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The Children's Hour de Audrey Hepburn
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The Children's Hour (1961 original; edició 2014)

de Audrey Hepburn (Actor), Shirley MacLaine (Actor), James Garner (Actor), Miriam Hopkins (Actor), Veronica Cartwright (Actor)1 més, William Wyler (Director)

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412498,950 (4.2)5
When a vindictive little girl is disciplined in an exclusive girl's school, the child twists an overheard comment into slander. She accuses her teachers of lesbianism and her gullible grandmother spreads the gossip. Outraged, Karen and Martha fight back in court, but a child's lie is hard to disprove.… (més)
Títol:The Children's Hour
Autors:Audrey Hepburn (Actor)
Altres autors:Shirley MacLaine (Actor), James Garner (Actor), Miriam Hopkins (Actor), Veronica Cartwright (Actor), William Wyler (Director)
Informació:Kino Lorber films (2014)
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca

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The Children's Hour [1961 film] de William Wyler (Director) (1961)

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The Children’s Hour (1961)

Audrey Hepburn – Karen Wright
Shirley MacLaine – Martha Dobie

James Garner – Dr. Joe Cardin
Fay Bainter – Mrs. Amelia Tilford
Miriam Hopkins – Mrs. Lily Mortar
Karen Balkin – Mary Tilford
Veronica Cartwright – Rosalie Wells

Screenplay by John Michael Hayes and Lillian Hellman, based on Hellman’s play (1934)
Directed by William Wyler

Colour. 108 min.


This is such a perfect and powerful movie! Extremely disturbing and emotionally draining, it deals with matters like gossip and bigotry in a way that, believe it or not, has not become a wit dated for the last 58 years. People still lie their heads off, and not just spoiled brats either. Worse than that (for a lie does no harm if nobody believes it), people are still eager to believe the worst on the slightest evidence. And people are still strongly prejudiced for all sorts of reasons, including trifles of no importance like sexuality.

It all begins with the script, always – and so it does here. Hellman’s play was a huge hit on Broadway, running for 691 performances in the mid-1930s. If the screenplay is close to it, I can see why. It is a perfectly crafted story about two schoolteachers accused of having “sinful sexual knowledge of one another”. Both happen to be women, good friends and, worst of all, headmistresses of a boarding school for girls, so the malicious rumour creates quite a storm in their private and professional lives. The dialogue is strong and hard-hitting; the characters are intensely alive, complex and human; the ending is bleakly devoid of any sentimentality. Thanks to Hellman or to Hayes, I don’t know, but this is one of hell of a script.

The movie belongs to the leadings ladies. If you have any doubts about the acting genius of Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, this movie will put them to rest. Both are tremendous. Better acting you will never see for the simple reason that it’s not possible to exist. Perfection cannot be improved. If Audrey is merely brilliant as the more placid and ordinary Karen, Shirley is downright searing as the more volatile and confused Martha. If their great final scene leaves you unmoved, you must be a corpse. What a couple of heart-rending, gut-wrenching, nerve-racking performances!

You might argue, and even have something of a case, that the ending is dated and overdone. But I must disagree there. First of all, Shirley makes true what with a lesser actress might have looked false. Besides, I have seen it in the so-called “real life” not even 58 months (much less years) ago. I have seen people discovering dark secrets about themselves in the same accidental way, to the same alienating effect with foolish friends and family, and almost to the same shattering end as Martha Dobie:

It’s funny. It’s all mixed up. There’s something in you, and you don’t know anything about it because you don’t know it’s there. And then suddenly, one night a little girl gets bored and tells a lie, and there, for the first time, you see it.

The supporting cast is flawless, too. James Garner is his usual smart and smooth self as the fiancé under pressure. He refuses to be overshadowed by the leading ladies, and that’s quite an achievement. Fay Bainter is fabulous as the upper-class virago enslaved by her uprightness. Every scene with her is a highlight. Miriam Hopkins is hilarious as a faded Broadway star of transcendental silliness. Karen Balkin is disgustingly memorable as a child far scarier than anything in Lord of the Flies (1954). Too bad this was the first of her only four movies. Mary Tilford is a character you’ll never forget. What a spiteful, deceitful, dirty-minded, mischief-making creature! What a woman she’d grow into!

Last but not least, William Wyler fully lives up to his legendary fame. Very few directors can boast a longer string of impeccably crafted classics. This is one of his masterpieces. The intense close-ups, the imaginative angles, the telling detail, the subtle pacing: everything is here. This is what great direction is all about: masterful storytelling and making the cast surpass themselves. Wyler excelled in both departments, for my money better than anybody else with the possible exception of Billy Wilder.

The movie was nominated for five of those ridiculous golden statuettes, only one of them really important (Best Supporting Actress) – and Fay Bainter didn’t win it. (But, boy, did she deserve it!) Despite plenty of praise and positive reviews, the movie’s rating is not good enough for the exalted Top 250 of IMDb – which contains mediocrities like The Dark Knight (2008) and Pulp Fiction (1994) in its Top 10 alone. It has almost the same rating and almost three times as many reviews as that soppy trash Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

Nothing of this is coincidental. The Children’s Hour is a movie designed to make people uncomfortable, to make them feel more strongly and think more deeply. But who wants to feel and think that much? Who wants to be uncomfortable? ( )
  Waldstein | Oct 1, 2019 |
A kid accuses her teachers of being lesbians.

I don't know what to make of this movie. The filmmakers seem to have seen the story as being about the damage of cruel gossip, whereas now its turned into a story about bigotry. A lot of it doesn't work particularly well because of that disparity. But since the characters are done so well, it ultimately does still work. It doesn't try to condemn or redeem its characters to make the audience feel better about things; it's too obliviously of its time to even know where to start (or at least it was forced by the production code to appear to be oblivious). Consequently, it's probably more powerfully tragic than a modern adaptation could be. When Audrey's character holds her head high at the end and proudly walks away, what is that supposed to mean? Probably something very different to me than it meant to Audrey or Wyler. But maybe not.

Concept: C
Story: C
Characters: A
Dialog: C
Pacing: B
Cinematography: B
Special effects/design: B
Acting: A
Music: B

Enjoyment: C plus

GPA: 2.8/4 ( )
  comfypants | Jan 10, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Wyler, WilliamDirectorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Hayes, John MichaelScreenwriterautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Garner, Jamesautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Hepburn, Audreyautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Hopkins, Miriamautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
MacLaine, Shirleyautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat

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When a vindictive little girl is disciplined in an exclusive girl's school, the child twists an overheard comment into slander. She accuses her teachers of lesbianism and her gullible grandmother spreads the gossip. Outraged, Karen and Martha fight back in court, but a child's lie is hard to disprove.

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