Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Matinee: The Children's Hour with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClain (1961)

The Children's Hour is about Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, 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 affluent 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 and a friend overhear 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...(from IMDb)

While both Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine were great in this movie, MacLaine was by far prefered over the usual overly dramatic Ms. Hepburn.  I know...I know...but Audrey Hepburn is wonderful..ok, so she IS wonderful and one of my most favorite actress of her time...but I still think she over does "it" a bit.  This was not the MacLain I am familiar with.  She was not "Ouiser Boudreaux ", "Aurora Greenway ", or even "Katharine Richelieu " aka "Mrs. Robinson" (the older one in Rumour Has It).  She was not self important, loud, or a little crazy.  She was understated.  Very pretty.  I liked this Shirley MacLaine (I like the older one, too).  I felt sorry for her character.  Something you do not usually do with her more recent characters.

James Garner was also in the film as Dr. Joe Cardin.  I did not even know this was James Garner until I looked this character up while researching for this post.  Now I understand what my Aunt was talking about...he IS a sexy man.
The movie was one that I enjoyed.  The story was heart breaking.  It shows how a childish lie and influence can ruin lives.  The childish lie comes from a very unhappy little brat of an ignorant and gossiping old lady, her grandmother.  How tragic that this silly old lady had so much influence over the parents, of the other students, just because she was rich.  It is hard to say if I would be a follower and hold sexual preference against a teacher.  In 2011, no I wouldn't.  In 1961, who knows, really.  I am not going to be so high and mighty to say I would be above this.  The world was different and I would be differnt in it.  And even 1934 when  Lillian Hellman wrote the play.  Sexuality was not as talked about then.  I can both wish for the privacy of sexuality being PRIVATE while being glad that we can talk about it and have more tolerance for differences.  Thank goodness we have the advances in medicine, education, and tolerance.  We have choices with our bodies, a man can marry the man he loves (in some states)...heck, we even have sitcoms about the subject, Will and Grace is one of my all time favorite TV shows (LOVE Jack). In the present homosexuality is the subject of many films, books, plays, etc.  In 1961 and certainly in 1934 it was seen as a rather explosive subject.  One can only imagine how it would be in real life.

This film is defiantly worth viewing.  I highly recommend it.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, I had no idea Shirley Maclaine was so pretty when she was younger! I've never seen a film with Audrey besides her younger, 'classic' ones so I'd be interested to watch something like this.
    And I definiately agree with you - we all think we could act differently and not judge if we were in that time, but I think that is wishful thinking. The environment has such a huge effect on people's attitudes.