Friday, June 5, 2009

Another reason to mention The Children's Hour

Yesterday, I made brief mention of Audrey Hepburn's elegant teacher role in The Children's Hour. The movie gets another mention, and not just because it will be airing as part of TCM's salute to director William Wyler. That airing will be at midnight ET between June 6 and June 7 (or late Saturday evening in other time zones). However, The Children's Hour was based on a Lillian Hellman play of the same name; and that play had already been made into a movie once before, with the title These Three. That movie was also directed by Wyler, and is airing tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM ET.

The play and the later movie both dealt with a child's allegation that her two teachers were having a lesbian relationship. As These Three was made in the mid-1930s, however, there was no way that they were going to get a topic such as lesbianism past the Production Code office. Instead, the topic of gossip is that one of the teachers was involved in an adulterous relationship. Interestingly enough, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for the movie. Back in the 1930s, homosexuality would have been an even more shocking topic than it was in the early 1960s, and using such strong shock value takes away from the theme that malicious gossip can be highly damaging. (By the same token, Alfred Hitchcock's Rope works better with the idea that the two male leads are having a homosexual relationship being understated.)

As for the cast, the two teachers are played by Merle Oberon and Miriam Hopkins; the latter being interesting in that she would play the aunt in the 1960s remake. The male love interest is Joel McCrea, a sturdy actor who was fine in a lot of dramatic movies in the 1930s, but who spent the second half of his career doing westerns. As for the vindictive, manipulative kid, that's Bonita Granville, who of all things would later go on to do a series of Nancy Drew movies! Margaret Hamilton and Walter Brennan also show up in bit parts.

These Three has not been released to DVD, so you're going to have to watch the TCM showing.

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