finally in a portrait of society that attacks any one perceived as different in any way--even to the point of driving them to death. Some complain that this is merely another Hollywood stereotype in which the gay character has to be punished by the film's conclusion, but I disagree; if anything, Helman's point remains as unfortunately valid today as it was in the 1930s and again in the 1960s.The cast ranges from solid to exceptional, and the supporting cast is exceptionally fine. Fay Bainter and Mirian Hopkins, both legendary actresses, give truly memorable performances in supporting roles; child actresses Karen Balkin and Veronica Cartwright also give remarkably powerful performances. And Audrey Hepburn and James Garner are rock solid as school teacher Karen Wright and her beau Dr. Cardin. But the raw power of the film comes from Shirley MacLaine, who gives one of the most inspired performances of her career as school teacher Martha Dobie. In this case superlatives are not enough: no one who sees the film will easily forget her tortured, passionate performance. Director William Wyler tells the story with great simplicity and to tremendous effect. Strongly recommended."
What the loudest whisper can do...
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 06/24/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"What the maliciously whispered lies of one nasty little kid can do! What can it do? I recall Malcolm McDowell's character in if... saying how one bullet in the right place could change the world. Well, something similar happens here, only the world that is shattered results in the discrediting of three innocent people.Mary is an aggressive troublemaker at the Wright-Dobie School For Girls, run by Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, women who graduated from college together. The school's actually a large two-story house where the children sleep upstairs and have classes downstairs. Mary lies, steals, blackmails, and even overracts just to get out of trouble. Karen, who has been patient with her, finally decides to punish her, and that's when Mary decides to act. She uses gossip she hears from other girls, blackmails a girl with a penchant for stealing, but the second worst thing she does is manipulate her caring but strict grandmother, Ms. Amelia Tilford, into being the agent for the destruction of innocent lives. It is Tilford's spreading the lie of the schoolteachers being lovers that causes the school to collapse.For the two women, assisted by Martha's meddlesome aunt Lily Mortar, running a school's not easy, but things are looking up. They've finally made a profit, expecting some more students, and Joe Cardon, the local doctor and cousin of Mary's, has finally agreed on a date to marry Karen. All this though has been surrounded by tensions. Joe has been snappish, Martha is a bit sharp with Joe, and everybody's tired from running this school. And tensions boil when Lily berates Martha for being possessive and jealous of Karen to the point that Martha dismisses her own aunt from the school. But the scandal brings with it the mind-twisting madness of how certain words spoken have a different connotation. "Everything I say is meant to mean something else," Joe says in frustration. To which Karen says, "Every word has a new meaning. Child, love, friend, woman...not many safe words anymore."The darkly lit interior scenes in the empty schoolhouse, once bustling with activity, mirrors the somber atmosphere after the scandal breaks. Based on Lillian Hellman's play on an actual incident in early 19th century Scotland, and initially filmed in 1936 under the title These Three, and also directed by William Wyler, it was a perfect opportunity to test the waters of the newly liberated Production Code, but the word "lesbian" was never used, mainly because Hepburn was nervous about content. There were some scenes that played up on a potential relationship that were cut, and Shirley MacLaine regretted that Wyler didn't keep the ball rolling in that regard. As a result, it's not the film it could have been.The stars are all good, with even James Garner showing some emotional depth when things between Joe and Karen finally become strained as a result of the scandal. Miriam Hopkins, who played Martha Dobie in These Three, plays the role originally done by Catherine Doucet. Audrey is laudable enough here, but for her, saying no to Wyler, who directed her to fame in Roman Holiday, was tantamount to saying no to God, otherwise, she probably wouldn't have come out in this. But Fay Bainter (Ms. Tilford) turns in a role for which she was given a Best Supporting Actress nomination, as someone concerned, and too trusting to be blinded from the truth. When it does hit her, there is a scene when she collapses. She shrugs off any assistance, rises, and stares imperiously while her granddaughter stares in fear at being finally revealed.While not one of Hepburn's most memorable movies, it's certainly one of the most depressing, and thus seems longer than it's 1:47 running time."
Too often and easily dismissed
Robin L. McLaughlin | Seattle, Wa. | 12/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Coming out in the mid 80's there wasn't nearly as much to choose from when it came to movies that included lesbian characters. One that I had heard mentioned, and almost always dismissively, was The Children's Hour. The reason for that dismissal was the ending, which was required during the time period in which it was written and filmed, where the gay character must end up straight or dead. There was little leeway allowed for anything else released to mainstream America.But that's not important. The Children's Hour is beautifully filmed in black and white, showcasing to our modern color sensitivities how wonderfully textured such film can be. The acting is top notch from everyone involved, with the performances by Hepburn and McLaine being almost flawless (if a little over the top in the dramatic scene near the end by McLaine). The movie is also a wonderful capture of a distinct period in time that was not so long ago, yet utterly different from current America, where women and girls always wore their gloves and men weren't seen without their jacket and tie.While parts of the plot and the view of lesbians as unnatural offend modern liberal thinking, it's a dramatic and important demonstration of the fact that IS how most of society viewed such matters. To take offense and not pay attention to the layers and depth of the relationships between the characters is to do the movie a disservice. Too many stick to the surface of Hepburn's character being portrayed as the good straight one and McLaine's as being the pervert and in their outrage overlook the deep love that Hepburn's character has for her longtime best friend. Of course many also get caught up in the whole lesbian issue, which doesn't really even get expounded upon until the very end, and miss the real gist of the movie which surrounds the powerplays among children and how their unthinking actions and words can spill over and take on a life of their own, destroying people in the process. Children, through their lack of emotional maturity, are not able to see outside of themselves or their immediate selfish wants and needs and this movie is a very dramatic portrayal of that very thing.If you enjoy good black and white cinema, if you enjoy movies that capture a time period, if you enjoy Hepburn and/or McLaine, if you enjoy a movie that portrays a deep and caring relationship between two women, I suggest not overlooking The Children's Hour."
A Great Suspense Movie
danieltco@yahoo.com | 10/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is a very good movie that deals with a very difficult social issue in a very believable plot. It will keep you in suspense all the time. I felt a great deal of empathy for the leading ladies as they were falsely accused based on the lies of a wicked child. Lesbianism was the issue but, the way it was handled in the film, it would apply to any other delicate matter. Just imagine how difficult would be to prove wrong or attack the credibility of a child.Excellent performances by all the actors, especially Ms. Hepburn who portrays one of her most dramatical roles. Pay special attention to the last scenes, the conclusion is superb, both in plot resolution and in cinematography. Observe Ms. Hepburn in the final shots, she is as graceful as ever with a black coat and a black beret, just in simple clothes. William Wyler was excellent in directing this movie and he is able to show his special touch with a surprising ending as he did with Roman Holiday. Viewers are left with a wistful yearning. He is successful in portraying that unhappy endings are sometimes much better in regards to the story and cinematically, and also better reflect reality."