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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a superb film where two teachers suspected of having a lesbian relationship loose everything, made in 1961 when censorship prevented any overt reference to the subject matter.

But that is what makes the wonderfully subtle screenplay realised in the superbly understated performances by Hepburn and MacLaine so effective, the censor restraints somehow make the plot more involving, it leaves so much to the imagination of the viewer.

Another unusual aspect of the film is the casting of children in the role of villains, 12 year old Karen Balkin gives a fine child performance as the malicious Mary Tilford whose lies are responsible for all the teachers' problems.

But as in real life nothing is exactly what it seems, and the subtle plot reveals deeper layers of suppressed emotion as it unfolds.

William Wyler filmed this controversial 1934 Hellman play twice, once in 1936 as "These Three" with Miriam Hopkins (the Aunt in this version) as Martha and Merle Oberon as Karen. In 1936 the lesbian aspects had to be replaced with a heterosexual triangle.

The 1961 version is a truly fascinating film gaining strength from the constraints of its time.
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William Wyler had made film version of this story in 1936, but then he had to give in to the censors in some things. In 1961, enjoying a bit more freedom he decided to keep closer to Lilian Hellman's original. Although there is an outdated prespective on homosexuality in it, there was something about this film that made me really like it and it's still a powerful testemony of how mean gossip can ruin someone's life. Two friends (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McLaine) have a girls' school and everything seems finally to be fine, when one of the girls accuses them of being lesbians. And every parent soon starts taking their children out of the school. The two actresses are great, and so are Miriam Hopkins and Fay Bainter.
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My Thoughts: "The Children's Hour" is a thought-proking film that gives you an insight into how the simplest of lies and rumours can escalate into ruining the professional reputations, relationships and essentially the lives of the undeserving and the well-intentioned. Here we have Shirley MacLaine in one of her most intense and prolific roles as a young woman who is unwillingly suffocated by her sexual identity and her best friend portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, as an innocent party who is eventually caught in the crossfire.

This film, a remake of a 1930's heavily censored adaption from a Broadway play, still manages to toe the line of the Hays production code yet jumps into realms of scandal and suggestion far more than the original was allowed. The dialogue is beautifully written and the mood of the film drags you into this spellbinding world of lies, rumours and bigotism in an age when homosexuality was still illegal.

Both Shirley Maclaine and Audrey Hepburn's performances were deep and intense, the electricity of their scenes is tangible and breathtaking. Audrey Hepburn's quiet grace and poise is perfectly set in contrast with Shirley MacLaine's fiery unreciprocated passion. It's no surprise that MacLaine was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in this film (she should have won it!). This should be on every "100 movies to see before you die" list. If anything, it'll make you think twice the next time you tell someone about a rumour you've heard.

The Plot: Karen Wright and Martha Dobie have been close friends since the age of seventeen and now are working colleagues at a modest all-girls boarding school they are also independently running with the help of Martha's Aunt Lily. When Karen reveals she and her fiance of two years, Joe Cardin, have set a date, Martha's angst-ridden reaction leads Aunt Lily to determining that Martha's feelings for Karen may be "unnatural" and more than platonic.

Bad girl Mary, the granddaughter of a wealthy financer of the school and also the cousin of Karen's fiance, learns through a string of observations and second-hand observations that certain suggestions have been made to the two teachers relationship, and when she is continually antagonised by the teachers for her less-than-stellar behaviour, she lashes out by implying to her grandmother that Miss Wright and Miss Dobie have been lovers.

Soon, all involved find their lives thrown out of balance as the school is relieved of all students, and the livelihood that Karen and Martha have depended on is swept from beneath their feet. The relationship between the two women suffers, as does Karen's relationship with Joe, and the three will soon discover how a lie can destroy the lives of everyone around it. Especially if there is a chance the lie just may partially be true.
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2008
A brilliant but lesser known/talked about Hepburn movie that I decided to watch after lots of deliberation. I'm glad I did get it as I was surprised to find she was joined by James Garner as well as Shirley Mclaine. The three of them come together to make 'The Children's Hour' an interesting movie that unveils the far reaching effects of gossip, especially the malicious type.

Hepburn (Karen) and Mclaine (Martha) play two life-long friends who have started up an all girls boarding school which is just starting to find its feet. Unfortunately, one of their problem children comes up with a plan to get out of the school for good. She tells her grandmother that the two teachers have an 'unnatural' relationship and she has seen and heard things in the night. All of this is complete rubbish of course but because of half-truths, plain lies and words taken out of context the news of their affair soon travels through to all the other parents and soon the school is empty.
Karen and Martha's life falls apart compltely as they can't even leave the house without being harassed which soon takes a toll on all those involved. The ending is very sad and made me cry but also serves to highlight the point of the movie and is well chosen and filmed.

Quite different from Audrey Hepburn's most famous romantic comedy type stuff but well worth watching.
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on 16 August 2004
Audrey Hepburn and Shirly Maclaine have done it again. The film is based on the play by Lillian Hellman and the film was also made before in the thirties with Miriam Hpkins who also co-stars in this film. Titled 'these three' it did recieve more success and this film has been put down quite a lot. Halliwels onle gave it one star which is a big disapointment.
I think the story of this film was exelent and all the actors were at thier best. The story was all about how two women Karen Wright (Hepburn) and Martha Dobie(Maclaine)own an exclusive girls school which is closed after a rumour is spread of the women having a lesbian relationship. The story ends in a dramatic way and makes you think of the consoquensis of rumours.
This film is another Hollywood great in exellent condition, a defenite two thumbs up.
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on 11 November 2012
For anyone interested: English, French, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Greek subtitles are included (ordered my copy in Nov 2012).
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on 28 March 2016
An amazing classic movie with two of the best actresses. The story of the movie was very controversial then but definitely built the bridges of a new cinema. The story based of the book of Lilian Helman and has been portraited really well.
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on 7 January 2014
I personally hate reviews which tell me the plot of a book or film. I would advise you to ignore them and view this superb film without any knowledge of what it's about. The film is adapted from Lillian Hellman's fine play and has a superb cast. There's not one weak performance. I've watched this film so many times and it never fails to impress or move me. Highly recommended.
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on 31 March 2013
I love Audrey Hepburn in everything, but this small and quiet film is something quite special I think. Many of her films are great in a number of different ways, but not all of the them deal with a subject as urgent as this. Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine plays two close friends running and teaching at a boarding school for girls. They are accused by one of the girls of being in an "inappropriate" relationship with one another and this immediately has severe consequences on their lives. It's wonderfully acted and the photography is amazing. Although the term homophobia is never used, I feel that the film discusses the issue in a delicate and poignant way. It's well worth watching!
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on 30 January 2012
a value for money good quality dvd, an old film but if you have never seen it before well worth watching, both shirley macclaine and audrey hepburn are acting their pants off, in what for them both was quite a heavyweight drama.well recommended
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